On the go, literally.
Ridge Racer hasn't come out often here in the States, but Namco Bandai and Namco/Sony joint developer Cellius see a gap in the PlayStation Vita video game release list that they wish to fill before other companies catch on. Already released in Japan, Ridge Racer for the Vita emphasizes fast and furious arcade racing on scenic tracks over a possible 8-player online connection. It tries to be slick and uncomplicated, just like the Japanese car babe laying seductively on her side behind the menu interface.
Perhaps the first thing players will notice about the racing is that it's extremely forgiving, just as an arcade racer should be. Regardless of which of the five fictional but powerful vehicles you choose from the starting roster, accelerating down the wide track and drifting through tight corners can be done just by pressing a button. The car will almost seem as if it's glued like a magnet to the asphalt; even when your car wildly slides almost 90 degrees away from the center of the road, it will magically maintain a ridiculous speed and then correctly align itself within a few seconds. In fact, the worst that can happen is bumping into the side of the track, slowing your car down just enough for an opponent to pass you. Maybe.
With such forgiving controls, though, making any kind of mistake in a three-lap race can be especially deadly online. Luckily, you can draft behind opponents for additional speed and you're given a nitrous boost with three segments that fill as you drift along the track. If you find yourself trailing behind or want to extend your lead along a lengthy stretch of highway, you can use your boost for a temporary five-second launch.
On top of that, your nitrous boost can be upgraded by spending credits earned by winning races. A square grid with various trees of hidden nodes can be slowly unlocked by paying 400 credits, which is about three races' worth of grinding first place in the practice races. Some nodes will unlock tips, some have nothing them (those bastards...), but some of them might grant you special skills like the ability to increase the power of a boost permanently.
Out of the box, Ridge Racer offers a bite-sized number of (five) cars and (three) tracks, but tracks can be played in mirror form and both can be expanded through packs on the PlayStation Network. Online, you can join various clubs and face up to eight international players in races through a lobby-making system that can match you with players of equal skill level.
Ridge Racer for PlayStation Vita will arrive in the US near the console's launch window, hopefully within a month after the Vita's release date of February 22.