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|Developer: Sega AM2, Sega AM4 (cabinet)|
|System(s): Sega Model 1, Sega Mega Drive|
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 was a milestone in 3D graphics and the racing genre, and acts as a foundation for most modern racing games. It was ported to the Mega Drive (with the Sega Virtua Processor chip on the cartridge), 32X, and Saturn.
Virtua Racing is a 3D racing game, where players drive formula one-esque cars around one of three tracks against 15 other vehicles (either computer or player controlled). Like earlier Sega games, it is time-limited, with checkpoints dotted around the track to extend play.
The game was Sega's first foray into 3D graphics, following over a decade's worth of pseudo-3D offerings (starting with Turbo) with 2D sprites scaling in real time. Almost everything in Virtua Racing is rendered with flat-shaded quadrilateral polygons, which means track designs are more complex than in prior Sega racers. The physics model, however, is not dissimilar to earlier games such as Power Drift - it is impossible to destroy your car, and the only penalty for driving off-road is a significant speed decrease.
Crashing into an obstacle or opponent at a high speed causes one of two animations to play out, both of which simply slow progress for a short period of time (that is to say, the angles and forces of impact have very little bearing on the result of a crash). Crashing will also force the vehicle to face forward, so while it is fully possible to turn 180 degrees and drive in the opposite direction (unlike many previous Sega outings), the game makes every attempt to stop you from doing so. The simplified collision also means it is impossible to run over your pit crew (although you can still drive through them).
In multiplayer modes, Virtua Racing implements a crude "rubber banding" system, in which cars behind the leader have better performance. Every player drives an identical car, save for differences in colour scheme.
Virtua Racing features multiple camera angles which can be selected on the cabinet itself. It also has a seven speed manual mode, the "manual" car being faster than its "automatic" counterpart if driven correctly.
Unlike Sega arcade games both before and since, Virtua Racing is very light on music, with only one of a dozen jingles playing each time the player crosses a checkpoint. Unusually for the era, cabinets also support 16:9 widescreen displays - originally intended for the "deluxe" model, this gives the player a more expanded look of the playfield (although the internal resolution of the game remains the same).
The original release of Virtua Racing has the player race around three different tracks divided into difficulty:
Virtua Racing was available to arcade operators as single or twin cabinets. Four of the twin units can be linked up to create an eight-player experience.
Special "medium sized" attractions, usually only seen at SegaWorlds or other Sega-themed amusement parks, adapt the eight-player setup of Virtua Racing and upgrade the cabinets, creating Virtua Formula.
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 (SVP) chip, allowing the game to render significantly more polygons than the Super FX chip within Star Fox for the SNES, as the SVP is 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 Mega Drive version and the SVP chip were announced at CES in Summer 1993, before releasing in 1994. Sega had originally planned to release a steering wheel peripheral for the Mega Drive specifically for this game, but the idea was shelved.
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.
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.
A version of the game was also planned for the Sega VR, a virtual reality headset accessory for the Mega Drive/Genesis that was planned to release in fall 1993. (Electronic Gaming Monthly, Video Game Preview Guide, 1993) However, the game, along with the accessory, was later cancelled.
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 (1988) and Hard Drivin' (1989) respectively, Virtua Racing was among the first to render its worlds in sixty-frames-per-second and offer support for multiple human players, and the first to include multiple camera angles adjustable during play.
It was also the first game to feature human characters rendered with 3D polygons, both as mechanics and spectators, in fully polygonal 3D environments. The polygonal 3D human models used in Virtua Racing later formed the basis for the character models seen in Virtua Fighter.
The game was a commercial success in the arcades. In North America, RePlay's coin-op charts in April 1993 listed Virtua Racing as the highest-earning deluxe video game arcade cabinet. It remained the highest-earning deluxe cabinet in the May 1993 charts.
The hardware was revolutionary at the time of release, but Virtua Racing was later 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 did not support them in hardware. There is one vehicle, and when linked together it is offered in several colours, but the stats never vary. Crashing slows the car down, but there is no damage model. There are differing surface types, with anything not on-road slowing the car down, but it does not affect handling, which would be pioneered by Sega Rally Championship several years later.
There are a few music tracks: during races, and jingles of several seconds play as the user crosses checkpoints and the goal line for laps; this is likely stylistic.
Virtua Racing was succeeded by its logical successor, Daytona USA, which brought the genre further forward. It would also take home systems several years to "catch up" to Virtua Racing in terms of 3D resolution and polygon counts.
Mega Drive JP TV advert
Mega Drive UK TV advert
|Sega Retro Average|
| Based on|
|Model 1, US (upright)|
|Model 1, US (twin)|
|Model 1, US (deluxe)|
|Model 1, JP (upright)|
|Model 1, JP (twin)|
|Model 1, JP (deluxe)|
|Sega Retro Average|
| Based on|
|Mega Drive, SE (Rental)|
|Mega Drive, SE (Rental; alt)|
|Virtua Racing series of games|
|Virtua Racing (1992) | Virtua Formula (1993)|
|Virtua Racing (1994)|
|Virtua Racing Deluxe (1994)|
|Time Warner Interactive's VR Virtua Racing (1995)|
|Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 8: Virtua Racing FlatOut (2004)|
|Virtua Racing related media|
|Virtua Racing & OutRunners (1993) | Yu Suzuki Produce G-LOC/R360/Virtua Racing (1998)|
|Virtua Racing: Official Racing Guide (1994) | Virtua Racing Hisshou Kouryaku-hou (199x)|