Bands love doing this. They release a few good albums, do a couple of tours, hit the studio again and crank out some nonsense, then return to form with a self-titled EP. Ridge Racer's a bit like that. Indeed, if the people who made Ridge Racers 1-4 did go on tour, that probably explains why RR5 and R: Racing were so ARGH; they probably whipped their heads round so fast demonstrating the cornering routines that they spun clean off and had to be surgically re-attached. Game development is much harder when you've accidentally decapitated yourself. Hang on, this seems familiar.
Tsk. You know what I've done, don't you? I've put the wrong review in.
I was distracted, see, because I'd just fired up Ridge Racers 2 again to check something, and I had a bit of a "moment" when I realised I was actually staring at the first one. I'd been swapping the discs back and forth to do comparisons. And so I put in last year's Ridge Racers review instead. Silly me!
Mind you, it's a pretty easy mistake to make. On both fronts. At virtually every step. The menus, the graphics, the sounds, the loading prompts, the game structure, the multiplayer mode, the tracks, the cars, the controls, the HUD, the classes, the icons. These things don't just look a bit the same; for the most part they actually are. The most distinctive thing in the first few hours is that it's New Rally-X being played on the loading screen, not just Rally-X.
That's because Ridge Racers 2 isn't really the sequel the big "2" on the box suggests (the box looks the same, by the way). Instead it's one of those popular-in-Japan remixes, featuring much the same content with a bit extra. Think of it as Ridge Racers: Final Mix.
To this end what you've actually got here will be instantly familiar. A main World Tours mode consists of three difficulty levels of multiple racing tournaments, most of which take the form of three laps around several tracks in a field of 14, gradually unlocking faster cars and more tracks and reversed tracks and so on. For quite a lot of the early game you'll have no difficulty power-sliding and nitrous-boosting your way to the front of the pack by the middle of lap two, but when things heat up later on, with duels and much trickier AI coming into play, it becomes much more compelling.
You'll have especially no difficulty if you played the last one, of course, because the act of playing Ridge Racers 2 is the same. You power-slide by releasing the accelerator or braking into corners and then grasping it again as you enter, steering yourself along the slide and trying to keep your nose vaguely in the right direction until it's time to fishtail back to the racing line. And you can give yourself a bit more oomph by unleashing the nitrous boost you build up by sliding, although the changes made to this by Ridge Racer 6 on Xbox 360 (and 7 on PS3 for that matter) don't apply.
What's different is the addition of a number of courses from Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Type 4, like Phantom Mile, Britenight Cruiseway and Shuttleloop Highway (all from Type 4). This stuff is likely to appeal to fans primarily, and the conversions are inch-perfect by the looks of things, albeit with some nice up-to-date effects work that helps show off Ridge Racers' already excellent PSP engine. You've also got some new music from previous games that wasn't in the first PSP title, but it's all meshed together in such a way that somebody with only a passing fancy for Ridge Racer could happily glance at the contents of the two UMDs and have difficulty playing spot-the-difference.
Easier to tell apart are some of the other game modes. Wireless Battle remains ad hoc and for up to eight players, and works pretty well, but the eye-catching additions are Arcade, Duel and Survival modes. Or would be if they were actually eye-catching. In actual fact they're very basic. Arcade allows you to select a track you've unlocked and race on it, with an arcade-style timer counting down as you go, forcing you to hurry through the checkpoints to top it up. Duel faces you off against somebody in a similar car - an experience you'll come to terms with as part of the World Tours mode separately. And Survival mode is a four-car race with last place eliminated at the end of each lap. What's a bit galling about these, though, is that they're simply Single Race variations - you pick a track, and go. There's no structured race mode beyond World Tours.
And since I've already talked about that, it's difficult to know where else to go with this. Let's see what I said when I reviewed the original. Twice.
There are some things worth bitching about. The computer-controlled opposition is very good on the upper-upper levels, and has an uncanny ability to block your path before you can react to it, or boost past you on the home straight. But you'll probably be sufficiently pleased with the way it feels to play that you'll treat them not as pointless obstacles on the road to fun, but evil lines of code fit for munching nitrous' equivalent of dust once you find your A-game later on. Or at least once you've unlocked some of the delightful special-class cars. We're particularly fond of the one that looks like it has a giant desk-fan strapped to the back of it.
Such wit. It's amazing to think he's single. But that's enough of him - especially as I've just thought of something else to type: there's still a definite feel of the power-sliding being on rails. There's skill to it of course, and you definitely don't want to hit the sides because you'll just bounce along them like the front of your car's a skipping stone, but you are being conveyed along, and this much is especially apparent in the third-person camera mode. Not that you'd use that, because you're not a loser. Oh, he's back:
When it does ramp up and winning becomes a challenge, the AI racers seem to cheat more, too. They're not bound to your bumpers with elastic like some AI opposition I've encountered over the years, but I'd definitely classify their approach of moving into your path so you prang them about 60 yards further up the track as cheating. They don't always do this, but only a few times is still too many. What's more, they don't have to be elastic to be evil, because they can annoy you by zooming past with their nitrous on the final straight - technically it's my failing for not having enough in the tank to compete, but it still makes me feel hard done by when it happens.
Waffle, waffle, waffle. Look - Ridge Racers 2 is better than the first one, because it basically is the first one except with a few more bits in it. There's tons of racing to be done, even if it can be quite laborious, and there's not as much variation in structure, goal and challenge as you'll find in home-console offerings like Ridge Racer 6. The main feeling I get from it is disappointment - disappointment that Namco Bandai didn't put its back into it, and in fact avoided change more than most developers have the guts to. It's "And if you thought EA took the piss sometimes..." Even so, there's plenty to do here, and a fair amount that will appeal to ardent fans of this particular racing vintage. As long as you know you're being ripped off, you probably won't mind. If you do, wait for it to turn up on budget, or picket Namco or something.