Kaz Hirai Would Not Approve
You know how new hardware always comes out with a quick smattering of titles that show off what the technology can do? And a lot of those games are quick knock offs of existing franchises some of which are decent and some of which are not? Ridge Racer falls into that latter category. There is a game here that is, fundamentally Ridge Racer in terms of feel and mechanics. It just takes every opportunity it can to take the budget way out.
Right On The Ridge Of Mediocrity
Ridge Racer as a game still adheres religiously to its 90s arcade roots. This is still a game about unrealistic—yet satisfying—drift physics that sees fictional cars tearing around tracks, using more recent mechanics like charging up nitro to give a performance edge during competitions. That basic skeleton is still intact, and if that’s all you’re looking for in a Vita game, then you may as well go out and buy this. Everyone else, particularly fans of the franchise or those looking for some value for their money, should know there are some pretty obvious concessions to either a lack of time or budget that have made this one of the emptiest Ridge Racer experiences to date.
The game does a decent job of presenting graphics appropriate for the Vita. One look at the road and you’ll know this isn’t being displayed on a 3DS or a PSP. But while the game shows the technical chops of the Vita, it also borrows heavily from its predecessors and doesn’t show off a lot of variety. A total of three tracks are available, and they’ve been lifted from past games, as have quite a few of the music tracks. There’s nothing broken here from a technical standpoint, just an appalling amount of recycling for what’s supposed to be a new game on a new platform. Ninja Gaiden Sigma+ at least, is honest about just being a port, and provides a whole lot more game for your money.
This is where things really start to feel lazy. Again, Namco hasn’t actually broken anything in this game; what’s there works. There’s just so little of it that it feels like this game needed another year to create more content to play through. Rather than a traditional campaign, the game locks you into choosing a racing team, and then you spend the remainder of your time either competing on your own in “spot races,” or, in a miserly version of SSX, going up against the ghosts and lap times of other players, or up to seven other racers online. But there’s only so far that the racing will get you when all you’ve got—for the moment—is three tracks to play on. On top of this, an RPG-esque element has been added that allows you tweak your car’s performance in three categories, such as Nitro and the upgrade system following your own path on a grid. The grid system in itself isn’t bad, but then the game lays out some “upgrades” that are nothing more than gameplay hints to eat up hard-earned race credits between actual mechanical upgrades. It’s just another example of cheap solutions implemented to curb progress, rather than giving players a lot of content to work through. This upgrade system also allows for the modding of car stats, effectively killing any individuality the various racing teams might have and turning your choice of car and team into a preference of “skins.”
In many ways, the Vita debut of Ridge Racer feels a lot like a demo that you’re actually being asked to pay for. But at $25 for the digital version and $30 for the cartridge version, there are far more worthwhile titles available that will give you better value.