An online writer who is also an avid geek to automotive, video games, and anime. Have a soft spot for racing games
It's 1993. Bandai Namco was still cooking up a new racing game. Prior to that, the company wasn't foreign with the racing game genre with the company previously released the massive hit Pole Position.
That new racing game would be the first Ridge Racer. Released in arcades in 1993 and PlayStation in 1994, the game received critical acclaim thanks to critics praising its realistic aspects. The first game was successful enough that it secured later sequels and spin-offs.
The series had appeared in not only PlayStation but also rivaling consoles and even PC (Bandai Namco initially had a plan to release it on PC!). At this point, the series became a prominent entry in racing game industry, being a launch title for each console ever released.
The series was not only nicely designed but also managed to distinguish itself from other racers.
Firstly, drifting, the piece de resistance of this game. The mechanics, in fact, had been presented since the first game as the original developers were inspired by the street drifting scene in Japan at that time.
While drifting is no longer unknown to current racing games, Ridge Racer was an earlier example that made it essential to the game with most of the entries emphasized drifty and speedy gameplay. Later titles would add nitrous allowing the players to experience an even intense drifting action.
The high speed racing scene was even lifted by talkative, over-enthusiastic announcer. Some of them might find the announcer to be annoying, though.
Now the cars. In the world of Ridge Racer, your pick of driving machine is either a sleek-looking sports car or a racing machine that looks like it came straight out of Star Trek.
Bandai Namco took a lot of liberties in designing the cars, resulting in cars (or machines as the game would call) that not only look breathtaking but also quirky. From Ferrari Enzo look-alike to rocket-shaped land machine, the series has it.
Lastly, the soundtrack. The fierce racing action was also intensified by a bunch of EDM songs to keep you pumped while navigating your car. There's also an in-game music player where you can watch races while listening to the game’s soundtrack, just in case you are not in the mood for a race.
The Fall Of Ridge Racer
By the seventh generation, the game still enjoyed its glory days. It wasn't until the 2010s.
2012 saw the release of Ridge Racer Unbounded, the game where the franchise marked a major departure. Despite it still retained the series' drifting element, albeit heavier, it went from traditional racing to the destructive, combat-oriented one. The game’s signature elegant and colorful presentation was stripped down in favor of darker, gritty setting.
Just as expected, the Bugbear-developed entry gained mixed, average receptions. While the game still played well, it wasn't what one would expect from a game bearing a Ridge Racer title. There wasn't a few long Ridge Racer fans who were disappointed over Bandai Namco’s decision to turn the game into a Burnout-clone either.
What led to the series' fall was the PlayStation Vita entry. While the game stayed with the traditional formula, a problem plaguing the game was enough to give the series a nail in the coffin.
While Unbounded still had contents to offer, Vita suffered from only 5 cars and 3 tracks at the start making the game looked rather like a demo. This was worsened by the fact that most of the downloadable contents were merely rehashed from the previous games.
The entry’s bare content was the thing that successfully crippled Vita, ended up with the game received generally unfavorable reviews. IGN even called the entry a “rare black mark against the Ridge Racer name,”
Will there be a new Ridge Racer?
After Unbounded and Vita, Bandai Namco would later release free-to-play and mobile titles: Driftopia, Accelerated, and Draw And Drift. With all of the three games were put out of shelves, it’s safe to say that the franchise is dead. Bandai Namco, however, attempts to keep the franchise alive by various efforts including crossovers, shout-outs, and a plan of the eighth sequel which was unfortunately canned.
Looking at the current condition of the franchise and the current era, will there be a new Ridge Racer game in the 20s? Given the era where most arcade titles feature more realistic gameplay with real cars and ill reception received by the Vita title, it is unlikely we will see a new Ridge Racer drifts into the 9th generation consoles. The most viable option would be Bandai Namco to remaster newer console titles such as 6 and 7, similar to what EA and Criterion Games did to Burnout which also has yet to receive a new entry.
After the series' endless hiatus, Bandai Namco doesn’t exit the racing game genre entirely. The company is still active in the genre, acting as the publisher of SlightlyMad Studios’ Project Cars games. Drift Spirits, the company's current Japan-exclusive mobile racing game, is even considered as a new Ridge Racer game.
Regardless of the franchise’s current condition, Ridge Racer is still an important title in the history of racing games. A part of the history, being a well-made racer in its own way.
© 2021 Muhammad Azka Prasetya