Virtua Racing is one of the most important games in the history of Sega, but there is never a perfect way to play it outside of an arcade. Despite multiple attempts, from the technically flawed Mega Drive and Saturn conversions to the thorough PlayStation 2 remake, Sega has not been able to fully capture the 1992 classic in the comfort of your home.
So far, anyway. Sega & # 39; s new version of Virtua Racing is incredible, and since it is on the Nintendo Switch, you also get a portable version.
Virtua Racing was one of the first fully polygonal 3D racing games ever made, and certainly the most advanced at the time of its release. It was running at 30 frames per second, which felt incredibly smooth in the early days of 3D, and introduced 16: 9 widescreen monitors for the first time in the arcade. It was also the first game to run on Sega & # 39; s Model 1 arcade hardware, which also powered the 1993 Star Wars arcade game and the first Virtua Fighter. The ability to change the camera angle was particularly groundbreaking.
For the Switch version of Virtua Racing, released as part of the Sega Ages series, has invoked Sega M2 – the remaster wizards behind the company's great 3D Classics conversions for 3DS. M2 has saved the original Virtua Racing but doubled the frame rate to 60 fps and increased the resolution to 1080p on a TV and a native 720p in handheld mode.
The results are amazing. Virtua Racing is almost three decades old, but the flat-shaded art style is nicely outdated. There are no blurry textures or over-ambitious models to pull you out of the experience – it's a minimalist, grim visual presentation where everything is connected. Virtua Racing went for realism at the time, but it fits perfectly into today's Sega & # 39; s distinctive blue-sky aesthetic.
More importantly, the game itself is fantastic. Designed by Sega arcade legend Yu Suzuki and designed by Yakuza maker Toshihiro Nagoshi, it's a fairly simple arcade in Formula 1 with time-bound checkpoints. It only has three numbers, but the controls are subtle and the AI sets up a good fight. For some reason, the Switch is not a system with many good racing games, but this version of Virtua Racing is comfortably one of the best. It is also the only racing game I know of and offers a hilarious – but surprisingly practical – split screen multiplayer mode with eight players.
Virtua Racing for Switch launched Japan for the first time in May, which always delivers Sega Ages releases to the rest of the world. And now it's finally for the rest of the world: you can watch it here.
Update, June 28: This review was originally published on May 17, 2019, but is now updated now that the game is available outside of Japan.