Namco’s contribution to the 3DS line-up starts off with a loading screen. There’s nothing bizarre about this but the fact they didn’t include a Galaxian mini-game, à la the PlayStation original, to distract from the fact that it has to load seems like a missed opportunity. Perhaps the reasoning behind this is that Namco wanted the first thing you see when firing up the game to be the glorious CGI intro rather than a screen full of pixellated aliens. First impressions count, and all that.
The menus also look glorious; the game itself even more so. The 3D effects are subtle but very nicely done, consisting of things like confetti and rose petals sticking to the screen, and flames spewing out from the exhaust when a nitro is used. Although a lot of the tracks are from previous Ridge Racer games (the first track in the opening GP is the classic arcade original) they’ve all been tidied up and tinkered with.
The cars aren’t amazingly detailed but they’ve had a fair bit of effort put into them – the front grills are constructed from polygons and aren’t just lazily textured on, for instance. They aren’t all generic-looking sports cars either – one looks like a Ford Ka, would you believe.
Money won from races can not only be used to purchase new motors for your virtual garage, but also one-time-use support items, such as being able to start a race with the throttle completely open and have a nitrous charge ready on standby. Nitrous is typically gained by slipstreaming the opposition. They can also slipstream you to get a boost – the slightly annoying female announcer will tell you when this happens – giving you the chance to move out of the racing line. The handling is classic Ridge Racer; as per the previous games if you take a turn too sharply you have to gently veer from left to right to straighten the vehicle back up.
The aforementioned announcer can fortunately be silenced. After a couple of hours of constantly yelling stuff such as “You can take this guy!” and “Enemy closing in!” I was quite pleased to find the option to shut her up.
The main GP mode will take many full charges of the 3DS to finish. You can pick and choose races from a branching tree-style chart so if you get stuck on one you can always try another. In the first three races of each GP you have to come third or higher while in the last race you have to come first to win.
Also under the proverbial hood is the ability to race ghost cars via the 3DS’s StreetPass feature, and when setting up your profile there’s a chance to take a photo or use your Mii as an icon that appears over the top of your chosen vehicle. Never forgetting their past, rival racers have icons featuring Mappy, Dig Dug and Pac-Man characters hovering over their cars.
Ridge Racer 3D is the epitome of a perfect launch title, and deserves to be remembered as one of the few 3DS launch games that isn’t a rush job or a poor conversion. Visually – and from a technical standpoint – it couldn’t have been done on the previous hardware and it also makes good use of the 3DS’s new features. More importantly though, it’s the type of game you’d be proud to show off your shiny new toy with. Result!