Virtua Racing is one of the most important games in the history of Sega, but has never been a perfect way to play it out of an arcade. Despite numerous attempts, from technically flawed Mega Drive and Saturn ground-up conversions to the PlayStation 2 remake, Sega has not captured the 1992 classic in the comfort of your home.
Until now, anyway. The new version of Sega's Virtua Racing is incredible, and because of the Nintendo Switch, you're getting a portable version on the bargain as well.
Virtua Racing is one of the first fully polite 3D racing games ever made, and certainly the most advanced at the time of its release. It runs at 30 frames per second, which feels incredibly back in the early days of 3D, and introduces 16: 9 widescreen monitors into the arcade for the first time. It was also the first game to run on Sega's Model 1 arcade hardware, which also boosted the arcade game of 1993 and the first Virtua Fighte r. The ability to change the camera angle is particularly groundbreaking.
For the Switch version of Virtua Racing released as part of the Sega Ages series, Sega enrolls M2 – the remaster wizards behind the remarkable 3D Classics company conversions in 3DS. The M2 is preserved in the original Virtua Racing assets, but the frame rate is doubled to 60 fps and increased resolution to 1080p on a TV and a native 720p in handheld mode.
The results are very good. Virtua Racing is almost three decades old, but the flat-shaded art style has an old age. There are not any blurry textures or over-ambitious models to show you the experience – it's a minimalist, truly visual demonstration where everything feels cohesive. Virtua Racing is happening for realism at the time, but it fits perfectly with the trademark of Sega's blue-sky aesthetic today.
More importantly, the game itself is incredible. Hidden by Sega arcade legend Yu Suzuki and designed by Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi, this is a fairly simple arcade take on Formula 1 with time-gated checkpoints. It has only three tracks, but the handling is subtle and the AI puts a great battle. For some reason, Switch is not a system with many great racing games, but this version of Virtua Racing is one of the best. It is also the only racing game that I know to offer a hilarious – but surprisingly practical – eight-player split-screen multiplayer mode.
Right now Virtua Racing for the Switch is available only in Japan, which always gets Sega releases before the rest of the world, but there is no reason to think it will not come somewhere else as soon as possible. If you really can not wait, fortunately it's pretty easy to create another Switch account to download games from Japanese eShop – worth 925 yen, or about $ 8.50.