Ridge Racer is an arcade game developed and released by Namco in 1993. It is the first game in the popular Ridge Racer franchise, and in some ways a spiritual successor to Winning Run (1988). Ridge Racer originally began development as a prototype called SimDrive, which debuted at the JAMMA arcade show in 1992 before being cancelled and re-worked into Ridge Racer.
As the second title for the the Namco System 22 arcade system (after SimDrive), Ridge Racer was notable for being the first mass-market video game to use texture-mapped 3D polygon graphics (the 1995 sequel Rave Racer took it further by introducing high resolution 3D textures) along with Gouraud shading. The game ran at a high resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, at a full 60 frames per second, which was unprecedented for a 3D video game at the time.
Ridge Racer introduced the mechanic of choosing between automatic and manual transmission, adding a simulation element to arcade racing. The deluxe arcade version was one of the first games where it was very difficult to drive in manual unless the player can really drive a car, as they need to use the clutch, gear stick, and proper three-turn steering wheel.
It received a console port for the Sony Playstation that was released in Japan on December 3, 1994. While considered a high-quality port, the resolution and frame rate were halved (320x240 @ 30 fps) while the texture details were also reduced. US and European versions of the PlayStation port were released almost a full year later in September of 1995. The game was a launch title in all these territories.
Ridge Racer's game play mechanics are similar to most racing games. The player can accelerate or brake, and steer left or right. There is also a drifting mechanic which requires the player to release the gas and press the brake while turning. This allows the player to make sharper turns, but also runs the risk of the car losing control. The game has very little actual game content. There is only one track to choose from, and eight challenges that can be raced on it. Higher difficulty challenges add a small segment to the track to add length and difficulty. At the outset there are four challenges to choose from and by placing first in these races four more can be opened. These last four challenges are the exact same as the first four, but the player must race the track backwards. There is also a glitch that will allow a player to race mirrored versions of a race.
Game Menu Options
Course select allows the player to choose their desired course. Four courses are available initially. The higher difficulty courses have an additional track segment to lengthen the race. Placing first in these four races unlocks four more races which have the player race the track backwards.
Transmission allows the player to choose between automatic and manual transmission.
Car select lets the player choose which of thirteen cars they want to race with. Each car has strengths and weaknesses.
Sound select lets the player choose which music tracks they want to listen to while racing. They can also switch in their own music CD and choose from the first six tracks.
Options allows the player to view and save their progress, change their controls, and listen to music tracks.
Namco System 22 arcade hardware
The technical specifications for the 32-bit Namco System 22 arcade hardware running the game:
- Main CPU (Central Processing Unit) processor: Motorola 68EC020 @ 25 MHz
- Instruction performance: 7.6 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second)
- Floating-point performance: 0.19 MFLOPS (Million Floating-point Operations Per Second)
- + Custom Namco chips
- Main GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) processor: Evans & Sutherland TR3 chipset
- DSP (Digital Signal Processing) GPU processors: 2x TI TMS32025 (16/32-bit) @ 49.2 MHz
- Performance: 64 MIPS (32 MIPS each)
- Floating-point performance: 400 MFLOPS
- Polygon performance: More than 240,000 polygons per second
- Features: Texture mapping, Gouraud shading, transparency, translucency effects, Z-buffering, depth cueing
- Display: 640x480 resolution @ 60 fps (frames per second) frame rate
- Colour: 16.78 million colours (24-bit colour) on screen
- Sound CPU: 2x Namco C74 (based on 16-bit Mitsubishi M37702) @ 16.4 MHz
- Sound chip: Namco C352 @ 16.4 MHz
- Features: 32-channel, 8-bit PCM @ 42 KHz
- Audio output: Stereo (standard), 4-channel Bose surround (deluxe)
- Monitor: 33-inch (standard), 3x 33-inch (deluxe)
- Projection: 2x 110-inch (18 ft) screens (Full Scale)
- Controls: Wheel (force feedback), Shifter (six positions), Pedals, Mazda MX-5 (Full Scale)
- Pedals: Acceleration, Brake, Clutch
There was a deluxe arcade cabinet that featured three monitors to give a more widescreen perspective.
Ridge Racer Full Scale
There was also a more expensive full-scale deluxe arcade cabinet called Ridge Racer Full Scale, which was was one of the most expensive arcade cabinets of all time (in the UK, for example, it sold for £150,000 and cost £3 per play), second only to Virtua Formula (which cost £250,000 in the UK).
Ridge Racer Full Scale featured an actual Mazda MX-5 sports car, where all the controls corresponded to the controls on screen (including the wheel, clutch, brakes, throttle, dials, radio, and rev counter), providing an unparalleled level of realism at the time. It also featured a much larger (almost cinema-sized) 2x 110-inch (18 ft) projection screen wired to the car as well as a 4-channel Bose surround sound system; the game's 'graphics engine' board itself was stored under the bonnet. The entire full-scale deluxe cabinet was 6 metres wide, 5 metres long, and 2.5 metres high.
Players sat inside an adapted red Eunos Roadster, the Japanese right-hand-drive version of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and controlled the same car on-screen. The game was played in front of a 10 ft/3 m-wide, front-projected triple screen (which benefited from dimmed ambient lighting), with the car's wheel, gear stick and pedals functioning as the game's controls. The ignition key was used to start the game, the speed and RPM gauges were fully functional, and fans blew wind on the player from inside the air vents. Speakers concealed inside the car provided realistic engine and tire sounds, while overhead speakers provided surround music. In almost all locations, an operator stood by a console, to collect payment and control the operation. The game's P.C.B. was located under the hood of the car. The steering wheel could be re-linked to the rack and pinion steering of the car, making it easier to move.
Ridge Racer Turbo
When R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 was released it included a bonus disc entitled Ridge Racer Turbo, a graphically enhanced version of Ridge Racer. In Europe it was released under the name Ridge Racer Hi-Spec Demo. It ran at 60 frames per second, and used the gouraud shading engine developed for R4 to render car shading. The drawback to this version was that you were only pitted against one AI opponent, regardless of what course you picked.
PlayStation launch game
Ridge Racer was a North American launch game for the original PlayStation (PSOne) back in 1995. The game launched alongside other PS1 launch titles that included: