Retro Resolution Retro Review
System: Sega Megadrive/Genesis 32X
Developer: Sega AM2
Release date: December 1994 (Japan, US, UK)
Life on Mars?
In January 1994 Sega CEO Hayao Nakayama instructed his development department to create a 32-bit console, a commandment which, along with the Saturn, resulted in Project Mars, the US developed 32X Megadrive add-on. It never stood a chance, launching virtually simultaneously with Sony’s Playstation and Sega’s own Saturn in Japan, and with a scant few months head-start over both in Europe and America, and priced at an eye-watering £170 in the UK.
Doubtless the Megadrive’s magic mushroom was too little, too late; nevertheless, viewed in isolation the machine is blessed with a number of hugely impressive games, Virtua Racing Deluxe ranking amongst the very best.
The Virtua universe is one rendered through flat shaded polygons, bereft even of gourad shading, to say nothing of texture mapping; having initially aged swiftly, the simplistic style appears now to have matured, presenting a distinctive, almost artistic, purity.
There is little time for aesthetic appreciation, however, given the wonderful sense of speed imparted as the vibrant, varied scenery streams by your chosen vehicle – either the standard Formula, or the 32X exclusive Stock and Prototype classes.
Supremely playable, Virtua Racing offers highly responsive steering and control from the digital pad; little beats the sensation of holding the car on the very verge of a spin-out whilst hurtling around your competitors on a hairpin bend.
Securing a podium finish engages the excellent replay mode, replete with selectable camera angles (although these do expose the lack of polygons, leaving large glitches and gaps in the surroundings).
Not without reason is this entitled the Deluxe edition; alongside the expanded roster of vehicles the 32X makes proud its coin-op parent with the addition of time attack, split-screen two player, and unlockable mirror modes. Two additional tracks are also present, Highland, and the sublime Sand Park desert courses.
Whilst Sega had already produced a plucky standard Megadrive port, uniquely utilising the SVP chip, the 32X incarnation boasts a considerably higher polygon count, colour depth, frame-rate, and resolution; all of which, alongside wonderfully funky music and sampled sound effects, directly translate into massively improved game-play.
This brilliant realisation of Virtua Racing utterly trounces the abysmal Saturn conversion, and ranks as one of the best home translations of the legendary arcade original. Worth owing a 32X for? Undoubtedly.
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