Virtua Racing | Nintendo Switch Review

Let’s get straight to it: Virtua Racing is ace. No questions asked. Some time ago, I saw it pop up on a few YouTube videos as the game had appeared on the Japanese eShop with minimal publicity but now is available in the wicky wicky wild wild west.

My first experience of the game was back on the 32X – though want to say it was the Sega Mega Drive. I need to check that as it probably wasn’t powerful enough. I didn’t have either machine anyway as it was a friend’s house, and much like how it is today, AAA titles were expensive for teens at school, so he didn’t have many titles to choose from.

For me, it didn’t seem that revolutionary, though clearly, it was for the gaming industry. It looked like a load of blocks and was F1, something I wasn’t into at the time, but now love the sport. I’d initially seen Virtua Racing in the arcades, and it enticed a few mobs, but the turning point for me, and many others was Daytona.

Medium view of the car on the beginner course

The Qualifying Lap

So why Virtua Racing then if it isn’t for nostalgic purpose? Well, it’s pretty much arcade perfect. That was a term we used to use back in the day for arcade ports, but none were that close aside from the NeoGeo. Virtua Racing is more or less perfect, though. Aside from having the machine in your home, this is the closest experience, in my opinion. Also, it’s arguably the best driving game on the Switch, in a very limited catalogue.

The first course of action is to run a race in one of three stages and obtain the fastest time possible. Virtua Racing is essentially a time attack game. Yes, there are other racers, and you can improve on your position, but if your time drops before the next checkpoint, it’s game over. The aim is to reach various checkpoints throughout each lap, but the time carries over on the next lap. In other words, if you have a particularly lousy lap, the time will eat into your overall performance.

With that in mind, it’s a lot of fun. Virtua Racing only gets serious if you try to get the best times. Back in the arcade you would get a high score, put in your initials for the local arcade players to challenge. Here, you have an online ranking system. When you’re up against the world, the stakes change. It can also be sobering as to how bad you can be compared to the elite (or, in other words, the rest of the world). If you want to be the best of the best, you can. Either through practice or, get this: studying the best player’s lines by watching their replay videos. Great for those looking to improve, not so much for those trying to stay at the top.

Inside view of car

A Social Event With Great Controls

Virtua Racing is old school too – it’s not just about online play as you can have up to eight people play on local multiplayer. Excellent if you have that many friends, even better if you have the hardware. You’re not going to be able to replicate the screens in the arcade unless you have the money and space, but it’s certainly more practical – and affordable. But the value as a single-player is there, and it’s just a dream to play on your own.

Controls are tight, and it handles as you would expect of a current-gen racing game, considering it came out in 1992. Playing on the pro controller is always my method of choice, but the joy-cons are good to use too. If you’re a nutter, you could set up motion controls, but I did that on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe once, and it wasn’t fun.

The graphics were revolutionary like I think I mentioned before, and in this case, they haven’t aged in this retro, handheld gaming world. The colours are bright and bold and look great on the Switch. I understand that this runs even better than previous iterations as it goes up to 11 on this one, a.k.a. 60 FPS. That’s pretty good. One minor detail; I didn’t like the car shadow – it’s incredibly petty, but the effect annoys me a little.

Beach view from Virtua Racing expert course

Heading for the Finish Line

So, lots of players, a ranking system, a replay mode and fantastic graphics. The sound and music is classic arcade too. There’s no ongoing music, but each time you get a time extension, you get a little jingle, then back to the roaring engines. You’d think that the three stages would limit it, but they don’t.

I still maintain that Daytona is the king of arcade racers and don’t think I’m alone in hoping that there will be a Sega Ages port very soon, let alone Sega Rally. In the meantime, Virtua Racing isn’t just a make-do, it will remain at the top of the list for the foreseeable future regardless of whether Daytona is released.

Physical releases are always my preference over digital, and I could be persuaded to buy this separately if available. But, the eShop is a convenience. There’s no waiting for delivery, it’s downloaded to your account pretty swiftly and doesn’t get chewed up by your dog. For Virtua Racing, I paid £5.99, which was worth it. Additionally, as it’s digital if anyone asks to borrow it, I tell them they can’t as it’s only available from my library [insert sinister laugh].

Right, for once I’m a little lost for words and would be continuing for the sake of it. I can’t say much more about Virtua Racing other than to go buy it and start your path to being a better driver by cutting a tenth of a second off your lap times.