In this day and age, 3D racing games are a dime a dozen. But just a few decades ago, they were the new hotness. Back in 1992, Sega’s arcade title Virtua Racing became one of the earliest fully 3D racing games. Now, it’s been brought back to modern screens as an entry in the Sega Ages collection with Sega Ages: Virtua Racing. Despite its age (older than me), I found it to be quite a joy.
Virtua Racing puts you in the cockpit of a high-powered Formula 1 racing car. With three tracks to conquer, the goal of the game is simple: get the fastest lap possible. Each race is a time trial, with the main goal being to improve your time with each playthrough. That said, there are 15 other cars on the track, so you would think that grabbing pole position would also be a part of the goal.
Since this was originally an arcade game and a retro one at that, the difficulty is certainly up there. Thus, unlike in most other racing games, getting the best time really should be your focus here. Believe me — I tried hard to claw my way up to first, but the highest I ever made it to was 4th. Continuing with its arcade heritage, once a race is over, you enter your initials and that’s posted on the leaderboards with your time. Due to it now being 2019 and not 1991, the leaderboards are hosted online, so you can compare your time to the Top 50 in the world.
Timing is everything
Try as I did, I was never able to crack even the 50th position. All of this was a reminder that titles back in the day really were difficult. And here’s the thing — Virtua Racing does have the decency of including five difficulty levels: Easiest, Easy, Normal, Hard, and Hardest. Which do you think I played on the most? Yup — it was “Easiest.” These difficulty levels don’t seem to alter the AI behavior; the cars are fast and don’t crash regardless of which level you select. The only thing that changes is the countdown timer. On the “Easiest” setting, each checkpoint scattered around the track awards 15 seconds of extra time.
The whole racing experience is spread across two modes: Normal and Grand Prix. Normal races are five laps and Grand Prix races are a whopping 20. Each GP race takes an average of 15 minutes; however, the final and hardest track, Acropolis, clocked in at 20 minutes. I didn’t even complete it — I ran out of time on the 20th lap. So, again, don’t come into Virtua Racing expecting for it to be a cake walk.
This ain’t no Sunday drive
Despite its high difficulty and low amount of content, Sega Ages: Virtua Racing on Switch still turned out to be fun for me. Of course, it pales in comparison to any high-quality modern racer, but unlike many other retro titles, this one has aged really well. Everything about it is simplistic, yet still nice. The driving mechanics are a bit stiff and twitchy, though still very manageable. There are even two steering modes, Normal and Arcade. The Arcade option allows for gradual inputs with the thumbstick, which is more realistic. You can even control the throttle with the analog stick to make up for the Switch’s lack of analog triggers. If you’re feeling really brave, you can enable motion controls — though I personally didn’t like them all that much.
The low-poly visuals also look very clean on Switch now that they’re being displayed in 1080p. Due to the colorful art style, it still holds up today, and the smooth 60 FPS brings the presentation together quite nicely. I also enjoyed the soundtrack, despite how limited it is. There’s really only one full song, and it only plays during the Replay mode. That said, it’s still a funky little tune.
M2 did a pretty good job at this port. Everything looks and runs quite well, and the customization options for the gameplay and controls are much appreciated. While I wish the visuals looked more like the PS2 port of the game, and that there were more content, this is still a neat little package that should prove to be fun for any fan of racing games, whether you’re a novice or veteran.
A review code was provided by the publisher.
SEGA AGES: Virtua Racing7.99
- Beautiful visuals and smooth frame rate
- Lots of tweaking options in the emulator
- Local and online multiplayer features, and online leaderboards
- Game mechanics still hold up well all these years later
- A little difficult, even at lower difficulty levels
- Motion controls are meh
- Some may find it too small