- Developer: M2
- Publisher: SEGA
- Release Date: 27/07/2019
- Price: $7.99/ £5.99
- Review code provided by SEGA
Race to the Future
Time capsules are wonderful ideas. Being able to open a pocket of history years later and seeing where we have progressed from as a society is feeling like no other. Whether it is from 10, 15, 30 or 100 years, seeing how things were is usually inciteful and maybe a bit humorous. Seeing a fad from 30 years ago and thinking, “I’m glad that didn’t stick” is bound to happen. Sometimes though, you will see something and look back with awe and possibly think to yourself, “Man, this was it”. I believe that the latter is what SEGA is hoping gamers will do with it’s SEGA AGES line. Virtua Racing is one of the latest titles released in the series and after reaching the finish line, does it get the gold, or just a bronze?
Virtua Racing was developed by SEGA in 1992 for it’s Model 1 arcade board. Leading the development was Yu Suzuki, famous then for his many projects including Out Run & Space Harrier. Also on staff was a young Toshihiro Nagoshi, who would later go on to direct the Yakuza series. While this was not the first 3D racing game of it’s kind, it was one of the more technically stunning examples. When most people think of gaming in 1992, they think of 2D games or 3D-ish games such as Mario Kart’s Mode 7 graphics. Virtua Racing was full of real 3D polygons, and it was also a precursor to an even more iconic arcade racer, Daytona USA.
Let’s Go Away!
The basic premise of Virtua Racing pits the player against 15 other computer racers on one of three tracks. Cars are generic formula one racers, with different color schemes for the opponents. The levels are categorized as beginner, intermediate and expert. Once you begin racing, it must be noted that this is 100% true to its origins port, as each section features a time limit, and if you do not reach the check point before your time is out, its game over. This can be adjusted in the game’s settings, under difficulty. Adjusting the difficulty lower just adds more seconds to the clock, it doesn’t seem to affect the other drivers’ behaviors. Reaching the end of 5 laps (or 20 if you play Grand Prix) in one of the top three spots will give you a simple cutscene with the credits rolling shortly after. It’s a nice touch but can be discouraging getting just a game over screen if you get 4th or lower.
This version does offer multiplayer, both local and online. Playing in local mode forces you to use a single Joy Con, which is frustrating. If you prefer your multiplayer racing with a Pro Controller, then online is a perfect option. Online play was not the smoothest as I was not able to find too many players with stable connections. The lag was extremely noticeable, but I still managed to have a good experience as the other players seemed to be having similar experiences.
I genuinely loved the art style of Virtua Racing, not as cutting edge, but as a product of its time. As I mentioned at the start of this review, these polygons were out of this world in 1992. But, 27 years later, they look quite simple. The bright colors help and the game runs extremely smooth thanks to M2’s great port work. One detail that really stuck out to me was the crash animations. There were spin outs and there were also full on flip crashes. I love seeing these in racing games and knowing the developers took extra time to animate them just makes me that much happier.
One thing I found quite odd with Virtua Racing was the fact that it doesn’t really have much of a soundtrack. It consists of mostly fanfares when you reach a new lap or check point. The rest of the driving is just the rev of the engine and the screech of the brakes. Both of which sound good for their era but having no real soundtrack to make the driver “put the pedal to the metal” to, really can be a downer.
If You’re Not First, You’re Last!
In my time spent with this retro racer, I found I enjoyed playing the console docked better. It may just be in my head, but I found myself racing better docked than in handheld mode. That’s not to say that handheld mode suffered from any flaws, it is more of a preference. The game ran extremely well in handheld mode and you can tell all the love and care that M2 has put into the emulation to make sure it plays identical in both modes.
Virtua Racing was a marvel of technology in 1992. Now, seeing it from the time capsule that is SEGA Ages, I can certainly appreciate what it was as a steppingstone to the future. As a stand-alone game, there isn’t much to offer unless you are a diehard racing fan that loves shaving extra seconds off your laps. There are worse ways you can spend $8, and I personally hope supporting this game means Daytona USA will join the SEGA Ages line-up.
- Clean Early 3D Polygons
- Buttery Smooth Performance
- Easy to Pick Up
- Lack of Real Soundtrack
- Only 3 Tracks
- Laggy Online
While SEGA Ages: Virtua Racing is minimal on content, it is a glimpse into the beginning of SEGA’s enjoyable 3D racing legacy.