Monday, June 27, 2016

Ridge Racer Type 4

Like a lot of people, the original Ridge Racer was one of the first games I played on the PlayStation 1. It was accessible enough, showed off the fantastic CD player capabilities of the system, and looked fantastic compared to other early 3D games.

... buuuuuutttttt, that came with the caveat of there only being one track (two if you count the reverse track, three if you count the little bit extra track added in expert) so it didn't hold much interest once you got first place. It mostly because the centerpiece of showing off why your PlayStation was better than a Nintendo 64.

I moved onto Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, Cruis'n World, and Test Drive 5, (also known as 1996-1998 my racing formative years), and even had a short flirtation with NASCAR 98 and it's paintball mode.

But nothing gripped me the way that Ridge Racer Type 4 did in 1999. In fact, I'll be bold enough to say, Ridge Racer Type 4 is my favorite racing game of all time.

I was introduced to Type 4 on an Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine demo disk.

I couldn't believe how beautiful the track looked at night, how smooth the frame rate was, how great the cars felt. (It probably helped that Type 4 was on a demo disk with WCW Thunder and some Rugrats game, so in comparison, it was a technical marvel)

Generally, I could afford a game every 6 weeks, so there was a vetting process to figure out which game it would be and Type 4 became that game.

I was astounded to learn that the demo disk track wasn't the only race. I assumed with the lineage I was going to drive on the night track forward and backwards and call it a day, but to my surprise there were 8 beautifully rendered tracks.

It had a soundtrack, when aligned with my brief anime flirtation, that was played in my stereo on repeat. The Techno Japanese tracks fit what I assumed was the street racing life. Guys with spoilers and brightly colored hair speeding down highways, racing for large amounts of money and street cred.

And the drifting physics are still some of my favorite. Turn, tap break, gas, finish turn... damn it felt good.

Our household followed the standard, oldest brother was better than the middle brother was better than the youngest brother at all games. (Like Harry Potter, this rule breaks down once you turn 18 and leave the house.)

This game quickly became the exception to that rule though. As much as I loved Ridge Racer Type 4, both my brothers grabbed the steering wheel much harder, and unlike me, they didn't have a job so they got a lot of practice. (Now that I'm thinking of it, this game may be part of the reason why my middle brother is so into cars.)

They filled up the memory card with most of the 320 available cars. They perfected drift and grip types, manual and automatic, and learned every curve of every course like the love of their life.

And I... well I did OK. I managed to beat the 8 courses a couple times. But I enjoyed the challenge. It was hard, but didn't feel unfair, and I appreciated that.

Still to this day, when I'm flipping through games installed on my Vita and I'm not sure what I want to play, about 10% of the time, I boot up Type 4.

Ridge Racer has unfortunately fallen off in quality in recent years. Often the game is filled with long load times, or even worse, ridiculous micro-transactions, but during the PlayStation era, it was king.

The arcade racing experience seems to be taking a break. Last generation we had the Burnout series largely filling the void left by Ridge Racer, but nowadays Forza and Gran Turismo rule the roads with their more simulation style of racing.

These things seem to come in cycles. I mean hell, there's a snowboarding game coming out soon. We're getting Final Fantasy VII Remastered. It wouldn't be too crazy to think Namco-Bandai could fix the Ridge Racer series would it? Would it?

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