Ridge Racer (リッジレーサー, Rijji Rēsā) is a 1993 racing video game created by Namco. It was initially released on the Namco System 22 arcade board, and was later ported to the PlayStation console. It is the first title in the long-running Ridge Racer series of games released for arcades and home systems. In the game, the player assumes the role of a car driver and competes with other computer-controlled cars. It was notable for introducing a drifting gameplay mechanic.
Upon release, Ridge Racer was well received. The original arcade version's 3D polygon graphics, which introduced texture mapping and Gouraud shading, was described by critics as being revolutionary and the most realistic video game graphics seen up until then. It was also praised for its audio, drifting-based gameplay, artificial intelligence, and in the full-scale deluxe version, the use of a real Mazda MX5 as an arcade cabinet.
The first home version of Ridge Racer was released in Japan in 1994 as a launch title for the original PlayStation home console; the version for North America and Europe was released in 1995. The game played a major role in establishing the new system and in giving it an early edge over its nearest competitor, the Saturn. The PlayStation version was also praised for its graphics, audio and arcade-style racing gameplay, becoming one of Famitsu's highest-rated games of 1994 and receiving Electronic Gaming Monthly's award for Best Driving Game of 1995. Retrospectively, reception has been positive to mixed, with several later reviewers criticizing its arcade-style gameplay and lack of strong artificial intelligence compared to later games.
Ridge Racer was very innovative for its time, introducing minor car sim elements intertwined with the gameplay. The player could choose from the options of Course Select, Transmission, Car Select, Sound Select, Start, and Options. Course Select allowed the player to choose a course, each of varying difficulty, and choose between the two modes of a Race (against 11 other cars) and Time Trial (against one other car). The Course Select screen also displays data about the course's shape and difficulty.
The Transmission menu allowed the player to select the between Automatic or Manual transmission. Automatic transmission (AT) permits less experienced players easier turns and drifts, while manual transmission (MT) restricts the AI from assisting but allows more experienced players to gain faster track times.
Normally only 4 cars are selectable, but all 12 (excluding the Black No.13 'Devil' Car) are selectable if a player is able to defeat 100% of the enemies on the Galaxian loading game before the title screen.
Car Select introduces the selectable vehicles for racing. The mode also served as a gallery, serving the player with multiple views by rotating the camera with the L1 and R1 triggers on the PlayStation controller. Sound Select allowed the player to change between 1 of six background music tracks, while the Options menu allowed button configuration and the lap records to be viewed.
The game consists of 4 race course modes. They are the "Beginner", "Mid-Level", "High-Level" and "Time Trial" (on the screen will show "T.T" instead). The "Beginner" and the "Mid-Level" would be racing on the same circuit. However, the Beginner mode only had 2 laps and there were no night racing. On the Mid-Level mode, the cars would be faster. The race would run 3 laps instead of 2 and there would be night racing in the middle. Once the player advanced to "High-Level" and "Time Trial", the circuit would be longer as a technical section was added with more sharp and difficult curves. The "Beginner", "Mid-Level" and the "High-Level" would be a 12 cars battle but the "Time Trial" would be the battle of 2 cars only.
After the players won all the race modes, extra game (extra courses) would be given. The player would be racing on the same tracks but in reverse directions. The extra tracks lack one checkpoint and therefore the player is at a much higher risk of running out of time, making the game more difficult.
Also, at this point, the "Time Trial" (either regular or extra) race mode would turn into a 3-car battle. The player would have to face one more extra car- "Devil 13th Racing" car. This car was very fast and extremely difficult to beat due to a lack of rear view mirror. To win, the player must learn the perfect racing line of the track. By sticking to racing line around the track, the Devil car would be blocked from passing and would crash into the back to the player. If the player managed to block the car for all 3 laps and won the race, they would obtain the Devil car. This was especially important for Time Trial mode. After the player obtained the Devil car, the player could use that car to race in all the courses including extra courses in order to complete the entire game.
A special 'mirror mode' version of the track could be played by turning the car around on the starting line and driving into the wall behind at top speed. The car would pass through the wall and the track would revert to the mirror of the normal track. Another bonus for the original PlayStation version released in 1995 allowed the player to listen to music through the PlayStation by removing the game disc and inserting a music CD. This was because the entire game code ran within the RAM of the PlayStation and the CD was used only for playing music tracks from the disc once the game was loaded. However, players could not switch tracks, and the music was started on a random track.
Development and release
At JAMMA's 1992 AM (Amusement Machines) show in Japan, held during 27th-29th August 1992, Namco debuted a racing game called Sim Drive, for the then new Namco System 22 arcade board. The game was itself a sequel to Eunos Roadster Driving Simulator, a Mazda MX-5 driving simulation arcade game that Namco developed with Mazda and released in 1990. Its 3D polygon graphics stood out for its use of Gouraud shading and texture mapping. After a location test at the show, where it was previewed by the November 1992 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Sim Drive had a limited Japanese release in December 1992, but did not get a mass-market release. It served as a prototype for Ridge Racer.
Upon release of the arcade game in 1993, Ridge Racer was called by Namco "the most realistic driving game ever". The game featured three-dimensional polygon graphics with texture mapping and various types of terrain. Namco advertised it as being the first coin-operated video game with texture mapping. The game made its North American debut at the 1993 American Amusement Machine Association (AMAA) show.
The PlayStation version was shown at the 1995 Electronic Entertainment Expo event, and it was considered an innovation in the use of three-dimensional polygons on consoles. It won the Game of the Show award that year, followed by role-playing video game EarthBound as runner-up. Ridge Racer was released in North America on September 8, 1995 as one of eight launch titles for the PlayStation.
Ridge Racer Full Scale
A Full Scale arcade version of Ridge Racer was released alongside the standard arcade version in 1993. Players sat inside an adapted red Eunos Roadster, the Japanese right-hand-drive version of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and controlled the same car on-screen. The game was played in front of a 10 ft/3 m-wide, front-projected triple screen (which benefited from dimmed ambient lighting), with the car's wheel, gear stick and pedals functioning as the game's controls. The ignition key was used to start the game, the speed and RPM gauges were fully functional, and fans blew wind on the player from inside the air vents. Speakers concealed inside the car provided realistic engine and tire sounds, while overhead speakers provided surround music. In almost all locations, an operator stood by a console, to collect payment and control the operation. The game's P.C.B. was located under the hood of the car. The steering wheel could be re-linked to the rack and pinion steering of the car, making it easier to move.
The unit used similar projection technology to Namco's 1990 arcade shooter game Galaxian 3. This full-scale deluxe version cost £150000 for arcade operators upon release, equivalent to £269061 or $413290 in 2022. For players, it cost £3 per play, equivalent to £5.38 or $8.27 in 2022.
Ridge Racer: 3 Screen Edition
A version of Ridge Racer with 3 screens was also released in the arcades to give a peripheral vision effect. The machine used multiple Namco System 22 arcade boards to drive the additional monitors and was only available in the sit down version.
|GameRankings||PS1: 81% (2 reviews)|
|Computer and Video Games||ARC: 80%|
|Electronic Gaming Monthly||PS1: 18/20|
|Famitsu PS||PS1: 36/40|
The arcade version was well received upon release. Following its North American debut at the AMAA show, Electronic Gaming Monthly reviewed the game in its October 1993 issue. They described it as a "racing tour-de-force" and "incredible title" along the lines of SEGA's Virtua Racing but improving on the graphics with "some of the most advanced circuity ever seen in a coin-op." They stated "the cars look so realistic and fluid" and noted the backgrounds are rendered to "a very high degree of detail." They also praised the gameplay, stating the "tunnel sequences are real nail-biters" and obstacles such as "other cars," road hazards, "construction signs, speed bumps," guard rails, "warning barricades" and other "traps" cause the "car to spin helplessly out of control." Regarding the artificial intelligence, they described the "competition" as "some of the best drivers the world has ever seen" and "completely relentless." They concluded the game "is awesome!" The January 1994 issue of Electronic Games praised the texture-mapped 3D graphics and described the arcade game as "exceptional" and "an incredibly realistic experience." In the April 1994 issue of the UK magazine Computer and Video Games, the arcade machine (based on the full-scale deluxe unit) was rated 80% overall by writer Paul Rand. Graphics received 97%, sound 95%, and gameplay 80%. The reviewer Paul Rand praised the "revolutionary graphics" as "the likes of which you've never seen" and "far and away the most realistic arcade game ever seen," as well as the sound quality, the use of an actual Mazda MX5 as a cabinet, and the "side-ways skid" drifting mechanic that "really does feel that you could total that expensive car if you're not careful." However, he compared the gameplay unfavorably with Virtua Racing for lacking its greater "sensation of speed." In Japan, the arcade game was nominated for several Gamest Awards, including Game of the Year, Best Action Game, Best Graphics, and Best VGM.
The PlayStation version was also mostly well received upon release. In Japan, Famitsu's panel of four reviewers gave it ratings of 9, 9, 10 and 9 out of 10, adding up to 37 out of 40 overall. This made it one of their two highest-rated games of 1994, along with Final Fantasy VI. Famitsu PS gave it a score of 36 out of 40. In Europe, Edge gave it a score of 9 out of 10 in December 1994, stating that, from the "perfect game" of Galaxians to "the dazzling graphics and arcade-perfect music and speech," Ridge Racer is "the killer app" that Namco and Sony "can be proud of." In North America, Electronic Gaming Monthly's panel of two reviewers gave it ratings of 9 out of 10 each, adding up to 18 out of 20 overall. Ridge Racer was awarded Best Driving Game of 1995 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. The game was reviewed in 1995 in Dragon #221 by Jay & Dee in the "Eye of the Monitor" column. Jay did not rate the game, but Dee gave it 2 stars.
Retrospectively, reception to the PlayStation version has been positive to mixed. In 1996, IGN gave Ridge Racer 7.5 out of 10, saying that, despite two years since release, the game "has definitely stood the test of time". However, IGN complained that "there is no two-player mode" and that "the cars don't really vary in performance that much". Allgame's Shawn Sackenheim praised the game, particularly graphics and audio, and ending that it "is a fun title that racing fans [...] will love." Despite the positive reviews of the game, it was later criticized for the arcade style of gameplay. The artificial intelligence has also received criticism—the movement of the computer-controlled cars is restricted to predetermined waypoints.
Impact and legacy
Ridge Racer has been followed by many sequels and helped establish the position of the PlayStation console. IGN stated that Ridge Racer had been "one of PlayStation's first big system pushers" and "an excellent port of the arcade version that showed the true potential of Sony's 32-bit wonder". UGO Networks' Michael Hess and Chris Plante said that the game had "set the stage for Gran Turismo by adding an option to choose between automatic and manual transmission". John Davison of 1UP.com said that Ridge Racer was an "unbelievable demonstration of what the PlayStation could do."
The game has been listed among the best games of all time by several publications, including Game Informer in 2001, Electronic Gaming Monthly and Guinness World Records in 2009, and FHM in 2012. It has also been listed as one of the greatest games by Yahoo in 2006, and one of the greatest retro games by NowGamer in 2010.
Ridge Racer 2
Released in 1994, this was more of an upgrade than a complete sequel. The game features a remixed soundtrack, rear view mirror and changes in daylight from day to night. It was followed by a true sequel, Rave Racer, in 1995.
A super deformed version of Ridge Racer with cars look like Choro-Q model cars. The game was only available in upright cabinet version, and has ported to Ridge Racer Revolution under the name Buggy Mode.
Ridge Racer Turbo
R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 includes a bonus disc containing a new version of the original Ridge Racer, called Ridge Racer Turbo (known in Europe as Ridge Racer Hi-Spec Demo). It featured improved graphics, runs at 60 frames per second, as opposed to the original 30, and supports vibration feedback.
On December 31, 2005, a version of the game for mobile phones was released. It received mixed reviews. GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann gave the game 6.1/10. He praised graphics as "somewhat impressive for a mobile game", but he criticized too easy steering, saying that "it doesn't take long to master the game." Levi Buchanan of IGN gave Ridge Racer 6.2/10, complaining about the problematic controls and saying that the game without the analog control "feels really lacking".
On August 11, 2009, a version of the game for Zeebo. This version is a port of the mobile phone version.
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