Virtua Racing is one of the most important games in the history of Sega, but there has never been a perfect way to play it outside of an arcade. Despite multiple attempts, from the technically flawed Mega Drive and Saturn conversions to the down-to-earth PlayStation 2 remake, Sega was unable to comfortably capture the 1992 classic from home.
So far anyway. Sega's new version of Virtua Racing is unbelievable, and since it's the Nintendo Switch, you'll also get a portable version.
Virtua Racing was one of the first fully polygonal 3D racing games ever and certainly the most advanced at the time of its release. It ran at 30 frames per second, which felt unbelievably fluid in the early days of 3D, and brought for the first time 16: 9 widescreen monitors in the arcade. It was also the first game to run on Sega's Model 1 arcade hardware, which in 1993 also ran the arcade game Star Wars (19459004) and 19459003 Virtua Fighte (19459004). The ability to change the camera angle was particularly groundbreaking.
For the switch version of Virtua Racing which was released as part of the Sega Ages series, Sega has hired M2 – the Remaster wizards behind the company's great 3D classics conversions for 3DS. M2 retained the original Virtua Racing assets but doubled the frame rate to 60 fps and increased the resolution to 1080p on a TV and to a native 720p in handheld mode.
The results are breathtaking. Virtua Racing is almost three decades old, but its flat style of art is beautifully aged. There are no fuzzy textures or too ambitious models to get you out of the experience – it's a minimalist, clear visual representation that makes everything coherent. Virtua Racing was striving for realism at the time, but fitted perfectly with Sega's trademark of today's blue sky aesthetics.
More importantly, the game itself is fantastic. Designed by Sega arcade legend Yu Suzuki and designed by Yakuza inventor Toshihiro Nagoshi, it is a relatively simple arcade variant of Formula 1 with timed checkpoints. It only has three tracks, but the handling is subtle and the AI is doing well. For some reason, the switch is not a system with many good racing games, but this version of Virtua Racing is undoubtedly one of the best. It's also the only racing game I know that offers a fun, yet surprisingly practical multiplayer 8-player split screen experience.
At the moment Virtua Racing is available for Switch only in Japan, where Sega Ages is always released before the rest of the world. However, there is no reason to believe that it will not come out soon. If you can not wait, fortunately, you can easily create a new switch account to download games from the Japanese eShop. The price is 925 yen, or about $ 8.50.