6 / 10 Banzai!s
It’s become a tradition for Namco Bandai to release a Ridge Racer game as a launch title whenever a new system hits the market. Nintendo 3DS had Ridge Racer 3D, the Playstation 3 had Ridge Racer 7, Playstation Portable had Ridge Racers, and so on. For obvious reasons, developers face pretty tight deadlines when putting together a launch title. But since the Ridge Racer games don’t need to be programmed from scratch – merely modified – they make convenient games to hit the shelves as new titles for a new console – plus they can make good money! Since launch titles lack competing games, people will buy them simply due to a lack of selection. The Playstation 3, when released here in Japan, had only 5 games to choose from – and two of them sucked.
So, it’s a no-brainer for Namco Bandai. Take an existing and popular game like Ridge Racer, change it up a bit, and send it to the stores in time for the release of a brand-new console for sale. How could they go wrong?
How did they go wrong?
What I Liked:
The “team” feature is new to the Ridge Racer series, and a good way to push for more interaction with other racers, as well as feel some comradery each time you play online. When you set up your Player’s Profile, you’ll be entered into one of four teams. You’ll be given an objective – for example, focus on beating the “purple guys,” or both the “purple guys” and the “green triangle guys.” Completing these objectives, either during Ghost Racing or Online, earns points for your team. These objectives change each day, and you can feel proud whenever you see your team at number one.
The graphics, overall, are pretty good and come out nice and clear on the PS Vita. Anything in the nearby vicinity, such as the road or passing wooden fences, appear so well rendered that they look like a photograph. Anything in the background, however, has a blurred look to it. I don’t know if the developers were trying to create a more 3D effect, or just didn’t have time to flesh it out.
Overall, Namco Bandai seemed intent on focusing more on the “social interactivity” of the game, which they did quite well. Besides the basic online play, and the new team feature, you can race Time Attack and either choose to upload your score to the world for others to try and beat, or use the “Near” feature on the Vita to upload your race to neighbours within a 1km radius. The title screen of Ridge Racer Vita displays the Earth rotating through space, and it’s quite fitting – you can connect and play, compete and challenge, from around the world.
What I Didn’t Like:
The biggest issue I had with the game was the lack of tracks. There are only 3 to choose from. Wow. Really, three?! Even Ridge Racer 4 on the Playstation 1 had more tracks than that. And let me tell you, it get’s boring racing those same three tracks over and over! Namco Bandai released more tracks on the PSN Store for download a month after the game’s release – but they come with a fee. Now that’s a scam, if I ever saw one.
Then there’s the lack of cars. Only five. Wow. They can be somewhat modified, including their colour, but that’s about it. All five cars have the same maximum speed, and their drifting type can be selected to your preference. As a result, you’ll probably end up racing the entire game with the same, single car. You’ll never hear “You’ve got a new car!” in this game.
The other issue I had was the sever lack of challenges in offline play. In other Ridge Racer titles, there’s normally a set of races, performed in varying order, as you make your way from the rookies to the top of the game. Not in the Vita version. You can select Ghost Race, which is either racing against a poor NPC or downloading another player’s race, Time Attack, in which you’re racing by yourself against the clock, or Spot Race – the “practice” race, and the only mode where there’s other drivers. Basically, if you’re not playing online, you’re pretty much playing by yourself – literally! Even the NPCs don’t enter the game, as though they became self-aware and drove off to find another game with more tracks.
As a fan of the Ridge Racer series, I found the Vita version to be quite a disappointment. Having only 3 tracks and 5 cars is absolutely inexcusable!
And if feels as though Namco Bandai put all their efforts into making the game as interactive and online as possible, and forgot that some people just want to race NPCs while working their way to becoming #1. So if you’re playing the Vita on the train or in the subway, where there’s no wi-fi, there’s not a whole lot you can do. Without internet, this game’s as much fun as Indy 500 on the Atari 2600, but with better graphics.