If you've ever thought that a racing game could be made more fun simply by making it in 3D, well then, you're in luck! Namco Bandai have produced Ridge Racer 3D for the 3DS, and as expected, careening along racetracks at blistering speeds is even more exciting when experienced in a full three dimensions!
But 3D effect aside, how does the rest of the game play? So glad you asked!
You can mess around with a few varieties of single races, but the meat of the gameplay is found in the Grand Prix mode. There are three levels, and within each are multiple events with multiple races within each of those! The difficulty curve ramps up quite nicely, easing you in with the less-powerful vehicles and allowing you to upgrade gradually as you face off against more experienced opponents on more difficult tracks. The tracks obviously repeat, and even with the night and day versions, it can get a little repetitive. But at the same time, it helps to know when those sharp curves are coming up! There's also an option for Quick Tour, which allows you to set how much time you have to play, and the game will schedule you enough races to fill that time slot, but it's kind of unnecessary, seeing as how the game auto saves after each race in the Grand Prix and you can just go back and start right up where you left off.
Drifting is a major part of Ridge Racer 3D, and depending on how comfortable you are with the technique, there are different cars you can choose from. The slower ones make it easier to drift, while the others are harder to control, but go a lot faster. I'm no racing game expert, but I actually found it relatively easy to get the hang of drifting, and would occasionally pull off some impressive lines. And of course, drifting is how you charge up your Nitro tanks that allow you to put on a burst of speed, and deploying those adds a bit of strategy to your races. Slipstreaming is another important technique, but I never really got a sense of going that much faster when I was right behind another car. It just felt like you get enough of a burst of speed to swerve around and pass them easier.
The graphics are kind of a mixed bag. The cars obviously look amazing, and you can even customize your vehicles with different paint jobs and color schemes, although selections are limited. The lighting on the metal is a nice effect, and you can even see inside from certain angles. On the other hand, the backgrounds are somewhat less detailed. Some buildings look like they're straight out of an N64 title. Of course, they're flying by so quickly it's not noticeable enough to really bother you. There are two camera views to choose from, but I always went with the behind the car cam, because while I appreciated the rearview mirror (no dashboard, though), the in-car camera created such a sense of speed that I thought it was too dizzying!
There are a bunch of the standard Ridge Racer techno tracks to race to, and while a tune is selected automatically at the start of a race, you can always adjust that before you get going if you've got a particular favorite. The female announcer voice is equally helpful and annoying. I appreciated her compliments on some of my more impressive moves, or when she warned me that someone was coming up behind me, but after the four millionth time you've heard "You've entered the slip stream!" you'll be wanting to go into the options to turn the voice volume down. (At least they give you the option!)
As far as multiplayer goes, there is unfortunately no online play. And while there is local multiplayer, it's only two-player. Ridge Racer 3D also uses Street Pass, but it's kind of unintuitive, and sort of useless unless people know what they're doing. You can trade data through Street Pass and race against other people's ghosts. But after Street Passing a few people with the game, I wondered why I wasn't getting any ghosts to race against. Turns out, they weren't, either, because none of us knew how to do it properly. The instructions give you the impression that it's all automatic, like most Street Pass functions. But turning it on isn't enough. You have to actually go into the Time Trial single race mode and then save that completed race as a ghost to share. It doesn't automatically pick your best time you have to record it yourself. But the functionality is there, and it will probably be pretty fun to race against perfect strangers in your own time... once everyone figures out how to do it!
There's also a garage where you can customize your car, a leaderboard where you can compare your times to those of the people you've Street Passed, and an AV Player where you can watch any of the replays you've saved as you've played the game (looks like around 30 videos can be saved). When setting up your profile, you can choose from a variety of Namco Bandai images (I went with The King of All Cosmos) or use the inward-facing 3DS camera to take a photo of yourself to use as your icon. Aside from the lack of online play, it's actually a pretty solid package.
To be honest, racing games are not one of my favorite genres, but I actually had a blast with Ridge Racer 3D. Aside from the lack of online play and the unintuitive Street Pass mode, just racing through Grand Prix Mode is a whole lot of fun. The 3D effect really accentuates the sense of speed, and adds another level of realism to the game. If you're looking for another title to add to your 3DS library, this is a solid addition. (Even if you're not a big racing fan I'm not!)
The reviewer played a copy of Ridge Racer 3D provided for the purposes of the review and completed Basic Grand Prix and started Advanced Grand Prix, which amounted to 42% according to the in-game counter. Also played a handful of single races, but was unable to find anyone to Street Pass ghosts or play multiplayer. All of this took approximately 10 hours, according to the 3DS Activity Log.