Home Retro Gaming The Last Ridge Racer – The Arcade Blogger

The Last Ridge Racer – The Arcade Blogger

The Last Ridge Racer – The Arcade Blogger


Well, this can be a little bit of a curler coaster story that I’ve been which means to share for some time.

Before we begin, let’s make a journey into the historical past books to set the scene.

In October 1993, Namco launched its seminal arcade racer, Ridge Racer to vast acclaim. The graphics, gameplay and sound rating, delivered an arcade racing gameplay expertise by no means beforehand seen.

The fast-paced sport featured textured graphics alongside a pumping soundtrack and was a end result of two earlier Namco releases, that bordered on simulation:

1989’s Eunos Roadster Driving Simulator was a enterprise between Namco, the Mazda Motor Corporation and Mitsubishi Precision. Running on Namco’s System 21 {hardware}, it was a first-person racing sport that simulated a Mazda Eunos Roadster (in any other case often known as the Mazda MX5 in Europe) in a flat-shaded three-dimensional setting (suppose Virtua Racing fashion graphics).

Namco’s 1989 Eunos Driving Simulator
Also showcased right here on Namco’s stand at a commerce present in 1990

The expertise used on this simulator was then additional developed into an unreleased prototype often known as SimDrive, in 1992, the primary sport to make use of Namco’s System 22 {hardware}. SimDrive was proven on the 1992 Amusement Machine Show in Japan. It was the primary ever arcade sport to function texture-mapped 3D polygons and Gouraud shading, utilising a leading edge TR3 graphics chipset developed by pioneering laptop graphics firm Evans & Sutherland.

In an illustration of audaciousness, SimDrive used an actual full sized Mazda MX-5 automobile shell as a cupboard together with a big projection display.

SimDrive – Namco’s driving simulator prototype cupboard showcased in 1992
SimDrive in motion. A nonetheless from a video taken in 1992. Interestingly, the cupboard known as ‘SimRoad’
SimDrive’s graphics, that includes textured polygons and Gouraud shading – a ground-breaking achievement on the time

Although offering gamers with a sensible driving simulation by no means seen beforehand, SimDrive by no means noticed a full industrial launch exterior of a really restricted Japanese run in December 1992. Some temporary footage of the machine out within the wild could be seen right here.

But its {hardware} and gameplay could be labored on additional by Namco as the idea for what would finally grow to be Ridge Racer, launched to arcade flooring in Japan in October 1993. A wide range of cupboard kinds had been produced:

Ridge Racer Upright Cabinet
The Sit-Down Ridge Racer cupboard, designed to offer a extra immersive expertise
Further developments noticed the discharge of this monster Ridge Racer cupboard, that includes a triple display arrange

Ridge Racer considerably improved upon SimDrive‘s gameplay and graphics, further pushing the custom System 22 hardware and saw a release in October 1993 in Japan. It was hugely popular, being unlike any previous racer seen in arcades up to that point. In an effort to directly compete head-to-head with Sega’s Daytona USA, a western arcade launch adopted in mid 1994.

But Namco wasn’t performed. Taking what it had discovered as much as that time about participant experiences, it took the market unexpectedly by launching Ridge Racer Full Scale.

This model was designed to provide the participant a extra reasonable driving expertise. Players (a passenger may sit within the automobile subsequent to the driving force) sat inside an tailored crimson Eunos Roadster, the Japanese right-hand drive model of the Mazda MX-5 and managed the identical automobile on-screen. The sport is performed in entrance of a ten toes vast, front-projected triple display, with the wheel, gear stick and pedals functioning because the controls. The ignition key was used to begin, the velocity and RPM gauges had been purposeful, and followers blew wind on the participant from contained in the air vents. Speakers hid contained in the automobile offered reasonable engine and tyre sounds; overhead audio system offered encompass music.

Coming in at a value of round $250,000, the entire arrange can solely be described as a monstrous behemoth, appropriate for a really restricted variety of places. It would attract gamers wanting to expertise this true arcade driving simulator:

The ridge Racer Full Scale arcade simulator. Image: Chaheel Riens
Namco’s 1993 industrial gross sales flyer that includes RR Full Scale. Click for a bigger model of this picture

We don’t have documented launch numbers for this sport, however suffice to say, given its dimension and value, through the 90s, a really restricted variety of Ridge Racer Full Scale cupboards may very well be present in arcade the world over.

The complete arrange is so massive, that there have been no normal plans relating to sizing and such. If an order was positioned for the sport, Namco would actually ship a staff out to the proposed arcade location and design and construct the construction particularly to suit the house accessible – for this reason no two photographs of Ridge Racer Full Scale are the identical. Each was created on a bespoke foundation and diverse barely from cupboard to cupboard. Options inside the ROMs additionally allowed for an operator’s title and emblem to look on display.

That mentioned, right here within the UK, there have been a number of cupboards positioned in chosen arcades. I personally recall enjoying one in Ten Penny Falls Arcade in Weston-Super-Mare. Other collectors at the moment recall a number of positioned on the South Coast (together with Southsea Clarence Pier and the Rotunda arcade in Folkstone), Aberdeen in Scotland and one was within the enormous Trocadero arcade attraction in central London. A number of had been dotted at choose places elsewhere exterior of Japan, with reviews of playable Full Scale set ups in Barcelona Spain, Capetown South Africa and Sydney Australia.

In truth, some footage of the Trocadero cupboard has lately surfaced on YouTube:

Check out the footage of Ridge Racer Full Scale from 0:45 onwards (no sound)

Even fewer Ridge Racer Full Scale set ups stay at the moment – when these machines got here to the top of their life, operators had little alternative however to destroy them.

You might recall a pair years again I wrote a submit that includes UK participant Jason Newman, who travelled to Blackpool and was given unique full day entry to the one remaining operational RR Full Scale within the UK (and possibly the world) to be able to set a collection of recent world data on the sport. You can watch some pattern footage from Jason’s efficiency right here.

Housed at Blackpool within the UK, the arrange was largely full (pic: Jason Newman)
Jason sitting within the MX5, getting the complete Ridge Racer expertise (pic: Jason Newman)
This image reveals the driving force’s eye view of the Full-Scale expertise (pic: Jason Newman)

Back in 2017, Jason famous that the automobile and setup was nicely worn, and it was arduous to think about how for much longer this vital piece of arcade historical past was going to final and stay in place on the Blackpool arcade. He was lucky sufficient to get a chat with the tech who has taken care of this factor for nicely over 15 years. The tech described the Full Scale as an absolute beast, utilising three full System 22 board units every used to energy one of many three projector screens. The cupboard had a number of points on the day, with the steering and the gear selector being utterly worn out so it was solely playable utilizing auto gears (in any other case the spectacular instances that Jason set would have been a lot greater). Jason was advised that the sport received trashed pretty usually by gamers, principally the MX-5 itself. The authentic CRT projectors utilized by Namco had been swapped out for Epson digital projectors which has sadly resulted in some enter lag. But they had been now utilizing LED bulbs which stored the machine going at a much-reduced price. The conventional bulbs would burn out inside a month with the previous setup which made sustaining the cupboard an costly train.

A number of UK arcade lovers have made enquiries over time with the arcade about shopping for the cupboard, not solely to avoid wasting the unique {hardware}, however extra importantly to “dump” the unique ROMs and protect/archive the code. At that time solely this system ROMs had been dumped, however not the graphics code – the latter being considerably completely different to the usual small-scale Ridge Racer because it options completely different on-screen menus and naturally the MX5 itself. The response has been that the cupboard wasn’t on the market.

On the idea of no different images on the internet displaying a totally operational cupboard wherever else, it’s (and was) secure to imagine that this Ridge Racer Full Scale is the final utterly operational one recognized to exist on the planet.

The Ridge Racer Full Scale cupboard in Blackpool, photographed right here in 2017 (pic: Jason Newman)

A few years after Jason’s go to, photographs surfaced on the internet, which confirmed the cupboard shuttered up and unavailable to play, suggesting that the sport was now considered being on the finish of its helpful life. With Namco now not providing restore assist to those ageing PCBs, as soon as they’re gone, they’re gone – in a industrial setting a minimum of.

At this level in 2019, the Ridge Racer Full Scale positioned in Blackpool was shuttered up and inoperable

Fast ahead a few years, and rumours began circulating across the UKVAC boards, that somebody had approached the Blackpool arcade location about preserving the cupboard. It appeared that an method was initially made again in August of 2020:

To whom it could concern,

I’m obsessed with preserving gadgets which can be vital or have fascinating tales for future generations and making certain that they’re accessible to all. I’ve donated a variety of things to museums throughout Britain. Arcade gadgets are significantly fascinating to me.

I used to be very excited to study of an vital piece of arcade historical past which you personal and function at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, The Ridge Racer Full Scale, vital due to its uniqueness with the usage of a full-size automobile and wrap round display.

It is sadly the individuality of the merchandise with the very fact Namco is now not providing assist for the restore of the PCBs which had led to the half a dozen machines made being scrapped progressively over the previous few years. It is believed your machine is the one surviving instance.

I’m seeking to come to an settlement with you in order that when the machine is now not of any use to you, I can buy it for the National Video Game Museum in Sheffield (NVM) which is a registered charity (registered charity quantity 1183530). The NVM has three principal goals considered one of which is to teach and encourage the following technology of online game gamers and makers, the RRFS could be excellent to assist obtain this goal due to the what could be learnt from the design of the machine.

The machine could be dismantled by knowledgeable staff, making certain no injury or disruption to your property or that of the Pleasure Beach. The merchandise could be donated to and housed on the NVM.

I sit up for listening to from you.

Thank you

The authentic electronic mail despatched to the homeowners of the cupboard.

There is a few confusion about what occurred subsequent, however what is for certain is that an settlement was made, and preparations had been put in place for the cupboard to be dismantled totally and shipped away from Blackpool – presumably on the understanding that the Ridge Racer Full Scale was going to be shipped to, then preserved at a museum. No cash modified fingers so far as we perceive.

On the one hand this was excellent news, on the opposite, there have been issues about the place the arrange was being saved within the interim. These footage had been shared on-line by the courier concerned, of the cupboard being dismantled and loaded onto a removing truck:

The principal body construction being dismantled
These field buildings initially housed the System 22 PCBs that ran the sport
What was left of the MX5 itself. Although in poor situation (be aware the smashed windscreen) the automobile is full, and possibly value a fairly penny in itself as a shell!
The body of the cupboard loaded up able to ship

A key collector within the UK was subsequently contacted by the brand new ‘owner’ confirming that he was now in possession of the Full Scale, however that the venture was on maintain. Meantime the dismantled cupboard appeared to have been saved partly in a storage, and partly open air.

This was very regarding information, and the images shared appeared to verify everybody’s worst fears:

The MX5 shell gave the impression to be housed safely in a storage
As for the remainder of it…
Stored open air. Things had been beginning to rust already
Open to the weather, that is clearly not the way in which to retailer such an vital piece of arcade historical past

So the final Ridge Racer Full Scale cupboard gave the impression to be sitting out within the open, uncovered to the British components. Not excellent.

The alleged recipients of the cupboard, The National Videogame Museum in Sheffield had been contacted by a number of members of the arcade group, and so they expressed concern over the state of affairs, and appeared to have little data of the supposed association in place. They had been requested on Twitter concerning the standing of the cupboard and replied:

We had been in dialog round accumulating & preserving it. Unfortunately this may not work out. As far as we’ve been advised, there was some current water injury to the unit, which could make it unimaginable. We’re nonetheless following up, however don’t have any updates simply but.

NVM assertion 23 August 2021

But what was clear, is that they had been solely contacted concerning the potential of preserving this cupboard after the machine was eliminated. With this timeline established, they launched an announcement to totally tackle the state of affairs on 26 August 2021:

There has been current hypothesis in regards to the standing of a Ridge Racer Full Scale arcade machine which beforehand operated at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. We have been made conscious this week of a Facebook submit which implied that the Ridge Racer Full Scale was transferring to the “Sheffield Arcadia Museum” dated June tenth 2021.

The preliminary donation proposal for the Ridge Racer Full Scale was despatched to us by the present holder in an electronic mail dated June eleventh 2021. After some backwards and forwards in emails to collect extra info, we knowledgeable the present holder on thirteenth July that we might be discussing the acquisition in our Acquisitions Group Meeting on twenty sixth July and inform him of the official final result. The objective of our Acquisitions Group is to debate why an merchandise ought to grow to be a part of our assortment, considering our mission as a museum, our accumulating technique in addition to any logistical issues across the merchandise’s secure storage, preservation and show.

Following the assembly, which selected a optimistic final result pending provision of proof of possession and additional info which adopted due diligence, we requested the holder for this additional info in an electronic mail dated third August. In the response on fifth August we had been knowledgeable that the storage the Ridge Racer Full Scale was housed in had a leak which broken the PCBs and that the machine was subsequently scrapped. Our requests for extra info haven’t been answered as of twenty sixth August 2021.

The National Videogame Museum was not concerned in any dialogue round buying the Ridge Racer Full Scale previous to June eleventh, 2021. At this time, we have now not accepted the donation of the Ridge Racer Full Scale. We have been made conscious of its present situation and storage location and are working with the suitable involved events to deal with the state of affairs.

Ridge Racer Full Scale Statement – printed 26 August 2021, 15:00. Original submit right here.

Understanding the significance of this cupboard, and the potential ramifications of what gave the impression to be happening, the NVM fairly rightly distanced themselves from the entire debacle. But this left questions as to the place the Full Scale was at that time, and what was going to occur to it.

Ridge Racer Full Scale Logo

The excellent news was a collector did have sporadic contact with the ‘owner’, however after some backwards and forwards and an settlement in precept to take the components off of his fingers, it then transpired {that a} proportion of the cupboard had been scrapped and so the deal was off.

It was changing into more and more troublesome for anybody to speak with the proprietor in a rational means concerning the state the cupboard was in and precisely the place and the way the assorted components had been being saved. The motivation of the group was to not ‘own’ this cupboard, however to reserve it, together with preserving the supply code.

Incredibly, the final remaining Ridge Racer Full Scale appeared to have been left to rot and even worse, among the principal framework, allegedly had gone to scrap, now ruined by the weather.

As one arcade collector within the UK, who was significantly sad concerning the state of affairs, as he had the data required to avoid wasting the code, put it:

The sport code is about 8 chips away from saveable although, which additionally makes it maddening.

UKVAC submit, August 2021

Take a have a look at this video see the present emulation state. Some of the graphics are lacking and these are the weather of the code that require dumping:

Ridge Racer Full Scale emulation

Notice the graphics ROMs haven’t been dumped on the time of this video – what you see is the ROMs from the conventional model, which gained’t show proper with Full Scale. Also the a number of PCBs aren’t emulated so what you’re seeing is simply the centre display tricked into operating throughout three screens (there’s 3 copies of the identical PCB within the MX-5, one for every projector)

As if all that wasn’t sufficient, in one other twist, extremely simply days later, another person, claiming to have moved right into a home had discovered numerous components within the property that gave the impression to be the stays of the cupboard.

Hi everybody, I’ve lately moved home and have been clearing out the storage (final proprietor had left it filled with stuff) and I’ve discovered components from a Ridge Racer together with a automobile. I’ve learn what had occurred to the machine and didn’t know if any of it was salvageable and if something may very well be performed with the components. I haven’t completed clearing the entire storage however it actually seems to be like solely components stay – no construction.

Here comes a brand new challenger!

This poster claimed to have discovered three of the aspect panels with the RR emblem on, Three PCBs, the highest signage and map, harnesses, the automobile itself, a part of the sound system, two transformers, a projector and numerous components together with bulbs and bolts. He said that nothing remained within the backyard of the property, solely the contents of the storage. He shared a few footage:

Some of the remaining signage
The vital bit. The three System 22 PCBs

I ought to level out that that there’s some hypothesis about who the thriller second poster truly was. There is a risk that it was a faux account, arrange by the precise authentic ‘owner’ of the cupboard, in an try and cowl his tracks/save face. But who is aware of. We might by no means resolve that (or possibly we have now and I’m not telling), however regardless, at this level it doesn’t actually matter.

Because the arcade gods intervened.

After a lot confusion, dialogue and backwards and forwards with the ‘new’ proprietor, I’m happy to report that earlier this yr, the stays of the Ridge Racer Full Scale cupboard had been collected, together with the shell of the MX5. The {hardware} I’m advised is basically full, however the bodily construction of the enclosure just isn’t (presumably scrapped). The elusive lacking graphics code has been dumped with a view to get Full Scale operating totally in emulation.

What stays of the cupboard is secure and is now within the fingers of somebody right here within the UK with the sources to rebuild this Full Scale and have it operational within the UK once more. Watch this house….

So, fairly the episode I believe you’ll agree. I’m probably not positive what we are able to study from all this, apart from arcade historical past is extremely fragile. These previous programs require particular detailed data required to maintain operating in situ, emulate and protect the programme code, and should you’re going to tackle such a venture, you really want to do your homework and perceive the complexities and practicalities concerned. Some thought to the place you’re going to retailer it safely would possibly assist too.

Clearly, none of that was performed on this case. Getting maintain of this factor within the first place was a fairly audacious feat below the circumstances. Quite what the intentions of our authentic intrepid ‘collector’ had been, I suppose we’ll by no means know. I wish to be clear that the National Video Museum clearly had no half on this complete debacle, and so they had been proper to make their place clear from the outset.

But fortunately for whoever it was who managed to prize this away from the Blackpool operator below seemingly false pretences, the group stepped in to determine this individual, find the {hardware}, and do the whole lot they might to rescue this piece of arcade historical past.

The final Ridge Racer Full Scale – coming quickly to the UK! (pic: Jason Newman)

And as for the un-dumped code talked about above, progress has already been made right here. I’ve spoken to the man engaged on this and the sport is now totally dumped and operating cleanly in emulation. Here’s some screenshots of Ridge Racer Full Scale in all its triple display glory:

The beginning sequence of Ridge Racer Full Scale (click on for larger model)
In sport, powering out of the tunnel and up the hill (click on for larger model)
The digicam panning across the MX5 on the finish of the sport (click on for larger model)

Even the interface I/O system between the sport and the bodily dashboard of the MX5 (the half that controls the tachometer within the automobile) is figure in progress. There’s a solution to go nonetheless with this; finally a model of the I/O PCB can be developed that’ll discuss to a PC operating the emulated code that can drive the tacho, speedometer and room lights. Check out this video. Not solely are you able to see Ridge Racer Full Scale operating on the display, however the tacho is working additionally:

Action begins at 0:23

Don’t anticipate to see this in MAME any time quickly. For now that is proprietory emulation that can finally be made public when the time is correct.

This is all unbelievable information, as this was most likely the final and solely probability to protect this distinctive code earlier than it was misplaced ceaselessly.

So we do owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all of the folks concerned to get this potential catastrophe to one of the best conclusion doable below the circumstances. Lots of people did an enormous quantity of detective work to trace down the components and get them into secure fingers. I’ve determined to maintain everybody’s title away from this text and concentrate on the top end result which is much extra vital.

Let’s rejoice the truth that the final Ridge Racer Full Scale on the planet has in some way been saved from the clutches of catastrophe on the eleventh hour, because of a number of folks’s efforts, and sooner or later it is going to be rebuilt and playable once more.

Fingers crossed we’ll have the ability to race the MX5 in opposition to the Solvalou Namco automobile sooner or later quickly!

I’m in contact with the brand new proprietor, and I’ll be sure you replace everybody when there may be additional information about this venture.

Thanks for studying this week.




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