Ridge Racer DS is the realisation of the classic NAMCO arcade racing game, released on the Nintendo DS back in June of 2005, and is thus a light-hearted look back at how this transition ported over to the worlds number 1 selling handheld.
Start up, and you immediately get that RR feel, with the techno soundtrack being backed up by the classic sound of the commentator we have all loved over the years, and “Ridge Racer” bellows out of the tiny DS speakers. The top screen displays an in-game demo of the cars racing around the classic original Ridge Racer track, which is soon to be taken up by the sexy NAMCO Grid Girl taking up both screens.
Hit ‘start’ and you’ll see the standard array of options: quick race, single player, multi-player, etc. It’s worth mentioning that, hidden inside the options tab, is the lap time records board, audio settings and control settings. The control system it offers can be altered from either the classic control pad system to the rather ambitious stylus steering option.
Enter the single player mode, and you’ll be presented with Grand Prix, Car Attack or Time Attack. Grand Prix is simple racing, with the player battling it out through stages 1 – 8 over various combination’s of classic Ridge Racer courses, with variations including Ridge Racer – Revolution. In total, there are 20 Race courses to buzz around.
Car selection is ranked on basic Speed/Acceleration/Handling/Grip levels, and of course, you have the choice of Manual or Automatic Transmission, along with colour choice.
Now we’re on the Grid. “3, 2, 1 Go!” , the classic commentator announces! Starting in 12th position and revving your engine, the Ridge TV helicopter rising in front of the player and the battle is on.
Handling is the classic drifting around corners at ludicrous speeds that we’ve come to expect from the Ridge Racer franchise, with the lack of any real-world dynamics meaning there’s very little, if any, impact on your car – can 360 degree madness ahoy, managing to spin around in a full circle whilst maintaining straight progression along the straight…realism? what’s that?
In summary, this is a high octane journey through the racing world, according to Namco. Some great blur effects of the other cars’ brake lights when turning corners, for instance, are a minor yet effective detail that helps draw you into the game.
Despite the limited graphical performance of the DS, Namco has done a decent job on both presentation and feel. It does lay down a decent learning curve, especially once you progress to stage 7, the speed at which this game runs can become tough and almost uncontrollable. Of course, this can result in the player crashing in to same parts of the course where it appears there is little chance of avoiding hazards – sometimes it’s better to slightly clip the side and take a decreases in speed rather than slow down, as the AI computer controlled cars will whiz past you with an irritating ease.
Speaking of which, if you hit an AI car (which you will. Repeatedly), they appear to shoot off in the distance with no damage caused, leaving the player to recover and try to get back up to full speed. It can be very frustrating in that, on some of the tighter and twistier sections, some seeming like country lanes, players can end up being penalised rather harshly should you sway from the middle.
As ever, the soundtrack consists of the classic techno beats that the Ridge Racer franchise eternally embraces. Sound effects are fine for what they are, though one thing you will hear a lot of is the sound of your car hitting either other cars or the side walls, I call this particular sound the ‘supermarket effect’ because it often sounds like crashing shopping trolleys.
Cars have to be won via head-to-head races and to progress, this is an absolute must! I personally think it’s preferable to drive from the in-car view, as the third person perspective is, in my opinion, very difficult to control and often inaccurate for maintaining good racing lines.
There is also the introduction of a very ambitious stylus method, which involves steering with the stylus on the touch screen whilst accelerating on the A button. In my experience, this has been completely unworkable and I’m surprised that this feature ever got the green light!
All in all, it would be easy for me to write a long list of faults, but that wouldn’t take away the fact that I have had many hours of fun from playing it over the years. It’s a great game for such a small machine, and is a genuinely fun little arcade racer… just don’t expect anything too serious!
Alas, I’ve never had the opportunity to test the link-up facility, so can’t comment on the multi-player option, but you never know, I may find a rival RR fan on the bus to challenge one day.
If you are looking for a realistic, all singing all dancing driving simulator then turn your attention elsewhere. I still play Ridge Racer DS even today, and it’s great for a quick blast on the bus or train. I don’t take it seriously and it does exactly what I want from a game.
It would be easy to write a long list of faults, but that wouldn’t take away the fact that Ridge Racer DS is a great deal of fun to play. Still an impressive achievement given the limitations of the hardware, it stands the test of time as a genuinely fun little arcade racer, just don’t expect anything too serious. If you are looking for a realistic, all singing all dancing driving simulator then turn your attention elsewhere. I still play Ridge Racer DS even today, and it’s great for a quick blast on the bus or train, it does exactly what I want from a game on the go.