The Switch is not only a typical Nintendo console with the beloved mascots of the Japanese developer, but if we are honest also a reservoir of mainly various ports of games that initially come from (stick) old generation consoles. Every now and then we are happy with ports that are really fantastic. Although we still have to keep the correct spirit of the game in mind, these unmistakable gems are still available today and are so good. Virtua Racing is the latest port to the Switch and boy is it one to lick your fingers at.
SEGA was the undisputed king in the arcade halls in the ’80s and’ 90s. The company offered lots of games where you could spend your money on and most of them were very good too. Names like SEGA Rally, OutRun, House of the Dead, Virtua Fighter and the primeval father of the 3D arcade racer, Virtua Racer. This game originally came out in 1992 and at the time your jaw fell to the ground due to the flowing animations and graphic power of the game. This was mainly due to SEGA, which literally wanted to crush the competitors. 3D graphics were really in their infancy, but this belonged to a group of games that convincingly managed to conjure up 3D on your screen. The game was a brilliant relationship between polygons and sprites. Today you can still laugh at the game somewhere if you look purely at the appearance, because with a retrospective look sprites are better matured than the flat, bare polygons that run together, don’t you?
But today these flat texture-less polygons are a brilliant (albeit unconscious) move. The conversion to the Switch is really fantastic. Yes, you are still looking at the same flat and bare polygons, but in a full 1080P. The advantage, however, is that the game has its own face that remains incredibly recognizable. The effects have not changed, so you will not find excessive HDR or modified filter effects. What you do find is apparently logical: the game runs at 60 frames per second where the original got stuck at 30 (already a very good performance at the time). This ensures a very responsive game in terms of control. No tap on the stick or four-point push button passes unnoticed.
The reason the game is so fantastic has more to do with the controls than the graphics. SEGA knows very well how to make a very tight arcade game. Virtua Racing is no exception because this game plays like a dream. Every pressure I gave on the keys or with the analog stick provided direct input and every mistake I made was really due to myself. And this makes the game almost perfect. It ensures that you are consciously involved in controlling the game. Keep your car on the asphalt. Because when you go next to the outer white lines or on the grass you lose a lot of time. Perfecting your lines is therefore extremely addictive and you never feel abandoned by the gameplay, despite the arcade principle that the game still uses.
The game is a true arcade sport, which means that you start a race with a descending timer. You must pass through a checkpoint within the time to allow you to complete a total of five rounds. You can choose between the difficulty levels easy, normal and hard in advance. This means that the course will be more challenging in the form of more turns, narrower tracks and slightly faster opponents. Your mistakes are therefore punished faster and the timer therefore threatens to become tighter than before. The joke is that the computer constantly makes the same pre-programmed errors. In this way, every blue opponent spins on the bridge at start-finish on easy. Nevertheless, the old adage “practice makes perfect” is applicable and it is all about squeezing out that perfect round.
The coolest addition is the local eight-player option. Yes, you read that right. Eight (!) Players simultaneously on one Switch. Of course you just have to have four pairs of Joy-Cons, but still. Although I have not been able to test this option, the addition is brilliant. Because with four players it works great and according to SEGA the performance with eight players remains constant. You can also race online, which might be the fairest test of skill if you were to compare other racing games. In this case, simplicity is really a powerful element of Virtua Racing and you wear out race after race without you noticing. Another addition is the ranking that you can keep up with and that gives the arcade feeling back. It was wonderful to add my first three letters. Although the charm is a bit off – who is that guest who is unbeatably in number one position – to use your hard-earned money to stand in the arcade halls at the top, the effect is now available online. Last but not least, is the replay option. It is a nice addition to perfect your racing line, but it doesn’t stop there.
Virtua Racing from the SEGA Ages collection is a must have for your Switch for seven Dollars or Euros. The game plays perfectly, has local and online multiplayer options and is ideal for traveling. I enjoyed playing a racing game so much that you don’t depend on oddities in the controls or on small imperfections. No, the graphics aren’t beautiful for todays standards, but with this conversion the game is almost a hundred percent true to the original, which emphasizes the retro feeling. Do I look at it too nostalgically? Certainly not. The game is really that good.
SEGA AGES Virtua Racing is probably the best SEGA AGES game to date and the arcade racing feels better then ever.