Hailed as one of the most revolutionary games of its time in helping spread the use of 3D polygons in gaming, Virtua Racing blazed out onto Nintendo Switch today as part of the Sega Ages lineup of revivals ported by M2. Alongside it came an interview with the crew at M2 and Sega that made this happen, who talked about how this version, announced at TGS 2018, came to be. [Thanks, Game Watch!]
According to M2 head Naoki Horii, it turns out that the idea has been in the works for quite some time, dating back to the Sega 3D Classics days on the 3DS. Back then though, working with the 3DS hardware, M2 wanted to port the Sega 32X version of Virtua Racing, and began looking into the possibility.
When the time came for fans to vote in which game they’d like to be added into the third Sega 3D Classics Collection that was only released in Japan, M2 were all ready to port Virtua Racing (32X)… only for Turbo OutRun to beat it to first place at the last second. And so, the project was shelved…
…Except not really. Horii and the others at M2 continued to test out the possibility of Virtua Racing on 3DS for another 3 months, until it was officially announced that the 3D Classics line would be ending. The results of those tests are seen above.
With the announcement of Sega Ages for the Nintendo Switch, Horii and M2 set out once again to bring over Virtua Racing, only this time the original arcade version. Yet it was a difficult journey, as the source code was virtua-lly lost, and the game required it be built from the ground up as it ran on the old Model 1 arcade hardware. According to M2’s Kazuki Kubota, it took a long time to do so, and many times they would find something likely, only for it to be model data for Daytona USA or development data from Virtua Fighter. They even found some really interesting things, like the prototype data for the unreleased Sega 32X version of Wing War.
It was Sega Ages lead producer Rieko Kodama who ended the drought, by asking around her old colleagues. It turned out that one of the main programmers for Virtua Racing still had the data kept privately, although it was for the Virtua Formula updated release of Virtua Racing. Still, it used Virtua Racing as the base, and M2 worked backwards to “re-develop” the original arcade version that didn’t use borrowed code from Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter.
Some other interesting tidbits from the interview include that this release is based on the Deluxe version of Virtua Racing that was a forerunner in the use of 16:9 widescreen monitors in the golden age of arcade gaming, but didn’t have multiplayer like the original release. Thus, it had to be built back into the Deluxe version by M2. Additionally, all the polygon models were upgraded into HD by M2, but the backgrounds and 2D sprites were all left in their blocky glory.
The Nintendo Switch version of Virtua Racing plays at 720p in handheld mode, and 1080p in docked mode, both at 60fps instead of the arcade original’s 30fps. The draw distance has been improved so you can see everything up ahead, and includes the option to play with up to 8 players total. The game is available today on the Nintendo Switch’s Japanese eShop.