Waifu Wednesday: Reiko Nagase

It’s Ridge Racer month here on MoeGamer, and you didn’t think I was going to let Reiko Nagase slip by unnoticed, did you?

First appearing in Rage Racer’s CG intro (or perhaps Rave Racer’s attract mode, depending on who you want to believe) but shooting to prominence in Ridge Racer Type-4, Reiko Nagase is as much an iconic part of the Ridge Racer franchise as its exaggerated drift handling and memorable soundtracks.

She’s also one of the first examples of a “virtual idol” in computerised entertainment, helping to lay the groundwork for future success stories in this field such as Crypton Future Media’s Hatsune Miku and friends.

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Rage Racer: Point of Divergence

While the arcade installment Ridge Racer 2 and its home conversion of sorts Ridge Racer Revolution went in slightly different directions, it was the third “generation” of Ridge Racer games where the two approaches finally diverged completely.

1995’s third arcade installment Rave Racer again acted as more of an evolution from the previous games, featuring more detailed graphics and a couple of new tracks as well as the circuits from the original Ridge Racer. Notably, it was also the first Ridge Racer game to put a strong emphasis on a female “mascot” character in its epilepsy-inducing attract mode; some conjecture this is actually the first appearance of longtime series “image girl” Reiko Nagase, though the hotpants-clad polygonal model doesn’t look a lot like how we came to know and love her in later installments.

1996’s Rage Racer, meanwhile, was a complete reinvention for home systems, featuring an actual single-player “campaign” of sorts to work through, with gradual progression and car upgrades as well as the abandoning of arcade game conventions such as tight time limits and checkpoints with which to extend it. The immediacy was still there, but now the game wanted to keep you in your seat for more than five minutes at a time.

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Winged Sakura: Endless Dream – Dungeons and Defenses

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front, because it seems to be a common point of confusion if Steam reviews are anything to go by.

The Winged Sakura series is not the same as the Sakura series. The Sakura series is a sprawling range of ecchi and hentai visual novels with a distinctive anime-inspired art style, developed by Western indie group Winged Cloud. Meanwhile, the Winged Sakura series is, at the time of writing, a trilogy of three disparate games with a shared cast, a (different) distinctive anime art style, this time developed by Winged Sakura Games, also known as one-man studio and BCIT graduate Hong Dang (plus freelancers).

To put it another way, if you’re one of those people who sees a new game with Sakura in the title and thinks “oh no, another Sakura game” or makes other similar assumptions, note that Winged Sakura: Endless Dream is nothing to do with those games, despite similarities in both its title and the name of its developer. It’s also really rather good.

Clear? All right then. Let’s continue.

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Ridge Racer Revolution: The One That Would Probably Be DLC Today

After the success and critical acclaim of Ridge Racer, it was only natural for Namco to want to build on the series.

It went about this in a number of ways, including a three-screen arcade release for a more immersive experience as well as a spectacular “Full Scale” variant in which you sat in an actual car (a Mazda Eunos Roadster, to be specific, in a pleasing callback to Ridge Racer prototype Sim Drive’s predecessor) to play a version of the game on a massive projection screen with real car controls, functional instruments and fans blowing wind in your face.

A sequel was inevitable. Ridge Racer 2 followed its predecessor a year later, featuring new tracks, new music and the facility for up to eight people to play simultaneously by networking four two-player cabinets. This was then followed in 1995 by a home port in the form of Ridge Racer Revolution for PlayStation.

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Ridge Racer: Where it All Began

Namco’s Ridge Racer may have declined somewhat in terms of popularity and relevance at the time of writing, but there’s little denying that during its heyday, this series was one of the most important franchises in gaming.

Most notably playing a significant role in solidifying the PlayStation’s position as the leading console of the 32-bit era in particular, the Ridge Racer series remains for many the benchmark to which all 3D arcade racers — a sadly dying breed — should be compared.

So where did this all start?

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Waifu Wednesday: Rin Tohsaka

As we bid a fond farewell to September’s Cover Game Fate/stay night, it’s only fitting that we celebrate one of this incredible visual novel’s most enduringly popular waifus.

Rin Tohsaka is a constant presence in all three of the main narrative routes in Fate/stay night, despite only Unlimited Blade Works technically being “hers”. As such, aside from protagonist Shirou, she’s arguably the character we get to know the best over the course of the complete narrative.

She’s noteworthy not only for being a great character in her own right, but also for arguably being one of the most significant defining influences on what has become an incredibly popular — some might argue clichéd — character trope today: the tsundere.

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Space Live: Flawless Fanservice

Sometimes a good palate-cleanser is just what the doctor ordered, and that’s exactly what Space Live: Advent of the Net Idols provides.

Developed as a West-first release by a collaborative effort between Da Capo creator Circus and localisation specialists MangaGamer, Space Live markets itself as a “short and sweet visual novel that will add some kick into your step for the week” — an eminently accurate description.

It’s not a visual novel that’s attempting to say anything deep and meaningful, nor is it attempting to wow you with its technical proficiency, big budget and days-long play time. It’s simply a bit of fun, aimed with a laser-sharp focus at Western fans of Japanese popular media, and it succeeds admirably at what it does.

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