Format: Playstation Genre: Racing Released: 1995 Developer: Namco
There was a time back in the late 80s and early 90s when you just couldn’t escape the phrase ‘arcade perfect’ in computer game magazines. Or rather, endless moaning about how ‘arcade imperfect’ most console games actually were. Basically, there was a substantial gulf between the version of, for example, Street Fighter II you played in the arcade and the slightly-tatty-round-the-edges version you bought for your Sega Megadrive, and the release of any arcade conversion would always be greeted with frenzied playground speculation as to whether it was ‘arcade perfect’ or not. The arcade version of a game was the zenith of graphic perfection that all home versions aspired to reach, yet always fell short.
However, all that was to change with the release of the Sony Playstation and one of the first examples of a ‘pixel-perfect’ arcade conversion: Ridge Racer.
It wasn’t actually ‘arcade perfect’ of course – the frame rate was a little slower and, most notably of all, you didn’t get a full size Euros Roadster to sit in (a la the ‘Full Scale’ arcade version, which could be found in the London Trocadero once upon a time) – but it was hugely impressive nonetheless.
I remember setting up my brand new Playstation on the big TV in the living room and being utterly blown away by how good this game looked. It’s no exaggeration to say that this game, along with the Sony Playstation, was at the forefront of a total revolution in gaming. One minute we were all happily playing our 2D platform games, and the next minute we were in the midst of a new 3D age. I doubt we’ll see another such big jump in terms of graphical power for many years to come – until they get around to making truly 3D games anyway.
The game wasn’t without its flaws: cars often clipped through each other, and there was some truly horrendous pop-up. Most heinous of all, there was a paltry one track on offer – admittedly, it could be played in various configurations, but still, one track is a slim offering by any standards. Having said that, I was happily enthralled in that one track for months on end, and I can’t think of many games that have as compelling a ‘just one more go’ factor as this one.
A large part of what made this game so compelling was the soundtrack – the music was excellent, and the game-show-host-style commentator was not to be missed (bear in mind that actually having speech in a game was almost unheard of before the rise of CD-based consoles).
“Alright everyone, one minute to go, are you ready? The engine’s now locked and ready to go, are you all set?”
Indeed sir I am.