From Sega Retro
Virtua Racing (バーチャレーシング) is an arcade racing game developed by Sega AM2 and published by Sega in 1992. Virtua Racing was the first game released for the Sega Model 1 arcade platform, and also the first to use the name "Virtua" in its title (something which would be followed by numerous Sega arcade games, including Virtua Fighter, Virtua Cop and Virtua Tennis. It is considered a milestone in the racing genre, and is a foundation for most modern racing games.
Initially created as proof of concept program for the system, Virtua Racing was given the all-clear to become a fully fledged arcade title during the Model 1's development, thereby becoming one of the first fast-paced 3D racing games to appear in arcades. Prior to this, most 3D racing games had been simulations, and often running very slow. Though Namco and Atari Games had put forward 3D arcade racers some years prior with Winning Run and Hard Drivin' respectively, Virtua Racing was among the first to render its worlds in sixty-frames-per-second, offer support for multiple human players, and include multiple camera angles adjustable during play.
Though the hardware was revolutionary at the time of release, it was quickly outclassed by its successor, the Sega Model 2 board which debuted towards the end of 1993. There are no textured polygons in Virtua Racing, as Model 1 hardware did not support them. There is also only one vehicle, and although when linked together it is offered in several colours, the stats never vary. There is no damage model (crashing merely slows you down), and although there are differing surface types, anything "not road" merely slows the car down - it does not affect handling in any way (this would be pioneered by Sega Rally Championship some years down the line).
There are also very few music tracks: during races, only jingles of several seconds play as the user crosses checkpoints and the goal line for laps; however, this is likely stylistic.
Virtua Racing does, however, have an advantage in terms of resolutions and polygon counts - though the flat shading leads to unrealistic-looking worlds, Virtua Racing actually renders more polygons in real time than its logical successor, Daytona USA, which brought the genre further forward. It would also take home systems several years to "catch up" in these two areas.
Virtua Racing was only available to arcade operators as single or twin cabinets, however four of the twin units can be linked up to create an eight-player experience.
The original release of Virtua Racing has the player race Formula 1 cars around three different tracks divided into difficulty:
Special "medium sized" attractions, usually only seen at SegaWorlds or other Sega-themed amusement parks, adapt the eight-player setup and upgrade the cabinets, creating Virtua Formula. Virtua Formula first debuted in 1993, and is almost identical (bar name) to Virtua Racing, though considerably harder to find. It also features fancier attract modes, covering all eight screens (there are variants of Daytona USA which do this too). Many Virtua Formula cabinets were later converted into eight-player Indy 500 ones.
The Mega Drive port
Virtua Racing was an arcade success, and though expected to avoid home consoles for quite some time due to the complexity of the Model 1 arcade board, saw an initially surprising port to the Sega Mega Drive in 1994. The Mega Drive version utilises a custom made "Sega Virtua Processor" chip, allowing the game to render polygons similar to the "Super FX" chip within Star Fox for the SNES, although it's arguably a great deal more powerful than the Super FX; the Mega Drive port is surprisingly accurate.
Though the Mega Drive Virtua Racing is one of the more technically advanced Mega Drive games in the library, the unusual specifications of the cart mean that it is often one of the first games to not be supported by cost-reduced hardware (for example, it won't work with the Genesis 3). The Mega Drive version also takes a hit in terms of graphics and sound, displaying fewer polygons at a smaller resolution with a restricted palette and lower frame rate. However, it and all of the other home ports include two-player modes, time trials and options usually only available to arcade operators.
The 32X port
Mere months later, Virtua Racing was released as a launch title for the Sega 32X, in the form of Virtua Racing Deluxe. Deluxe adds two extra tracks and due to the increased power of the 32X, has a greater resemblance to the Model 1 release. A Sega Saturn version of the game, officially titled Time Warner Interactive's VR Virtua Racing was brought to the console by Time Warner Interactive in 1995, sporting seven extra courses (on top of the three arcade tracks), four new cars and a grand prix mode among other additions.
Virtua Racing -FlatOut-
More recently, the game has been released as Virtua Racing -FlatOut-, part of the Sega Ages 2500 series on the PlayStation 2. This version includes an extra three new courses and four new cars to the Model 1 version.
Director / Chief Programmer: Yu Suzuki
Mega Drive Version
Director: Kouichi Nagata
Mega Drive Version
Mega Drive Version