There are also nods to the 3DS' new feature set. You can use your Mii or take a photograph to illustrate your driving licence (which tots up miles driven and percentage complete), and this also acts as an in-game avatar, hovering above your head for multiplayer racers to admire, for example.
And while it is more likely to be successful in the dense, handheld-obsessed metros and electric cities of Japan than the broad, antisocial streets and boroughs of the UK, the StreetPass Duel system, which downloads ghost data from anonymous opponents you pass in the street, should give you a more testing and authentic series of challenges to overcome than the outrageously duplicitous AI duels of the past. (F*** you, Soldat Crinale. Absolutely violate your own face.)
But of course the most interesting aspect of Ridge Racer 3D is those last two characters in the title. A Ridge Racer 7 patch for stereoscopy-loving PlayStation 3 fans means this isn't actually the first 3D game in the series, but it is a powerful argument for there being more, because the glasses-free effect achieved by the 3DS' elegant slider is excellent.
Simulation racers like Gran Turismo 5 benefit from 3D because it helps you to spot braking distances and turn-in points a bit more effectively, and that is also true of Ridge Racer 3D. But Ridge Racer's true depth and our never-ending affection for it derives from the way it draws you into the zone, and the sense of depth beyond the glass of the main 3D screen is like a hand at your throat, drawing you into the image. The slightly rough, cartoon visuals and occasional frame-rate drops are unfortunate but easily forgiven.
Once you penetrate beyond the first few hours of torpid "Basic" races and start earning the praise continually heaped on you regardless by the game's obsequious announcer lady, this is a Ridge Racer experience that could be unlike any other. It has the pace, it has a solid structure and it has a new edge thanks to that magic 3D slider.
So it's just a shame that it doesn't have much new content to back that up. Even a dozen new tracks among the many dozens of recycled ones would have been exciting, but this time at least it was not to be. Instead we're given 3D-enhanced renditions of all our old favourites.
Ah well. The point should be that once Ridge Racer 3D gets going it's as horribly satisfying as any in recent memory. In fact, following a few hours' initial play, I found myself inquiring of our reviews editor whether it would be reasonable to "borrow" our Japanese 3DS to "verify my findings" over the next few days/weeks/years. And if I can't bring myself to part with it despite having logged a bottle-pissing World of Warcraft obsession's worth of time on Ridge Racers 1-7 and the handheld spinoffs, the old magic must still be working.