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Ridge Racer 64 – Gaming the Pandemic: Day 98

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A return to one of my favourite franchises for today's randomly selected title from my 538 game backlog (already reduced by over 100!). I'm playing one a day, every day, for as long as I'm furloughed from work…

Ridge Racer 64 for the N64

Previous days' entries are linked in my profile.

Back when I played Ridge Racer 5, I said that it was the only Ridge Racer game in my collection that I hadn’t played. Having rectified that anomaly, I promptly ordered two more for my collection – because why would I ever want to see an end to this backlog?! Right?

One of the two was Critical Velocity, a spin-off in the series that was only released in Japan. This was something of a collector's indulgence because, seeing as I can’t understand Japanese, it’s unlikely I’ll have any idea what is going on.

This is still on it’s way to me from Japan, it’s a little late actually so I’m getting worried, hopefully it’s just corona-virus delays.

The other was Ridge Racer 64. This turned up after just a couple of days, and has been sitting in my backlog waiting for the random selection tool (Selectron™) to choose it for me.

All this means that I am now the proud owner of every Ridge Racer game except the one on the Vita – because I don’t own a Vita. I’m sure I will one day, though, and when I do you can guess what the first game on my ‘want’ list will be.

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'Ridge Racer 64' is very much in the style of the First and Second games in the franchise. The techno music, excitable announcer, cliffside tunnels, and various aircraft buzzing the cars are all here. And it goes further than that; two thirds of the tracks are lifted directly from the original 'RR' and 'RR: Revolution' making for either an easy point of reference or lazy design, depending on how charitable you’re feeling. This applies to the number of tracks too, as, depending on how you want to count, there are either 3, 9, or 18.

So, assuming you’ve played 'Ridge Racer', or 'Ridge Racer: Revolution', most of the game will be pretty familiar.

But it has to be noted that this game didn’t arrive directly after these games. Both 'Rage Racer', and series favourite 'Ridge Racer Type 4' had been out on the PlayStation for at least two years by the time this game was released, so, back in the day, I can imagine a lot of people felt like this was a step backward.

Today, though, taken on its own merits, it holds up pretty well.

The game is, technically, superb. Unusually for an N64 game there are quite a lot of jaggies, but careful reduction of the polygon count means that the draw distance is amazing and the frame rate is similarly impressive for a game of this, or any vintage.

Keeping the gameplay fresh is the method through which new vehicles are gained.

Rather than receiving new cars as a reward for winning a race or series, in 'RR64' there is a head-to-head mode through which they are unlocked. I was a big fan of this in 'RRT4' and remain so in this game. It's a great way to break up endless back-to-back multi-car races.

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Elsewhere, Nintendo’s own development team show a lot of respect to the Namco franchise in many ways, but best of them is allowing the player to choose their style of drift from 'Ridge Racer', 'Revolution', or a new technique, exclusive to this game, that makes 360 spins (popular with the hard core fan base) a priority.

Despite the game ostensibly being ‘just more Ridge Racer’, this 'RR64' control scheme refreshes the whole game for even the most ardent fan. The handling of collision detection is particularly interesting and, in the later stages, a genuine game changer.

How much pull this would have for a casual player is debatable, but for me, alongside the new tracks exclusive to this game, it’s more than enough to make this a worthy, and very playable, addition to my collection.

Ridge Racer 64 – Familiar Ridge Racer style arcade racing refreshed by a brilliant new control scheme. Thumbs up from me.

To celebrate day 100, from 7am UK time this Wednesday I'll be playing video games for 24hrs straight to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support. The whole thing will be on Twitch if you're interested – check the first comment below for a link to more details.


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