NS Review – Virtua Racing (Switch)

Back in the early 90s there was one 3D racing game worth your time and money and it was only available in the arcades (in its best form). That game was Virtua Racing it was astounding for the time, 3D graphics that didn’t look like a steamy platter of poop with silky smooth gameplay to boot. It even had four different views. Now as part of m2’s Sega Ages masterpieces Virtua Racing has arrived on Switch.

The first thing you notice with Virtua Racing is the beautiful low poly graphics that are becoming all the rage now everyone’s bored of pixel games. There does seem to be a filter on the colours making those blue skies Sega became famous for pop even more than on the original arcade version but it makes the red of the car seem a little washed out. Personally I prefer the bright vivid sky and grass of the Switch release to the darker original arcade version and with the draw distance being the whole map Virtual Racing has never looked so stunning. Another change is the silky 60fps both docked and handheld, this really is the best looking version of Virtua Racing ever.

You can see for ages.

There are a lot of options added to this release as you can do the usual 5 lap race or an extended 20 lap Grand Prix of checkpoint racing across the three original tracks from the arcade version. The 20 lap races have tyre wear so there’s strategy involved of if or when you put for fresh slicks. For the first time Virtua Racing has gone online with 2 player racing, although I feel it’s a big shame and missed opportunity not to have 8 player online racing, however if you have 8 friends to get together you can play 8 player split screen which is pretty crazy. As with most arcade games of the time Virtua Racing is very difficult but there are 5 difficulty settings with the easiest setting giving you all the time in the world to finish the race, if it’s still too hard there is a helper mode that lets you run straight through other cars but your times won’t be recorded in this mode. You can customise the controls which is perfect to play the way the Sega AM2 god’s intended if you own a PS4 wheel and converter. There is even analogue acceleration included which is an addition I always love in racing games, even arcade ones. But that’s not all folks as motion controls are included too, àawhich seem like they will be fantastic and the most fun way to play once they work. Unfortunately at the time of writing the motion controls unsync quite a few times a race so you have to hold the controller almost sideways to go straight. I tried with various controllers and even double checked using other games to make sure it wasn’t my Switch.

Just like the arcade.

The final control option is choosing arcade or normal handling. While both options play amazingly well and hold up perfectly with fluid fast paced gameplay and a sense of speed perfect for F1 cars, I have a small problem here, normal handling is an extra grippy easy mode set by default and doesn’t work with motion controls as there is zero dead zone making going straight harder than it would be for Boy George, hopefully it’s something else that’ll be patched in the future. Arcade handling is the original harder handling model where the car slides sideways through the corners. I am about a second a lap slower with arcade handling but both online and offline there’s no separate ranking or even indicator to show which handling has been used. This is a shame as the racing is far more of a time attack than an actual race so high score chasing is the main reason to keep playing, added to this is no offline records for the 20 lap Grand Prix so all you can check is your single fasted time that registers online, if you have a connection at the time of playing.

The Grand Prix is an awesome addition.

The cars sound more like Scalextric cars than F1 cars and there is only brief interludes of music when you hit checkpoints. The sound of tires squirming is what you hear most of but you don’t play Virtua Racing for the sound effects and it is true to the arcade but an option for beefier sounding cars would be nice in the same way the default handling is the new grippy easy mode. On a positive note you can download any of the fastest 50 replays to help you learn the intricacies of the tracks (there’s even a few of mine there).

I’d like to see Lewis Hamilton win with a car as wonky as this.

If you’re buying Virtua Racing to predominantly play online, I’m afraid you’re out of luck as I haven’t managed to connect to a single online race. There is an option to make a room to play with a friend, to do this you set a code however if you try and join a room it doesn’t ask for the code, perhaps if a room is there it’ll ask for the code when you attempt to join. I have seen videos showing that online play runs smooth enough to be enjoyable but with only two players and three tracks it will get old quick, hence no one playing anymore.

The cockpit view has a crazy sense of speed.

At the time of writing Virtua Racing is only available on the Japanese eShop for 999 yen. In order to purchase it you will need to either set up a Japanese account or change your region on Nintendo’s website to Japan then purchase an eShop card, my personal preference is https://www.seagm.com/nintendo-wii-3ds-eshop-prepaid-card-japan and the 1000 yen card cost me £8.20 after PayPal conversion charges.

It’s worth the hassle of using a Japanese account when Virtua Racing looks this good.

With only three tracks it is hard to say Virtua Racing is good value for money but what it is is pretty damn fun to play and the definitive version of Virtua Racing even if it missing the extra cars and tracks of some of the console releases. For fans of 90s arcade racing games I can wholeheartedly recommend Virtua Racing on Switch as the perfect way to play this piece of arcade history.

I argue that this is his greatest work.

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