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Played in 2023
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The first 3 or so hours of Horizon Chase Turbo is a pretty awesome experience. A back to basics arcade racer in the vein of games like Outrun or SNES Top Gear with tight, fun handling, a decent soundtrack and beautiful stylised 3D graphics that evoke the style of the aforementioned retro racers with a modern sheen.
The problem is that Horizon Chase Turbo is just too basic for its own good, and it starts to lose its appeal towards the end of the roughly 10 hour long campaign. You can tell that the devs tried to mitigate this with a "quantity over quality" approach as there are hundreds of race tracks in the campaign, lots of cars to unlock throughout and other modes like tournaments and a roguelike-ish endurance race mode for Tens Of Hours Of Content™. The problem is that none of this icing really makes up for the lack of meaningful content in Horizon Chase Turbo.
The other issue is the difficulty balancing. Again, this game is mechanically simple to the point where driving by itself is a pretty brainless activity, so difficulty is injected into this gameplay style with some questionable decisions, such as a plethora of gimmicky, extremely narrow tracks and stupidly aggressive rubberbanding AI for your opponents. The even more questionable thing is just how much this difficulty is eradicated towards the end when you unlock the most OP cars like the AE86 and have all of the vehicle upgrades. Seriously, India (which is just past the halfway point of the campaign) is by FAR the hardest region but everything after that goes back to being pretty easy despite the attempts to be dramatic at the end.
I'd still recommend this game to anyone else who is a fan of arcade racers, but with a more tentative recommendation than what I started out with. I would say I have high hopes for the development team Aquiris in the future but they recently got acquired by Epic Games, so we'll just have to see what that future holds in store for us.
Ridge Racer Type 4 represented racing towards the future. The platonic form of driving represented by crossing the finish line and becoming the champion of real racing roots '99 at the exact turn of the millennium. In contrast, Ridge Racer V is racing in the future, as imagined in the Y2K era of the early Playstation 2.
Ridge Racer V is, compared to the soft, silky, jazzy vibes of Type 4, a much more aggressive game in terms of visuals, music and gameplay. This lead me to not like it as much as its predecessor first, but after playing more and learning the feel of the new tracks and cars, I came to appreciate the art of drifting through ridge city. Drifting is absolutely the name of the game here, it's much easier to enter a powerslide compared to previous games in the series, and even the grip cars will be powersliding around most corners. This results in early moments of frustration as you will regularly lose control of your car, but once you learn to tame these beasts, the game becomes very satisfying, the first time you win a GP against the brutally aggressive AI will be a moment to remember.
The music is still full of bangers like Type 4, but there's less direction in the soundtrack. You can tell that in Type 4 each song is designed to perfectly complement the race tracks - the bass solo in Naked Glow is just as much a part of Wonderhill as the environments and corners themselves, but while songs like Euphoria and Samurai Rocket are still great, they don't have the same kind of bond with the race tracks themselves, and frankly I found a few of the songs in this game to be forgettable.
Ridge Racer V takes a less narratively-driven approach. This time you manage your own team (which is mostly done behind the scenes), and participation in the ridge city race events is very much an individual affair. This leads to a more "console racer" and open ended feeling to the game, for better and for worse, but it does mean that this game has way more content and longevity than previous Ridge Racer games. I especially love how time attack is incentivised and contextualised within the game. Most tracks have a rival time that you can attempt to beat, if you beat all of a given rival's times, they will be available to 1v1 duel, and if you beat them in that duel, you unlock their special car that represents the extremes of Ridge Racer V's car design and variety. It's awesome stuff and I really wish more racing games did this kind of thing.
If you can take the time to learn this game it's an extremely rewarding experience, and one I appreciate in helping me get back into the racing game genre. You can tell that Namco were well and truly at the top of their game in this era, and Ridge Racer V definitely deserves its reputation as a standout early PS2 title. It doesn't quite reach the heights of Type 4, but it's close enough in almost all respects.
Also, Ai Fukami > Reiko Nagase. :^)