Ridge Racer (video game)
|Platform(s)||Arcade, PlayStation, PlayStation Portable, mobile phone, Zeebo|
|Cabinet||Upright and sitdown|
|Arcade system||Namco System 22|
|CPU||1x Motorola 68020 @ 24.576 MHz,
2x Texas Instruments TMS32025 @ 49.152 MHz
|Sound||1x C352 @ 16.384 MHz|
|Display||Horizontal orientation, raster, 640 x 480 resolution, 32768 palette colours|
Ridge Racer (リッジレーサー Rijji Rēsā) is a 1993 racing video game developed and published by Namco. It was initially released on the Namco System 22 arcade system board, and later ported to the PlayStation console in 1994. It is the first title in the Ridge Racer series released for arcades and home consoles. The objective is to finish in first place in a series of races. The PlayStation version supports Namco's NeGcon controller.
Development took eight months, and the game is based on a trend among Japanese car enthusiasts. The first home version was released in Japan in 1994 as a launch title for the PlayStation; the versions for North America and Europe were released in 1995. It was re-released in Japan for the PlayStation The Best range in 1997, and for the Greatest Hits and Platinum ranges in North America and PAL regions respectively the same year. Ridge Racer played a major role in establishing the new system and giving it an early edge over its nearest competitor, the Sega Saturn, and was considered a rival to Sega's Daytona USA.
Ridge Racer received a highly positive reception. Reviewers praised the graphics, audio, drifting mechanics, and arcade-like gameplay, although some were critical of the lack of strong artificial intelligence and multiplayer mode. The arcade version was followed by a sequel, Ridge Racer 2, in 1994, whereas the PlayStation sequel, Ridge Racer Revolution, was released in 1995 in Japan, and in 1996 in North America and PAL regions. The soundtrack was remixed and released on the Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 11 album.
Players choose a course, a car, a transmission (automatic or six-speed manual), and a song. The cars vary in their specifications: some have a high top speed, others excel at acceleration or turning, and others present a balance. Certain cars are named after other Namco games such as Solvalou, Mappy, Bosconian, Nebulasray, and Xevious. The racetrack can be observed from the first-person perspective or, for the PlayStation version, from the third-person perspective. Namco's NeGcon controller can be used to play. Because the game is an arcade-style racing game, collisions do no damage, and merely slow the player down. There is a time limit, which ends the race if counted down to zero.
A single course is featured, and it consists of four configurations of increasing difficulty: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Time Trial (the latter two are extended). The player races eleven opponents except in Time Trial, where there is only one. The higher the difficulty, the faster the cars run, with Time Trial being the fastest. Each race consists of three laps (two on the beginner course). Checkpoints that grant additional time when passed through are present throughout. In the PlayStation version, after every race is won, reversed ones become available, and an additional opponent is encountered in Time Trial: the 13th Racing (also known as the "Devil" car), the fastest car. On winning, the car is unlocked. The PlayStation version features hidden "mirror" version of the tracks. It becomes a "mirror image" of itself; left turns become right turns and vice versa, and the surroundings switch sides of the road. In the arcade version, the winning player's score is saved in action-replay highlights after finishing the game.
In the PlayStation version, a mini-game of Galaxian can be played as the game loads. If won, eight additional cars become available. Once the game has loaded, the CD is needed only to play six music tracks. The disc can be replaced at any time during gameplay, although the game does not update; regardless of what disc is inserted, there will always be six tracks, corresponding to the starting points of the tracks on the game disc.
Development and release
At JAMMA's 1992 Amusement Machine Show in Japan, held during 27–19 August 1992, Namco debuted a racing game called Sim Drive for the Namco System 22 arcade system board. It was a sequel to Eunos Roadster Driving Simulator, a Mazda MX-5 driving simulation arcade game that Namco developed with Mazda and released in 1990. Its 3D polygon graphics stood out for its use of Gouraud shading and texture mapping. After a location test at the show, where it was previewed by the November 1992 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Sim Drive had a limited Japanese release in December 1992, but did not get a mass-market release. It served as a prototype for Ridge Racer.
Ridge Racer had a development cycle of eight months. The development team was under pressure to complete it before their rivals, and designer Fumihiro Tanaka commented that "the other company" was in the same position. Ridge Racer was originally planned to be an F1 racing game, but the concept was replaced with one based on a trend among Japanese car enthusiasts at the time. Namco Bandai's general manager Yozo Sakagami explained that they liked racing on mountain roads and did not want to slow down around corners, so drifted around them instead. The team therefore decided to create a game which allowed players to test their driving skills and experience cars' manipulation at high speeds while mastering drifting. The team did not worry about how Ridge Racer would be received outside Japan: Tanaka explained that it was a naïve time when Japanese developers could develop games for players in general, rather than for specific markets.
Development for the PlayStation version began in April 1994. Because of the differences, it essentially had to be produced from scratch, and took nearly as long to develop, being half-complete in November 1994. It was mostly complete by December, with the graphics 70 per cent finished. This version was developed by the same team. Due to technical limitations, it was difficult to program and runs at a lower resolution, lower framerate (30 frames per second for NTSC, 25 for PAL), and was less detailed. Specialised graphics libraries were developed because it was felt the standard ones provided by Sony were too limited. Visual director Yozo Sakagami remarked that the hardest element to port was the experience of driving a car. It was felt that the NeGcon controller would provide a more analogue feel than the standard PlayStation controller. Sakagami was concerned about loading times due to the CD-ROM format; the team countered this by having all the data loaded into memory by the time the title screen appeared, and having the player play a mini-game of Galaxian while waiting. Sakagami chose Galaxian because he was part of its arcade team, and wanted to honour his former boss. Due to CDs being cheaper to produce, the retail price was cheaper than cartridge games despite an increase in development costs. The 13th Racing's design was meant to be futuristic, according to Tanaka, because the team was considering the future of sports cars. The team settled on a black car "no-one had ever driven before", and at one point it was known as "The Cockroach" due to its performance. There was a rumour that the PlayStation version would include Ridge Racer 2's link-up mode, which was denied.
During release for arcade system board, Ridge Racer was described by Namco as "the most realistic driving game ever". It featured three-dimensional polygon graphics with texture mapping. The PlayStation version was shown at the 1995 Electronic Entertainment Expo event, and was an innovation in the use of three-dimensional polygons. Ridge Racer was released in Japan on 3 December 1994, in North America on 9 September 1995, and in Europe on 29 September as a launch title for the PlayStation.
The soundtrack was produced alongside the game by Shinji Hosoe, with contributions from Nobuyoshi Sano and Ayako Saso, as the development team did not have enough time to produce them separately. The team did not initially plan to have music, but ended up producing techno, which Tanaka believed helped players to enjoy a fun feeling while playing. Hiroshi Okubo believed techno would give a feeling of energy, journey, and speed, and commented that the genre was chosen because it embodied the game's "unrealistic speed and tension". This was commemorated by the release of Namco Game Sound Express Vol. 11, which featured remixed versions, by Victor Entertainment on 21 January 1994 in Japan.
Ridge Racer received critical acclaim. The graphics and sound in particular were praised. In the April 1994 issue of the UK magazine Computer and Video Games, Paul Rand gave high marks, remarking that it was "far and away the most realistic arcade game ever seen" on reviewing the arcade machine (based on the full-scale unit). In a review of its Japanese console release, GamePro called the PlayStation version "a near carbon copy of the original" and praised the graphics, soundtrack, and the entire game being loaded into the PlayStation's RAM, eliminating mid-game loading and giving the option of removing the game disc and using the PlayStation as a music CD player during gameplay. Although they criticised the graphical glitches and slowdown, the game was recommended. Next Generation applauded the conversion's faithful recreation of the arcade version, smooth graphics, and additional cars. Although they noted the lack of variety in the different cars' performance and the absence of a multiplayer mode as downsides, they found the game overall remarkable and commented that the fact that Ridge Racer was an early game for the PlayStation, and a rushed project at that, made it "an excellent harbinger of what's to come". GamePro's review of the later North American release judged that the game surpassed competitor Daytona USA in graphics, audio, and control responsiveness, and called it "The best racing game to date for home systems". Commenting on the realism, Game Informer remarked that Ridge Racer "does a better job of capturing the feel of high performance car racing than any existing driving game".
The two sports reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly praised the gameplay and music. Maximum commented that "Ridge Racer isn't without its bad points – basically, there is only one track and the game lacks the awesome crash sequences of Daytona USA, but everything else in the title is sheer class". They commented positively on the "feeling of smoothness and speed", the "distinctly European" dance music, the engine sounds, and the unrealistically exaggerated driving manoeuvres. In 1996, IGN commented that despite two years of release the game "has definitely stood the test of time", but complained that "there is no two-player mode" and that "the cars don't really vary in performance that much". AllGame's Shawn Sackenheim praised the game, particularly the graphics and audio, and concluded that it "is a fun title that racing fans will love". Coming Soon Magazine praised its "ultra fluid and very realistic" graphics, but criticised the game for being too short. The Electric Playground's Victor Lucas gave top marks, remarking "The experience of playing RR supersedes the thrills generally attributed to playing other racing video games", and further commented "I really can't stress enough how deserving of your video game dollars Ridge Racer is". Edge praised the "dazzling" graphics and "arcade-perfect" music.
Despite positive reviews, the game was criticised by 1UP.com for the arcade style of gameplay. The lack of artificial intelligence has received criticism—the movement of the computer-controlled cars is restricted to predetermined waypoints. The game was reviewed in 1995 in Dragon No. 221 by Jay & Dee in the "Eye of the Monitor" column, where Dee called it "just another racing game".
Ridge Racer was awarded Best Driving Game of 1995 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. It was listed as one of the best games of all time by Game Informer in 2001, Yahoo in 2005, Electronic Gaming Monthly in 2006, Guinness World Records in 2008 and 2009, NowGamer in 2010, and FHM in 2012.
Ridge Racer has been followed by many sequels and helped establish the PlayStation's popularity. IGN stated that Ridge Racer had been "one of PlayStation's first big system pushers" and "an excellent port of the arcade version that showed the true potential of Sony's 32-bit wonder". UGO Networks's Michael Hess and Chris Plante said that it had "set the stage for Gran Turismo by adding an option to choose between automatic and manual transmission". John Davison of 1UP.com said that Ridge Racer was an "unbelievable demonstration of what the PlayStation could do".
The PlayStation version was re-released for The Best, Greatest Hits, and Platinum ranges in 1997. Ridge Racer received a number of ports and spin-offs:
Ridge Racer Full Scale
A Full Scale arcade version was released alongside the standard arcade version in 1993. This version was designed to give the player a more realistic driving experience. Players (a passenger could sit in the car next to the driver) 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 feet (3.0 m) wide, front-projected triple screen (which benefited from dimmed ambient lighting), with the wheel, gear stick and pedals functioning as the controls. The ignition key was used to start, the speed and RPM gauges were functional, and fans blew wind on the player from inside the air vents. Speakers concealed inside the car provided realistic engine and tyre sounds; overhead speakers provided surround music. The P.C.B. was located under the bonnet of the car.
Ridge Racer: 3 Screen Edition
A version with three screens was released in arcades to give a peripheral vision effect. The machine used multiple System 22 arcade boards to drive the additional monitors and was only available in the sit down version.
Pocket Racer (ポケットレーサー Poketto Rēsā) is a super deformed version with cars resembling Choro-Q models, and aimed towards children. It was released in 1996 in Japan. It was only available in upright cabinet version, and uses Namco System 11 hardware. A similar game is included in Ridge Racer Revolution using the same cars under the name Pretty Racer (also known as buggy mode), the inspiration for this game.
Ridge Racer Turbo
R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 (released on 3 December 1998 in Japan, 1 May 1999 in North America, and on 1 September 1999 in Europe) includes a bonus disc containing a new version of the original Ridge Racer, called Ridge Racer Turbo in North America, Ridge Racer Hi-Spec Demo in Europe, and Ridge Racer Hi Spec Version (リッジレーサーハイスペックバージョン Rijji Rēsā Hai Supekku Bājon) in Japan. It featured improved graphics, runs at 60 frames per second (50 for PAL), as opposed to the original 30, and supports vibration feedback and the Jogcon controller. There is only one opponent (two in time trial boss races), and the White Angel from Ridge Racer Revolution appears in addition to the 13th Racing as a boss and unlockable car. A Time Attack mode is added, in which the player attempts to beat the time record without any opponent cars. This is distinct from Time Trial, where there are opponent cars.
On 31 December 2005, a version for mobile phones was released. It received mixed reviews. GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann gave the game 6.1/10. He praised graphics as "somewhat impressive for a mobile game", but criticised the steering, saying that "it doesn't take long to master the game." Levi Buchanan of IGN gave Ridge Racer 6.2/10, complaining about the problematic controls and saying that the game without the analogue control "feels really lacking". In 2005, a version of Ridge Racer was released for mobile phones under the name Ridge Racer 3D (not to be confused with the later Ridge Racer 3D for the Nintendo 3DS). On 11 August 2009, this version was ported to Zeebo.
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