When is a sequel not a sequel? Yearly rehashes might sound like a page out of EA's business model, but in truth the largest video game publisher in the world is only really guilty of doing so with its sports games, which more often than not appeal to a huge audience of casual gamers. Namco, a Japanese company with quite a pedigree, is one of the most respected developers amongst so called 'hardcore' gamers, but it seems even they can't turn down a simple opportunity for a rehash and some easy money. Ridge Racer 2 for the PSP is the sequel to the stunning PSP launch title, but it's one of the cheapest sequels I've ever seen.
Before detailing why Ridge Racer 2 is a disgraceful release, I'll explain why it's also the best racing game available for the PSP. Yes, it's a tricky concept to get your head around, but Ridge Racer 2, the cheapest of cheap rehashes, is the best pure arcade racer you can buy for your PSP. It's a damn fine game, mixing superbly satisfying arcade gameplay (this is drift heaven), with visuals that make most other PSP games weep. Controlled via the analogue nub or the d-pad, it's a real treat, and the ad-hoc multiplayer is a superb way to spend a few hours.
So, if it's so good, why should Namco be ashamed? There's simply not enough new content to make the game a proper sequel. At a push it could have been labelled Ridge Racer Remixed and, if it had also been released at a budget price, then it wouldn't have been anywhere near as offensive. Still, Ridge Racer fans are a special breed, so the small number of new additions might well be enough to make them part with the cash, especially when the new tracks mainly come from Ridge Racer Type 4 - plus a couple from Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution.
As a game judged without taking the first game into account, it's a great package. The new tracks take the total to more than twenty, there are twelve new music tracks, and two new game modes. Online play, which is the mode everyone wanted, isn't included, but Duel and Survival give you something to do outside of the World Tour and Arcade mode. They're pretty much as the names suggest, with Duel being races against a single opponent, while Survival is a simple lap by lap knockout. They feel more like filler than new content, but Ridge Racer fans may well lap it up.
Being a near carbon copy of Ridge Racer, Ridge Racer 2 shares the original PSP game's problems too - the biggest of which is the difficulty. For your first few hours racing in the World Tour you'll barely break a sweat, and if you happen to have played the first game, and played all the way through the World Tour, this slow start will be even harder to put up with. A number of the new cars aren't all that new either, looking like they're fresh off the production line, but in actual fact are just remodelled versions of old cars.
Rider Racers (as it was called in Japan) launched with the PSP in Japan in December 2004. Almost two years later the sequel arrives in Europe and other than a small selection of new tracks, it's essentially the same game. A true sequel to the PSP's best racer would have been something to get very excited about, and while Ridge Racer 2 is most definitely an improvement over the first game, it's by no means an essential purchase. If nine new tracks seems like good value to you, you won't be disappointed, as the core gameplay is as entertaining as ever, but don't say you weren't warned.