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Sega’s Virtua Racing for Switch is a stunning update of a technical landmark

Sega’s Virtua Racing for Switch is a stunning update of a technical landmark

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Virtua Racing is one of the most important games in Sega’s history, but there’s 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 ground-up PlayStation 2 remake, Sega hasn’t quite been able to capture the 1992 classic within the comfort of your home.

Until now, anyway. Sega’s new version of Virtua Racing is incredible, and since it’s on the Nintendo Switch, you’re getting a portable version into the bargain as well.

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 ran at 30 frames per second, which felt incredibly smooth back in the early days of 3D, and introduced 16:9 widescreen monitors to the arcade for the first time. It was also the first game to run on Sega’s Model 1 arcade hardware, which also powered the 1993 Star Wars arcade game and the first Virtua Fighter. The ability to change camera angle was particularly groundbreaking.

For the Switch version of Virtua Racing, released as part of the Sega Ages series, Sega has enlisted M2 — the remaster wizards behind the company’s awesome 3D Classics conversions for 3DS. M2 has preserved the original Virtua Racing assets, 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 stunning. Virtua Racing is nearly three decades old, but its flat-shaded art style has aged beautifully. There aren’t any blurry textures or over-ambitious models to draw you out of the experience — it’s a minimalist, stark visual presentation where everything feels cohesive. Virtua Racing was going for realism at the time, but it fits in perfectly with Sega’s trademark blue-sky aesthetic today.

The art has aged beautifully

More importantly, the game itself is fantastic. Conceived by Sega arcade legend Yu Suzuki and designed by Yakuza creator Toshihiro Nagoshi, it’s a fairly simple arcade take on Formula 1 with time-gated checkpoints. It only has three tracks, but the handling is subtle and the AI puts up a good fight. For some reason, the Switch isn’t a system with many good racing games, but this version of Virtua Racing is comfortably one of the best. It’s also the only racing game I know of that offers a hilarious — but surprisingly practical — eight-player split-screen multiplayer mode. 

Virtua Racing for Switch first launched in Japan back in May, and now it’s finally out for the rest of the world: you can check it out right here.

Update, June 28th: This review was originally published on May 17th, 2019, but has been updated now that the game is available outside of Japan.