Ridge Ranker: #8

[This is the third entry in a countdown of the best Ridge Racer games. I recommend you read the introduction before reading this; it includes a brief history of the series and links for each entry.]

Ridge Racer 3D - Nintendo 3DS, 2011

I'm comin' for that ass, Inky.
I'm comin' for that ass, Inky.

Ridge Racer 3D is a bit like Ridge Racer V: it doesn't exactly shake things up. There's more to it than the PS2 launch title, but it's one of the games that earned the series its reputation for excessive rehashes. Obviously, a part of the appeal is seeing the game in stereoscopic 3D (as the intro rap mentions, amusingly enough), and that does lead to some fun little effects like splashed water and confetti getting "stuck" on your screen, but past that is a lot of what's been done before. You have the nitrous system, grand prix, and handling dynamics from the PSP games, the slipstream mechanic and some of the customization from Ridge Racer 7, and a bunch of courses and music from across the series. It's an adequate game, but the amount of recycled content makes it kind of forgettable.

Even some of what's new doesn't really move the needle. The soundtrack is a rare low point for the series, as the titles of the original songs ("My Crazy Chainsaw," "Dr. Mad's Gone," "NOx Warheads") are more memorable than many actual compositions. Part of it may be the quality hit that the music takes to fit on a 1GB 3DS cart, but I mostly stick to the half of the soundtrack that's taken from prior games. There are some highlights in the sample-driven tracks like Call of Aspara and the entrancingly-bouncy Nitro Right Now, and the aforementioned Dr. Mad has a headbanger of a gabber beat that's perfect for Ridge Racer, but far too many of the songs just blur together. Bizarrely enough, the best track is old but still exclusive to this game: one of the songs from the selection of older music, a PSP remix of Ridge Racer Revolution's Drive U 2 Dancing, inexplicably received vocals during its transition to the 3DS, giving it a much richer sound.

The limited resolution of the 3DS means the game looks less like this and more like the screen above it when played normally, but Ridge Racer 3D cleans up well when playing with an emulator.
The limited resolution of the 3DS means the game looks less like this and more like the screen above it when played normally, but Ridge Racer 3D cleans up well when playing with an emulator.

Fortunately, the rest of the new additions are consistently great. I was way more excited than anybody should be to see a new car manufacturer share its name with Lucky & Wild, an arcade game too obscure for how damn cool it is, but it also brings a stable of useful vehicles influenced by classic American muscle cars. More substantial are the three brand new courses, which rank among some of the best in the series. The easy favorite is Redstone Thunder Road, which may as well be taken out of a Daytona USA game. It's a lengthy, challenging track full of twists and turns across an American Southwest canyon, which is a welcome change in pace from the urban and tropic landscapes you typically see in the series. Silver Mountain Skyway, on the other hand, takes you up a snow-capped mountain and back down again through a mountainside village. Even the comparatively plain city circuit, Oceanfront Cruise Way, manages to have some visual appeal, ending in a dash through an underwater tunnel. All of the new courses have a distinct color palette that almost feels like they're trying to recapture the arcade vibrancy of the original games, and it makes drifting through the already solid course designs that much more enjoyable.

It's hard to argue against the "been there, done that" feeling that Ridge Racer 3D has, but it's not without its charms. There's plenty of other games in the series I would sooner jump to for a quick fix, but the few new additions make it worth playing every once in a while. After all, the only other place you can play the 3DS-exclusive tracks is as DLC in the Vita game, and I'm certainly not doing that.

[Key Tracks: Nitro Right Now, Call of Aspara, Dr. Mad's Gone]

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