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The hit racing series debuts on the N64
Ridge Racer 64 (N64)
Member Name: Johndonut
Ridge Racer 64 (N64)
Date: 04/09/00, updated on 04/09/00 (50 review reads)
Advantages: Clean graphics and decent music
Disadvantages: Not enought tracks!
I am sure that you are all aware of the Ridge Racer series which has been doing the rounds on the PlayStation for a few years, the latest being Ridge Racer 4. Instead of a simple port of the latest incarnation, NST (Nintendo Software Technology) have gone back to the roots of the series and built upwards from there. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ridge Racer games, their main attributes are speed, ease of play and the opportunity to perform remarkable powersliding maneuvers. NST hasn't strayed from this winning formula and in fact, they have made the best bits even better. Ridge Racer 64 will appeal to all arcade racing fans and it is good enough to attract even the most stubborn of driving simulation junkies to take a look.
From the moment you switch on, you'll realise what a stunning job NST have done in bringing the series to N64 owners. Ridge Racer 64 is probably the most polished game on the console to date (something that should be taken very seriously). The presentation on the menu screens is second to none, and really gears you up for a top racing experience. And what a racing experience it is. This game is fast straight from the word go. There is no hanging about, trudging around the first tracks at the pace of a milk float; it starts off fast and gets even faster. To emphasise the speed of the game, Ridge Racer 64 boasts an incredible framerate, which is a testament to the amount of work that has gone into this title. Only F-Zero X can boast a better framerate on the N64, and considering the amount and quality of the scenery in RR64 by comparison, that is one hell of an effort.
Just 4 cars are available when you begin, spanning out to an impressive 25 in total, which are unlocked as you progress in the one player game. The grand-prix mode pits you against 11 opponents and takes you through the 3 tracks, each with 3 significant variations, making the marketable "9" figure. Upon the successful completion of
each set of variations, you will have the option of racing them again against a single car in the Car Attack mode. Beat this car and you'll unlock it for use in the rest of the game. It's a simple system which works well by rewarding your skill. You'll need to know every twist and turn of the courses before the best cars are available, but boy, it is worth the effort.
The trademark Ridge Racer powerslides are what sets this game apart from other N64 arcade racers. Ridge Racer 64 gives you the option of choosing from 3 title specific drift and collision detection sets in conjunction with previous PlayStation games. If you liked the way Ridge Racer Classic or Ridge Racer Revolution played, then you can select to race in Ridge Racer 64 with the same style. Better still, NST has implemented its own unique drift and collision detection system that is the best of the 3 and set as the default. I would definitely encourage you to stick with this method as it offers the most balanced control, but more importantly, the ability to perform 360 degree powerslides which actually improve your speed when learned how to perform correctly. This amazing addition alone should be enough to make PlayStation Ridge Racer fans very jealous indeed. The new sliding manoeuvres, while very unrealistic, look awesome, and never get tiresome.
The only thing which can get frustrating with regards to gameplay is the cheesy collision detection, whereby, upon contact with another car, you slow down while your opponent accelerates away. This isn't too much of a problem because it is in keeping with the arcade feel of the game. What is quite fun is that the AI uses this advantage by blocking off the road with 2 or 3 cars at a time causing you to weave magically through the pack in an attempt not to collide with an opponent.
Although Ridge Racer 64 is definitely an arcade racing game, you won't discover any insane shortcuts or encounter any death-defying j
umps found, for example, in Beetle Adventure Racing. Although you are confined strictly to the track, each course is wonderfully created to test your drifting abilities. You will constantly be looking for places to perform the amazing 360 degree powerslide in order to gain an advantage. Ridge Racer 64 can therefore boast some simulation-like qualities, in that a lot of pleasure is taken from mastering every turn and executing a perfect race.
The biggest problem with Ridge Racer 64 is in keeping with the rest of the series. There are only 3 environments, each with 3 separate routes. Some would argue that this makes 9 tracks in total, but in truth, there are only really 3 unique courses - 2 from previous games and 1 new one. Once you have completed the game, you have to deal with reversed tracks, which ups the total variations to a misleading 18. Even so, there is a disappointing amount of track variation when compared to recent offerings such as World Driver Championship. Experienced Ridge Racer players will probably finish the game within a matter of days, and those who are new to the series won't have too much trouble unlocking everything fairly quickly. On the plus side, this fact is more than made up for with some excellent multiplayer options. The 2-player mode is brilliant, delivering a framerate on a level with the 1-player game, the option of including up to 6 extra CPU controlled cars, different screen views and only slightly reduced detail. Amazingly, there is also a 4-player option which suffers in detail but the framerate is still excellent and it is still very playable. I think NST deserves a lot of credit for including a 4-player mode and while not as good as the 2-player, it is definitely extremely welcome.
Ridge Racer 64 easily surpasses any previous PlayStation offering with regards to graphics, running in a crisp medium resolution. There were plans initially to use the Expansion Pak for a high-res mode but the framerate suffer
ed as a result and the idea was scrapped. As you would expect, all of the textures have lost their pixilated and jagged look, common on all PlayStation games, and been replaced with rendered, super-clean textures which help to enhance the polished nature of the game. In order to keep the framerate as high as it is, the cars have a slightly blocky appearance (they are displayed in all their glory on the selection screens) and the backgrounds aren't quite up to the quality seen in World Driver Championship. Also, in 3rd person mode, the textures on the cars tend to jitter and wobble in an annoying PlayStation manner. However, this fact cannot spoil the awesome looking replays, which are probably the best on the N64. Another bonus is that the cars show off some brilliant visual effects, such as motion blurring of headlights as well as skidmarks, smoke and light reflection. When considering the blistering framerate, the quality of the graphics are amazing. Well done NST.
Ridge Racer 64 also delivers the goods on the audio front. The speedy techno tracks suit the game perfectly and are quite catchy. The sound effects take a back seat to the excellent music, but they get the job done with loud crashes and screeching skids. There is also a typically corny announcer who spurts out the occasional phrase. I like the fact that you can choose the song before you race if you want, and the game offers both mono and stereo sound.
Quite simply, Ridge Racer 64 is the best arcade racing game, if not the best racing game, on the N64. It's certainly the finest presented and most polished driving experience you can buy on Nintendo's console and in my opinion, a must buy for anyone except hardcore simulation fans, craving weeks of extended customisation options and gameplay. Ridge Racer 64 has so many brilliant features: an incredible sense of speed, well designed tracks, smooth control, 25 cars to acquire, trademark Ridge Racer drifts plus an incredible ne
w 360 degree powerslide, plenty of different modes including a brilliant 2-player and a decent 4-player, clean graphics and an amazing framerate. (Wow, that's a lot of plus points). The only problem is that the overall experience is relatively short, thanks to the lack of courses. However, the game is so much fun that you'll always want to return to it even after everything is unlocked. The replay value is also extended by the fact that Ridge Racer 64 provides a bucket-load of arcade thrills while rewarding skilful driving and careful powersliding, which gives you a great deal of satisfaction. Overall, this is a brilliant introduction to the Ridge Racer series for N64 owners and a sweet taster of what's to come in the future from NST.