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Posted on Aug 3rd 2010 at 02:01:39 PM by (dsheinem)
Posted under Ridge Racer, Launch Games, Playstation, Racing

Some of you may instantly recognize the title of this post, others of you may be curiously scratching your heads.  If you don't recognize the quote, those are the immortal words uttered by the in-game announcer at the start of every race  in the very first Ridge Racer game for the Sony Playstation, one of the system's ten launch titles and one of its best known racers.  Many things can and have been written about the Ridge Racer series of games published by Namco, but they are interesting for this blog because five of the eleven games in the series have been in a console launch lineup.  The launch titles were:


This five part series of blog entries will look at each launch title in the Ridge Racer series and what, if anything, they did to showcase the new capabilities of each system.

Ridge Racer  - Sony Playstation


The Playstation's U.S. launch in September of 1995 featured only one game that had also been released when the system premiered in Japan the prior December: Ridge Racer.  In fact, Ridge Racer was the only launch game featured in all three major  game markets (JPN/NA/EUR ).  It seemed clear from the start that Sony was banking on Namco's arcade hit to help sell systems.

In the U.S., Ridge Racer was one of two racing games that new console buyers could choose from when entering their favorite game or electronics store on that Saturday morning in September.  The other, ESPN Extreme Games, featured an assortment of X-Games events such as street luge and mountain biking.  Only Ridge Racer provided a traditional automobile racing game.  So, new buyers looking to take the arcade racing experience home were faced with little choice but to buy it on launch day.  As it turns out, they couldn't have done much better: Ridge Racer is an absolute gem of a racing game that accomplished many technical feats fifteen years ago and holds up well to this day.

Arcades in the U.S. were still doing quite well in 1994 and 1995, and though the focus for many players had shifted from fighting games to racing games, there was a lot to choose from in coin-ops around the country in the mid-90s.  Increasingly, the best arcade games were seeing  high profile ports for home consoles.  During the period of time that the Saturn, Playstation, and N64 were released (between May 1995 and September 1996) each console had a racing game associated with it, a game that promised to push the limits of the console.  For Nintendo, that game was Cruisn' USA (though the game didn't make the N64 launch).  For Sega, the game was Daytona USA.  For Sony, it was Ridge Racer.

At the time, I was a die-hard Sega fan and insanely jealous of my friends who were able to enjoy their copies of Daytona USA at home.  Sure, the Daytona USA port didn't look arcade perfect, but it seemed close and impressed me nonetheless.  When I couldn't play on a friends' Saturn, I would still frequently pump quarters into the Daytona USA arcade machine as my home racing was limited to Virtua Racing for the Genesis for several more years (an excellent game in its own right).  By the time I finally joined the 32-bit generation and picked up a Playstation in late 1996 (skipping the Saturn altogether!), I was anticipating the release of new racing games for the PS1 (most notably Gran Turismo) and passed on picking up Ridge Racer.  I'd had my fill of racing with Daytona and Crusin' and decided to pick up games for other genres in the interim. 

So, I only recently acquired the classic PS1 launch game, and now wish I had done so a decade ago. 


Early PS1 games didn't feature many of the icons on the back indicating compatibility with memory cards, number of discs, etc.

As a launch title, the game is significant for several reasons:

The graphics.  There's no denying that an important draw for purchasers on launch day is graphics horsepower. The graphics put out in the PS1 port of Ridge Racer are simply better than they were for the Saturn port of Daytona USA.  The polygons are less blocky, the sense of speed is faster, and the scenery is more diverse.  There are usually more things happening on the screen at any given time, and aside from the poorly designed menus, the interface is quite polished.  Daytona may have been better in the arcades, but if these racing games were meant to show off what the system could do, Ridge Racer was an early harbinger of the doom of the Saturn.  Ridge Racer's graphics are bright, pop in is quite good for a first-gen title, and the scale of the landscape surrounding the courses is impressive.   

It allowed you to choose your own music.  Once the game was loaded and a race started, you could swap out the Ridge Racer CD for your own favorite disc.  The game would then randomly select tracks on your CD to play while you raced and navigated menus.  Since Daytona USA was a frequent point of comparison at the time this game came out, I should note that I also prefer Ridge Racers original music over Daaaaay-tohhhhhhh-nah's ( especially given the "classic" nature of the latter's songs). That said, nothing beats choosing your own musical selection.  In playing the game again for this post, I chose the era-appropriate Beck album "Mellow Gold."  Hearing track 11 playing over the credits was a sweet bit of randomness.  In an age where CD sales were really catching on, this was a nice way for the Playstation to showcase its versatility.


Place this in the CD drive to make Ridge Racer unplayable.

It featured a mini-game with a generous reward during the only loading screen.  Popping Ridge Racer into a console usually meant a few resets until all the enemies in this one screen version of Galaxian were cleared.  Clearing all the enemies in the limited time granted you access to three times the number of cars that would be available otherwise.  Not only did you have more options, but many of these were better cars.  Furthermore, the game only loads once at the very beginning, a welcome change from the frequent and frustrating waits experienced by owners of many other CD-based consoles at the time.  The fact that the loading screen is a game itself was icing.

The game featured a hefty amount of unlocakbles.  There were certainly games with unlockables in the previous generations, but Ridge Racer was one of the first CD-based games to offer multiple versions of tracks to unlock, cars that could be won, and other goodies for the devoted player to discover.  The ease of saving data on a memory card (times, unlocked tracks, etc.) meant that you could take these unlocked items with you, one of the key selling points for Sony's console.


The back of the manual provided alternate cover art.

Taken as a package, it is easy to see why Sony pushed for Ridge Racer to see a release in every major region on launch day.  Better racing games would eventually come, but compared to racers on other consoles that preceded Ridge Racer, Sony clearly had the upper hand and could better capitalize on the ongoing arcade craze.  The game is far from perfect; it is single player, some of the drifting feels too loose, the various tracks are all variations of one main track, the announcer voice is annoying, and the difficulty ramps up considerably in later stages.  However, the game is still worth playing today despite these weaknesses, if only to appreciate how different it was compared to what had come before.  The game would go on to see huge sales and win numerous awards in the next year.  It would also become Sony's first pack-in game. 

Ridge Racer spawned over 10 sequels.  We will revisit some of those games in future installments.

Next Up: an "end game"


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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