Few companies made as big a splash at the 2003 Electronic Entertainment Expo as Namco did, at least when it came to PSP software. At the show, the company unveiled a promotional video for what they were calling (at the time) "New Ridge Racer." With the launch of the PSP barely a month away, Namco has once again opened the informational floodgates regarding the company's upcoming PSP racer.
The game's official title has been changed to Ridge Racers — in order to better reflect the fact that a good portion of its cars, tracks, and theme music have been borrowed from previous Ridge Racer games. Also, Reiko Nagase, the series' mascot from Rage Racer up through Ridge Racer Type 4, has returned to be the mascot for the PSP game.
In terms of features, the meatiest part of Ridge Racers will be its World Race mode, which is set to include 24 different tracks, at least 12 different cars, and 40 different race events. The single-player modes will let you race against 11 other CPU opponents (a total of 12 cars visible at once), and Wi-Fi wireless LAN races will support a maximum of six individual human-controlled cars. Furthermore, the classic racing game Rally X (circa 1980) will be included as a playable bonus right from the start.
Many of the tracks and cars in Ridge Racers appear to have been taken right out of previous Ridge Racer games. Specifically, you'll be able to race on revamped versions of Greenpeak Highlands (from Rave Racer), Heaven & Hell (from Ridge Racer Type 4), and Sunny Beach (from Ridge Racer V), among others. As for cars, if you've been keeping up with the series, you'll recognize the Himmel E.O. (from RRV), the Assolute Fatalita (from Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Type 4), and the Soldat Raggio (from Rave Racer). It's also evident that the graphics engine is based primarily on the Ridge Racer V engine–although some of the course textures and dusk lighting conditions do lend the game an undeniable R4 style feel.
Fans of the franchise will be happy to hear that the game's soundtrack will be composed primarily of classic tunes from previous Ridge Racer games, as well as a selection of re-mixes.
New to the game is the "nitro" feature, which lets players kick in an extra boost of speed. Each car can carry up to three nitrous boosts at any one time, but in order to fill them up, players must drift. The Ridge Racer series has always emphasized controlled drifts and spins; now it seems Namco is implementing a reward to spur on the technique's abundant use.
At press time (November 2004), Ridge Racers for the PSP is currently 90% complete and scheduled to release in Japan sometime during the system's initial December launch period. Namco plans to have the game ready to ship the day the system launches in North America.