I’m Sorry, I Like Ridge Racer 6
When I finally broke down and purchased an Xbox 360 it was late enough into its life cycle that the majority of its first generation titles had hit the bargain bins hard. Among the piles of out-dated sports titles and those obnoxious Burger King games were some real gems, including Earth Defense Force 2017, Dead or Alive 4, and Ridge Racer 6.
If you haven’t played Earth Defense Force 2017 by now, you never will. You’re one of those gamers–the type of gamer who trades in the their games and puts money down on sequels before they’re even announced. I’m not saying you shouldn’t play it, I’m just saying you probably won’t like it. It’s a game about shooting giant ants and is nothing like Gears of War, Call of Duty, or Halo.
Dead or Alive 4 is a prettier version of Dead or Alive: Ultimate except insanely more difficult. Setting aside the last boss (who can kill you in two moves), the damage on the counters is so high matches last only a matter of seconds against a decent opponent. This is a shame, really, because the game actually has a lot of depth when a battle is given the time to evolve into more than punch punch counter punch counter you win.
I strongly suspect now that Tomonobu Itagaki is out of the picture the series will dwindle into fanboy fodder. I mean, more so than it already has (Dead or Alive Xtreme is amazing, but that’s for another time). Character designs and game play mechanics will largely remain untouched and we’ll be stuck with a constant cycle of updated backgrounds, outfits, and maybe a new character here or there. Also, no more awkwardly placed Aerosmith songs. Hate the man all you want, come the next DoA you’ll miss him.
Then there’s Ridge Racer 6. I’ve never understood why companies think it’s a good idea to launch their new system with a Ridge Racer game. Everyone recognizes the franchise, sure, but when was the last time anyone actually played a Ridge Racer game? For me it was R4 for the original PlayStation and that was only so I could see the then-amazing 60-fps Ridge Racer freebie packed in with the game. I was young and judged games purely on how smoothly polygons moved. Now I tend to judge my games on the amount of bouncing breasts (further justifying Dead or Alive 4 as a gem), but I digress.
I have this unexplainable fascination with these games (Ridge Racer, not games with bouncing breasts) (but that, too, given that I am far too old to enjoy Rumble Roses as much as I do) (the fighting engine’s pretty solid) (no, seriously). There have been a dozen Ridge Racer games and if you’ve played any of them you’ve pretty much played them all. Sometimes you can upgrade your car or maybe race online, but it’s still Ridge Racer. You select a car and drive around different courses, often all within the same cityscape.
Yet I can’t stop playing Ridge Racer 6. I think it has something to do with the fact that it’s an arcade racer (i.e.: a racing game for idiots). Unlike Forza or the Gran Turismo franchises, Ridge Racer uses fictional vehicles and features otherworldly physics. It has subtle nuances that separate the casual player from the guy with too much time on his hands, but the game is meant to be simply picked up and played. It’s not that I don’t want to play a true car sim—they are very, very pretty, despite the serious lack of breasts—it’s that they are too real for me.
Video games are an escape and while the hyper realistic racing games may be interesting, they’re not terribly fun. When I play a racing game, I never want to hit the brakes unless it triggers some sort of super move. I take corners slowly all the time in real life, why would I want to simulate that? That would be like putting a take-a-crap function in Super Metroid (no, that would not be cool. Stop thinking about it).
By this logic you’d think I would have loved Blur, an arcade-style racing game that portrays itself as an adult-Mario Kart. It’s the type of game that forces you to turn your baseball cap around and lean uncomfortably toward the screen—like any random controller advertisement from a 90′s video game magazine. Blur left me feeling…inadequate. Like I wasn’t man enough to play it.
So, Ridge Racer 6, a less-manly game that features a handful of large cityscapes broken into dozens of different courses. Every now and again you’re rewarded with a new car but this isn’t the what drives me to keep racing. First of all, there are a ton of cars to choose from and none of them stand out (aside from the cars labeled Astaroth and Mitsurugi). Also, each race limits you on the cars you can use so it’s not as if there’s one super car that you can dominate with.
The gimmick in Ridge Racer 6 is the constant drifting. It’s been a while since I’ve played a Ridge Racer game so maybe this is a Ridge Racer standard, but RR6 has this comfortable, Sega Rally-feel, minus the co-pilot screaming “MEDIUM HARD EASY RIGHT, BABY!” on every turn. Instead, you have this guy who is clearly way too excited to have a job doing voices in a video game. He loves your driving, he loves you, and he loves nitrous. He really loves nitrous—to the point where he won’t shut up about nitrous. All out of nitrous? He’ll let you know how much he wants nitrous. It’s what he lives for.
At some point you can unlock a couple of different announcers, but only one is worth noting: Heihachi. You’re right, Tekken—who cares. Replace “Heihachi” with “Mr. Satan” and we’re in business. Mr. Satan gets pretty excited (if not angry) about your driving and though this is as wonderful as it sounds, he can’t match the enthusiasm of the original announcers love of nitrous.
Another great thing about Ridge Racer 6 is it’s soundtrack, ripped directly from Dreamcast-era gaming. It’s a little fruity, a little catchy, and something you’d move your body if you were alone (which is a safe bet, given that you’re playing Ridge Racer 6).
There does seem to be an online community for the game, but most of them are out of Britain and other possibly European nations. They’ll also kick your ass so don’t waste your time. These are people with tens of thousands of online victories which should make you feel better about your own miserable life. It’s a fun game and all but Christ, 10,000 races? That’s crossing into uncomfortable addiction country there.
I should point out that I paid $6 for the game. This is important because I’ve spent $6 on things much less satisfying than Ridge Racer 6. I spent $7 on a McDonald’s value meal the other day that I almost immediately regretted. I have no idea why I bought it. While I was ordering I was thinking how much I don’t like McDonald’s but the words wouldn’t stop coming. I even considered driving away after paying at the first window (there are two windows, for some reason)—that’s how much I dislike McDonald’s. But you know, sometimes you’re so hungry that even the thought of chewing on a roll of masking tape makes you salivate and oh, look! A McDonald’s! And they have a drive-thru! I haven’t had McDonald’s in ages. I wonder why…