Asphalt: Urban GT
Release: Launch Title
Asphalt: Urban GT, along with Ridge Racer DS, will be the two games that anchor the racing genre for the DS’s launch. Unfortunately Urban GT just isn’t getting the amount of press and coverage as the much better known Ridge Racer DS, which comes from a fairly established series. That doesn’t mean; however, that Urban GT shouldn’t get any loving from those of us who will be getting a Nintendo DS this holiday season. This game looks, as you would hope from any of these launch titles, absolutely amazing. Featuring all real world locations for staging the game’s races on, Urban GT gives you the feel that you’re out there traveling a realistic world circuit, using the top racing car models out there to compete with. What adds more realism to Urban GT is that none of the car models in the game itself are generic made up brands. Everything is licensed, and set-up as the real deal would be, giving those car freaks out there the kind of customization they are going to want with their ride. Early accounts have Urban GT handing very well in terms of game play. Running at 60 frames per second clip, it would be a disservice to say Urban GT is merely a smooth looking racer. Instead it looks like the visual eye candy it was meant to, and again handles very well in early demo versions.
The three main modes of Urban GT are arcade, evolution, and multiplayer. Arcade and evolution are the modes for single players. Arcade is looking like a practice mode where you can go into a race and just try things out to see how a car handles, or what a specific course is like. The evolution mode is the meat of this game. This is where you’ll race to earn money and then sweeten your ride with your earnings. However, we all know that the Nintendo DS has a lot of very unique features. It would be silly if Urban GT didn’t take advantage of them, right? The first selling point comes in the form of the option to use the DS’s wireless technology to run multi-player races. Assuming the bugs have been worked out of this facet of Urban GT, racing gamers out there can look forward to getting together and enjoying some fast-paced and very smooth multi-player gaming fun with their new system. And of course, the biggest selling point of the DS (at least in this gamer’s eyes) is the dual screen technology. A lot of the menus are going to be incorporated with the use of the touch screen. The stylus pen will be especially important here as early reports seem to agree that the pen will be needed to efficiently maneuver through Urban GT’s menu system due to the size of some of the buttons, making the pen very vital.
As long as Ubisoft has worked the kinks out there is no reason to believe Urban GT can not compete with Ridge Racer DS and future racing games for the system.
Ridge Racer DS
Ridge Racer DS is the more recognizable of the two racers, Urban GT being the other, which will be in “launch window” lineup for the DS. However will Ridge Racer DS be the clear cut winner? My crystal ball certainly is cloudy on that matter. While Urban GT’s specs seem to be the better of the two, experience certainly has its edge as well. And that is what a Ridge Racer game is: a notch in an already established franchise.
Ridge Racer DS is based on the Nintendo 64 Ridge Racer that came out numerous years ago. Much like Super Mario 64 DS, where Ridge Racer DS differs from its N64 counterpart is in its use of the special features of the system. However, that does not change the essential fact that most gamers who did experience the N64 version of this game may be disappointed to an extent, since all reports indicate not much in the way of new material outside of utilizing the touch screen technology and allowing for wireless play has been added. It has to be kept in mind though that Namco knows what their doing.
First off this game is going to be very much an arcade style of racer. It looks good, and shows off the ability of the DS to handle Nintendo 64 graphics with ease. Attention to detail is being set at a very high level in terms of the race tracks and cars. Things like smaller features on the cars themselves and on the tracks will bring Ridge Racer DS alive like few handheld racers ever have been before. And when it comes down to it people, in every launch I can think of in recent memory there has always been an established racing series their to anchor it. This is what Ridge Racer DS will serve as, and you can bet name brands mean something to the average game, which is why it’s getting more attention then Urban GT and other planned racers at the moment. The game itself has three modes: quick race, single player and multiplayer. Namco is determined to use the multi-player wireless technology to it’s fullest. You will be able to hook up with five other players, using the WiFi technology to go beyond what most games have planned. Certainly if you game within a circle of friends that is inclined towards the racing genre then this is the DS title for you.
Quick race is exactly what it sounds like, one race on any track available in the game. This mode will be ideal for single player practice in order to hone your skills on particularly difficult tracks. A mode like this, while standard in many games, always stands out as one of the most convenient features of a racing game. When you’re dealing with handheld racers, your dealing with gamers who want a system that they can both sit down with and put some hardcore hours into and also be able to take it with them and maybe play for short 15 minutes spurts just to pass the time. Quick race fits that ideal, and is a welcome addition to Ridge Racer DS. The single player mode is broken down into three smaller modes: grand prix, time attack, and car attack. All three modes have different objectives, and regardless of what floats your boat one of them should suit your racing needs very well.
The big question mark for Ridge Racer DS is going to be the controls of the game. Namco seems very keen on incorporating the touch screen technology in with the actual control and handling of your race car, in addition to a traditional form of controlling with the normal setup. There is an option that while you race you can use your stylus pen to control a race wheel that appears during the race. By steering the wheel with the pen you can control your car that way as the race progresses. However, early reports have placed this feature in some dubious light. Namco has some bugs to work out in terms of ease of use, and comfort level with this kind of control scheme. That being said, if Namco can iron this out, this stands to be one of the best uses of the touch screen at launch time. Ultimately, every racer lives and dies by how good of a control scheme it has. Ridge Racer DS will be no exception, and will be under a tight microscope as the most well known racer to appear at launch. It has one of the top companies in the business behind it, and Nintendo and Namco will want it to be a polished as possible when the time for its release comes. I think gamers will, ultimately, be very happy with what Ridge Racer DS produces, giving everyone a taste of what the DS will be capable of in terms of its key features and innovative game play.
Mr. DRILLER: Drill Spirits
There are certain games you only seem to find in pizza places these days. Games that require 5 minutes, a quarter or ten, and a fast hand. Surely you’ve played Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man at a family owned pizza joint at some point in your life. These games, tied together more by an intangable feel than by two little factors: quick and addictive gameplay and the word Namco on the cabinet. There’s Pole Position and Galaga, but most of all, for me at least, there’s Dig Dug.
For years and years I thought my beloved pizza game had died with the small, family owned pizza place, replaced with fighting games in the front Pizza Huts and 1941 in the bowling alley. That was until I found Mr. Driller on the Dreamcast. There he was, resplendant in his white suit, bearing a very familiar drill. Mr. Driller, the illegitimate son of Dig Dug Doug (not his real name, but what I always called him in my infinitely feeble imaginationless existence), must drill his way through layer after layer of multicolored blocks in the effort to… well, I can’t really figure out why, since my Japanese is so horrid, but needless to say, he needs to get through those damnable multicolored blocks. Unfortunately, there’s the lack of oxygen to be found in the subterranean depths, so the intrepid Mr. Driller must find blocks of oxygen to inhale before he suffocates. This, combined with red X blocks, which require three drills and a toll of O2, provides the tension as your drilling avatar drills a swath of destruction through the candy colored blocks of doom.
What makes the DS edition of this series so exciting, for me, is the swank 5 player multiplayer. Oh sweet wireless multiplayer, how many ways do I love you? Multiplayer sessions are made even more fantic by the addition of power-up items scattered around the board, all of which are represented by question marks, so you never know what beneficial action they’ll do when you pick them up. That combined with stylus control, if you so desire, and the ability to play Mr. Driller, in English, where ever you want, makes Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits the sleeper to watch this holiday season.
Nintendo DS Launch Guide: Page 5