Ridge Racer 3D Review

By Steve Watts, Apr 06, 2011 1:00pm PDT

Ridge Racer has been noticeably quiet of late. The last console entry in the series, Ridge Racer 7, accompanied the launch of the PlayStation 3, and even then it was better known for Kaz Hirai's internet-infamous stage performance. Now as the company prepares Ridge Racer Unbounded for PS3 and Xbox 360, its little sibling, Ridge Racer 3D, makes a case for the series on the new Nintendo 3DS. While it's a decent portable racing title, it occasionally trips over its own strange quirks.

The game hews closely to its arcade racing roots, providing curve-heavy courses to drift and build up your nitrous boosts. Every win gives some currency to spend on new cars, souped-up versions of your current models, or one-time-use bonuses for a single set of races. It certainly isn't a sim racer, but the game has enough customization options to let you feel like you're developing your own style. Especially when you reach the higher class races, making smart investments on race bonuses becomes essential.

As a showpiece for the 3DS hardware, Ridge Racer 3D is among the best entries I've seen. In 2D, everything looks unattractively blocky but turning on the 3D masked those imperfections. I got completely drawn in by the road winding its way off to the horizon. I also liked that the game uses the new StreetPass feature of the 3DS to trade racing ghosts with passers-by.

The single-player modes offer plenty of options, including standard class-based races, time trials, and the helpful ability to set your desired time of play and develop a track queue automatically. Each mode culls from the same set of tracks, though, so they become a bit too familiar after a while.

The exception to its mostly impressive feature list is the multiplayer, which despite the Internet connection of the 3DS is a local-only affair. This might have been a more minor complaint if not for the undercooked A.I. opponents, which oscillate between dumb and cheap. You'll always start in the eighth position, regardless of performance, and the seven racers ahead of you don't seem to put any effort into beating each other. They stay in the same positions, locked in formation relative to one another, until you try to pass them. Graduating to a new race class will introduce a few new racers, but each class has its own set of seven opponents that act as if they're in line at a supermarket.

When you do aim to pass an opponent on the shoulder, they tend to get their own burst of speed. I assumed this was just a strategic move on the part of the A.I., saving a boost to prevent being overtaken, but sometimes even gathering all three nitrous charges for a triple boost couldn't prevent me from being easily passed on the final shoulder. Particularly in the higher classes, achieving a required first-place position was more than a little frustrating, and made me wish for online opponents to even the playing field.

Despite a few baffling missteps, though, I enjoyed Ridge Racer 3D. Even when beaten handily, it was always fun enough to inspire me to try one more time. The game serves to sell the 3D effect, and it's a solid series entry in its own right. If you enjoy arcade racers, and especially if you have a friend or two for local multi-player, this entry is worth taking for a spin.

[This Ridge Racer 3D review is based on a retail review copy of the game provided by Namco Bandai, played on a Nintendo 3DS.]

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