It may seem like a cash grab, with the game arriving at launch more or less unchallenged and bearing a well-known name, but while there's probably some element of that at play, there's no denying that Ridge Racer 3D is as strong an entry in the series as there's been in years. Like the last few entries in the series, particularly the PSP releases, Ridge Racer 3D is essentially a compilation of favorite courses from past games, a couple of new ones and some relatively minor additions. In this case, those are new cars -- some inspired by American muscle machines -- and the ability to purchase little perks before each race, such as full nitrous or an instant rocket-start.
The courses, old and new, are all wonderfully designed and the drift-focused gameplay itself, while fundamentally unchanged since the mid-'90s, is pitch-perfect using the responsive and comfy circle pad or D-pad. Which is to say, the game is thrilling, moving at break-neck speed around hairpin turns while driving sideways in blaze of smoke and burnt rubber.
There are your typical modes: Grand Prix, single race, time attack and versus. The first of those is presented as a branching chart with series of multi-race challenges, with opportunities to select your path as you progress. It's a meaty mode with many hours of gameplay to offer, which when combined with the other single-player modes makes RR3D no slouch in terms of content. Multiplayer is limited to four players, and it's local only -- there's no online play, which is a shame given the solid networking 3DS seems to offer.
The drifting-focused gameplay, while fundamentally unchanged since the mid-'90s, is pitch-perfectIt's always been a particularly vibrant series, and there's something about the 3D effect on 3DS that really makes this Ridge Racer "pop" -- and it's not just the fact that it's in, well ... 3D. The game appears about on par visually with the PSP entries in the series, running smoothly in 3D (apart from some dips when nitro's introduced on a very busy screen) and even smoother with the effect turned off. Not that I'd recommend doing that, as the way the effect pulls you further into the race, truly heightening the thrills, is really remarkable. I would, though, recommend turning off the player names over cars as they tend to "smear" or exhibit a double-image that's not very nice to look at.
Love 'em or hate 'em, the long history of supernaturally peppy Ridge Racer announcers is unbroken in RR3D. You have the option to turn them off if you're not a fan. You won't want to do the same for the music, though, since it's a great mix (no pun intended) of tunes from past games that sound particularly good -- crisp and expansive -- through the 3DS' new sound chip.
I have to hand it to Namco-Bandai: With the exception of omitting online multiplayer, it really put together a solid entry in the series for the 3DS launch, one that's easily high on the list of best titles available for the new system.
This review is based on a retail copy of Ridge Racer 3D provided by Namco-Bandai.