About a month ago, the Ridge Racer series was thrust back into the limelight as rumours began to circulate that Bandai Namco Singapore were working on a new iteration of the game. Appearing on the resume of a developer’s LinkedIn profile, Ridge Racer 8 was reported to be a Nintendo Switch exclusive; an appropriate new home for the franchise as it combines the series’ history as both a console and a portable game.
Unfortunately, the news created excitement for only a handful of people, because the rumour was overshadowed by the leak that the developer were also working on a new Metroid Prime game. That Samus Aran is such a glory hog.
Though the Ridge Racer series has been around in some form or another for the better part of 25 years, whether that be on mobile, through re-releases, or being critically despised on PlayStation Vita, the last “true” entry in the series was 2006’s Ridge Racer 7 for the PS3. We don’t talk about 2012’s Ridge Racer: Unbounded. That game doesn’t exist.
With 12 years between the last mainline game in the series and today, the time is right for Ridge Racer to make a glorious comeback. The hype that has surrounded the announcement that Burnout Paradise would be getting a remaster has proved that the audience is there for a quality arcade racer, and none fit the bill more so than Ridge Racer.
For the uninitiated, Ridge Racer and Burnout share a couple of key parallels. Both are arcade racers that focus on sweet drifts over perfect racing lines. Later entries in the series added nitrous which could be replenished via the art of entering a turn sideways, though the series (usually) never strayed into the realm of destruction like Burnout did. No, shut up. I said Unbounded doesn’t exist.
The drifting mechanics became synonymous with the Ridge Racer name, with each passing game expanding upon the framework. Cars would have different properties which would make them easier or harder to execute drifts, meaning that you’d have to adjust your driving style depending upon the machine you were behind the wheel of.
One car might start to drift at the slightest touch of the brake, whilst another might require you to throw the car round the corner with reckless abandon, and miscalculating that always leads to a nasty crash. It was a great way for the game to straddle the line between accessibility and difficulty. Anyone could initiate a drift, but you’d have to a get a feel for the car before you could master it.
These days, there are plenty of games that offer the sensation of drifting around the city or countryside, but few can do it with as much style and charm as the Ridge Racer series. It’s a love letter to all things Bandai Namco, whether that be in the form of subtle references to other Namco properties, or being able to actually drive a car being piloted by Pac-Man himself.
References like this are why Ridge Racer would make for a brilliant Nintendo game. Races would just be awash with Mushroom Kingdom liveries, Legend of Zelda billboards and, if we wanted to be a little bit cheeky, a New Donk City race track. Hell, it’s not like we’re getting a new F-Zero anytime soon, so I may as well hang my hat on this pipedream.
The cars themselves are brilliantly designed, showcasing a level of imagination unseen in other racing games. The Crinale, or 13th Racing as it was known when it made its debut in the original game, has become a staple of the series, but cars like the Angelus or the Himmel 490B completely disregard the concept of what a car should be.
Special mention should go to Ridge Racer 6 and 7’s Monstrous, which looks like a typical limousine until you hit the nitrous and the boot opens up to reveal some massive rockets. Forget the naught to sixty time, the Monstrous goes from naught to Transformer in no time at all. You don’t see something like that on Forza Horizon, that’s for sure.
Though the race tracks offer your usual mix of beautiful views, inner city highways, winding country roads and plenty of drifting opportunities, the soundtrack helps put Ridge Racer above and beyond most other racers. Tracks like Explorers and Valley of the Mind from Ridge Racer 6, Tsui Tsui from RR V, or Motor Species from Ridge Racer Type 4 help to get the blood pumping, the excitement building, and the desire to win becomes all consuming. Who cares about Outrun’s Magical Sound Shower when you’re listening to Fogbound by Boom Boom Satellites?
Whether or not Ridge Racer 8 is a thing is still unconfirmed, and what form it’ll take is unknown. For all we know, it could be a free roam driving game a la Need For Speed or, to bring things full circle, Burnout Paradise. Still, so long as it retains the key attributes of accessible yet challenging gameplay, fantastic imagination, a killer soundtrack and steers clear of the subtitle “Unbounded”, it’s sure to be a success.