The Ridge Racer franchise has an odd knack for coinciding with platform launches. From the PS1 classic to the most recent Ridge Racer 7, capitalizing on the enthusiasm inherent with new hardware seems to be the series' bread and butter. It's clear why Namco chooses this strategy: it manages to obfuscate the franchise's lack of innovation with the technological advance each generational leap brings.
It's hard to be swayed by the novelty of a handheld Ridge Racer game. The 3DS title looks not unlike the PSP games before it, but this time, it's in 3D -- and it seems that's all Namco has to offer for this update. The fact sheet says "players will be able to experience a level of intimacy with the on-screen races like never before" thanks to the 3D visuals, but doesn't every game on this platform offer that?
A PR person claimed to be impressed with my performance on the demo track, a line I'm sure he's used a dozen times before. My only polite response could be "it's Ridge Racer." If you've played one, you've probably played them all. But Ridge Racer 3D's lack of online play and customization options make it seem like a backwards step from Ridge Racer 7. And here's another mark for unoriginality -- for the umpteenth time, Namco is intent on reusing "favorite courses from the past." Although the entire project reeks of laziness, that doesn't detract from the familiar fun that every Ridge Racer offers. If you're into drift-heavy arcade racers, then Ridge Racer 3D certainly has its place. The visuals are solid, and the 3D effect is appreciable, without being too nauseating. "Competent" is as effusive as I can get.
There is one nifty feature exclusive to the 3DS version: StreetPass, 3DS' local wireless pinging service, will allow you to passively swap ghost data with other 3DS owners you happen to come across. Would we rather just download from online leaderboards? Perhaps. But it's certainly a good implementation of one of 3DS' unique features.
I think there's a reason why Kaz Hirai's Ridge Racer meme resonated so well with gamers. The feigned enthusiasm for the franchise just doesn't make any sense. Ridge Racer 3D continues the series' legacy of producing solid, albeit predictable, launch games. So what if we can't get excited for it?