Hello again. I realise there hasn't been a post here for over a month now, which is awful. I can only say that the PSP I imported at the end of last month has taken up most of my time, either through playing launch titles like Ridger Racers, Lumines & Wipeout Pure, or watching videos. I promise I will post content more frequently, including all things I promised a while back, along with reviews of Jade Empire (just as soon as I finish it), Ratchet & Clank 2, and much more.
For now though, I have a double review, comparing the two new handheld versions of Ridge Racer. How well do they play, look, and sound. Do they make good use of the hardware? Which is the better game? I will attempt to answer all this and more right now.
Graphics: Of course good graphics on their own don't make for a good game, but as they're the first thing you will notice when you turn on your DS or PSP I will deal with them first. The DS version is almost identical to the N64 version that came out about 5 years ago. At first, the simple fact that you're playing a true 3D racing game on a handheld is quite amazing, but after a while you start to see the flaws. The game glitches that were present in the N64 version are here too, including noticeable tears in the textures, and some bad clipping problems where cars can pass through one another. The graphics are also quite blocky and jagged round the edges. I believe this isn't the fault of the DS however - if they had built the game from the ground up and played to the strengths of the machine, they could probably have come up with much better results. As they are, the visuals of Ridge Racer DS are shabby at best.
In contrast to this, Namco took the basic track layouts from all the previous games and then rebuilt them for Ridge Racers on the PSP. The graphics are smooth and detailed, and in the later classes the sense of speed is staggering. Each track variation is also driven at a different time of day, so you can see glorious sunrises, sunsets, take place in night races around neon-lit cities, or just burn around in the sunshine under brilliant blue skies. I know it doesn't really effect the gameplay, but even the menu designs are classy. When it comes to the graphics, the point definitely goes to the PSP version.
Sound: The Ridge Racer series has always been associated with Rave and Dance music, and both games feature a range of new and old tracks for you to listen to as your power slide round the tracks. While the quality of the music in the DS version is quite high, the sheer range of tunes in the PSP version beats it hands down. There are five different "discs" of music - two with brand new tunes, one with remixes, and another two full of classic tracks. That adds up to 30 tunes in total - plenty of variety. As for the sound effects, the announcer can piss you off in both games, as he is very keen to point out your mistakes, and the tire screeches, engine noises and other peripheral sounds are functional at best. Another point to the PSP version.
Gameplay: Ridge Racer DS isn't a bad game by any means. During the time it takes to finish you will probably enjoy yourself, but unfortunately that isn't very long. The entire game smaller than just the Basic Tours in the PSP version. As well as the Basic Tours, Ridge Racers includes Pro, Advanced and Max Tours, which will take you many hours to complete. Other complaints I could make include the handling - on the DS it's imprecise and tricky to pull off, but on the PSP it's a cinch to launch yourself into a power slide and then control it, and the sensation of speed - the DS version never feels particularly quick, but when you get to the Class 6 and Special races in Ridge Racers the velocity will take your breath away. You guessed it, another point for PSP version - things aren't looking good for the DS now.
Overall: I have to point out now that I'm not against the DS in any way - it's a great machine with some great games (such as Super Mario 64 DS, Wario Ware Touched, Yoshi's Touch & Go, etc), but unfortunately when it comes to Ridge Racer the PSP wins hands down. Because Nintendo took the quick and easy option of porting their old N64 game (which was already one of the worst entries in the Ridge Racer series), their game looks decidedly weak when put next to the power, speed, visuals and sheer variety of races that Ridge Racers on the PSP offers. Maybe if they'd taken the time to write a new game from scratch, which made good use of all the DS's hardware tricks, they could've come up with something impressive, but as it is, Ridge Racer DS is a letdown to both the machine it is on and to the series in general.
The Retromodern Gaming Scores:
Ridge Racer DS - 6 out of 10
Ridge Racers - 8 out of 10