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VALLEY WEEKEND | VIDEO GAMES

2 Terrific New Titles by Namco

The new sequels to Ridge Racer and Tekken are better by far than the originals.

December 26, 1996|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Namco knows video games.

Even as a kid, I could count on Namco to deliver top-quality play at the arcades. Two decades later, the company that introduced the world to a quarter-munching yellow sphere named Pac Man continues to wow game players with killer titles for 32-bit home machines.

Early PlayStation owners will no doubt remember the addictive thrill of Ridge Racer, followed a few months later by the stellar fighter Tekken. Games like these two helped set the standards by which 32-bit gaming is measured. Sadly, even now, more than a year after 32-bit rigs hit the market, most games fail to measure up.

But now Namco raises the bar again with sequels to both Ridge Racer and Tekken that achieve what I considered impossible: They are better than the originals by far. I spent a joyous weekend tooling through the digital tracks of Ridge Racer Revolution and punching my way to glory in Tekken 2.

There is nothing not to like about either of these games.

Ridge Racer Revolution remains true to the original with a straightforward driving game. No Hovercraft. No blasting opposing drivers. No special tricks. Ridge Racer Revolution offers nothing but pure adrenaline as drivers scream through tracks with more twists and turns than a plate of spaghetti.

I could gripe about the relative lack of variety in the various tracks, but even that would be a stretch. While the tracks are derivative, they are detailed so carefully and move so smoothly that it's easy to see where the design time went. Most players would rather have a couple of perfect tracks than a bunch of crummy ones anyway.

One nice touch: Over the course of a race, environments go through a full cycle of the sun. So afternoon in the mountains turns quickly to dusk, then night in the city. Morning breaks at the beach.

Control is as tight as it ever was in Ridge Racer. The on-screen readouts are simple and easy to read. Designers even added a rear-view mirror so drivers can see opponents sneaking up from behind.

Ridge Racer Revolution is a category killer. For no-frills auto racing action, it takes the checkered flag.

*

Likewise, Tekken 2 starts out strong and never lets up. Few fighters even dare to try the kind of fluid character motion and elegant arenas Tekken 2 serves up round after round.

I've never seen the kind of natural, fast-paced motion that Tekken 2 delivers. Fighters look and move like real people. Combination moves are stitched together tightly.

The game stumbles slightly in actual play, though. Some of the combos roll off the joypad a little too easily. I wished for a wider repertoire of moves.

Overall, though, Tekken 2 and Ridge Racer make a nice little package that puts PlayStation through a real workout.

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games every Thursday. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Or send e-mail to Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com.

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