By Gemma ~@Juicygamereviews
It’s hard to believe that Ridge Racer, on the Playstation 1 was one of my favourite games back in 1995. Yes, I said “games’ not ‘racers’. I’m going to explain exactly why, in this review but before I do it’s clear to say that Ridge Racer has not aged all that well. Playing Ridge Racer now feels slightly painful. With a very blocky control system, chunky polygons and a lack of tracks and cars, I wonder why I was so obsessed with Ridge Racer back in the day? Let's find out...
Ridge Racer was developed by Namco and released in Europe and North America in 1995. It was ported to the Playstation 1 from the arcade version (also developed by Namco). Ridge Racer became the foundation of a fruitful and fast and furious series that had releases on almost every Sony console. That’s pretty impressive. Back in 1995 we were firmly in to the era where 3D driven polygon technology was all the rage. Ridge Racer clearly embraced this as it looked like one of the most advanced games of the time which helped to catapult the Playstation 1 to success. Despite this obvious advantage, the Ridge Racer series completely turned a corner after Rage Racer (the third title in the console series), donning a completely new and serious look. Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution adopted the classic arcade look: bright colours, bold polygons coupled with some serious speed. Rage Racer’s colour palette was a lot less confident and brash which made the game feel less like an arcade game and more like a run of the mill racer. To this day I prefer the electricity of reds, blues and yellows that littered the tracks of the original Ridge Racer. The popping colours gave the game a certain charm and aesthetics that drew me in and left me wanting a lot more. But did we get more?
Ridge Racer lacked in a lot of areas. There are four cars to choose from, six music tracks and four race modes. Arguably there is a slight tinge of versatility when you unlock mirror mode as we can play through the game again by essentially unlearning everything we learnt about cornering, angles and so forth. I never enjoyed mirror mode as it felt like a more awkward version of repetition. I would have preferred the addition of tracks and cars! Or maybe having a two-player option would have been welcome? I’m still shocked that Ridge Racer was a one-player game. What do you think about this?
Speed is everything in a racing game and Ridge Racer certainly gained ground in its pace. What’s more was that I found the combination of braking in to corners highly effective after speeding off a huge straight. Namco seemed to get this balance right. Controlling the cars on corners felt solid back in 1995 and I’d argue that it’s the only feature that still feels fresh in Ridge Racer today. This is my favourite feature of the game.
The goal in Ridge Racer was to win. It sounds simple but when we are pit against eleven other cars that seemed as equally fast, Ridge Racer often felt like a serious challenge. It took me a while to complete with my friends in the mid-nineties but it was probably the most fun I had on the Playstation 1. Certain tracks had incredibly narrow sections that forced cars to bottleneck and crash (or rather bump as no visible damage was dealt). Annoying right? Actually, no it wasn’t. Ridge Racer wasn’t supposed to be easy. The game forced you to try over and over, which added to the entertainment value when played in a bedroom full of your best friends. There was also something highly satisfying when seeing your brother scream at the TV when he came second in a race or worse off. What this tells me is that Ridge Racer was a sociable game. It felt at its best when five of us were crowded around the TV with one controller. This became our very own personable arcade experience and I wholeheartedly believe that this was what Namco wanted to create. Can you relate to this?
The original Ridge Racer on the Playstation 1 is one of the best in the series for me. It paved the road for further Ridge Racer titles like Ridge Racer Unbounded and Ridge Racer 3D on the Nintendo 3DS, both reputable titles and hopefully many more will follow.
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