Rrrridge Rrracer! That's what we tend to think whenever a new Ridge Racer title is announced - all thanks to Kaz Hirai's famous line. It may not be the best way to remember, but it puts a smile on our faces. Known for its beautiful scenery, original car designs, and, of course, its music, Ridge Racer has been on the scene in our living rooms since the days of the PSOne.
Always welcoming us with beautiful openings starring the lovely mascot of the franchise, Reiko Nagase, Ridge Racer is known for its strong focus of performing impossible drifts to charge your NOS bar and zooming across the finish line.
Another factor that pushes you forward is the music performed by Namco Sounds. Just like the music of Ys, Ridge Racer has that quality of music that tells you, "Go, go, go"! But I'm not going to talk about the adrenaline filled tracks. Nope, instead we discuss the black sheep of the Ridge Racer family that actually calms and soothes you before entering any race. This little odd-ball goes by the name of Departure Lounge, track 2 of Ridge Racer (PSP).
Similar to its counterparts, Departure Lounge has many interesting layers to it. As it begins, it floods your ears with soft yet choppy techno music. You may not realize it until a second listen, but you're hearing the distorted sounds of cars racing along with the music. As it loops, the distortion of both the techno sounds and cars begins to clear. You are greeted by a barely discernible voice over the intercom announcing the next flight as a piano melody, my personal favorite, begins to play. The melody is only a few notes long, but it immediately repeats itself and is in many portions of the song.
After a few loops, the more recognizable tune of club music fills your ears taking you from a calm mood to a more energetic, but still relaxing one. It's very similar to the techno music from the beginning, but at a faster pace with cymbals dancing to the beat. Not only does the music increase its speed, but it also increases in volume. The piano's melody in particular seems to receive the greater emphasis of the instruments. The woman's voice continues on through the intercom as well, though still difficult to discern.
Obviously pleased with itself, the song continues on but then pauses, allowing the techno to continue unhampered, undistorted cars to race by in full speed. After the cars make their laps, the music resumes at full force.
Even though it's at a greater pace, the music still helps you stay relaxed. As the song steadily makes its way to its midpoint, Departure Lounge quiets down again; but it's not for an instrument or the cars. Instead the steady tick of a stop watch makes its way to your ears. If you listened to or watched the opening of Ridge Racer (PSP) you probably noticed the sound of the ticking watch throughout the opening in the hands of Reiko Nagase. The sound of the watch has a similar effect of Sonic tapping his foot had in Sonic the Hedgehog. "Okay you've waited long enough! Choose a flight so we can win a race!"
Just as with the speeding cars, the ticking ends and the music returns to its strong, techno beat. However, almost immediately, many of the instruments go quiet yet again as the techno imitation of Morse code begins to play.
I have no idea what Morse code has to do with racing and picking a flight, but it works fine with the music. And then the sound of someone changing the station on an old, dial radio joins in. I understand that airports, airplanes, and radios are related, but it's still a weird choice of sound effects for a racing game. Honestly, the radio is a bit jarring, but it finds its place rather quickly. The music returns again to its upbeat self, but it keeps the radio effects. Thankfully, the radio is less noticeable.
As Departure Lounge enters its last leg, it reverts back to its original choppy, techno self and fades away.
What makes this song so special to me is how it relaxes me after a failed race. If you've played Ridge Racer before then you have probably raged at a few races. It seemed that at times I never improved, let alone placed beyond 5th; but as I returned to the departure screen the music immediately calmed me. It worked like a massage for my emotions that helped me not only cool down, but get excited for another race. Whenever I hear the cars race by in the distance of Departure Lounge I want to immediately jump into another car and take on the course's challenge one more time.
Departure Lounge really is an oddball compared to the rest of the game's music. Instead of hyperactive JPop or rap we get soft, bubbly synth sounds and piano melodies topped off with the steady tick of a stop watch. Though it may be a black sheep of sorts, its unique change of pace is what makes Departure Lounge all the more enjoyable. This is a wonderful piece of music that you should not miss out on.