SummaryUnnecessary? Yes Amazing? Also yes.
The GoodVirtua Racing is generally regarded as one of the best and most important games that has ever been produced.
Designed originally to test potential arcade hardware it quickly became a hit amongst the development team and plans were made for a wide scale arcade release. What followed? The perception in the arcade industry and the home console industry that change was necessary. It prompted evolution as developers scrambled to hasten together "next generation" 3D polygonal games.
While the concept of 3D games was nothing new by Virtua Racing's release it was the first game to run 3D in an exciting fashion, at an acceptable frame rate and in a form that was widely appealing.
With such breakout arcade success Sega was obviously chomping at the bit to augment the ageing Mega Drive architecture with the technical capability to run Virtua Racing's comparatively demanding rendering techniques.
On one side Sega was working on Mars, which was the genesis (no pun intended) of the ill fated and unfairly maligned 32x. On another side Sega was working on a way to get Virtua Racing to run on the Mega Drive, with no 3D capability the only way to run it was with some sort of additional technical augmentation.
So, along came the SVP which functioned much like the SuperFX chip developed by Argonaut for Nintendo in 1993. With the SVP DSP running in tandem with the Mega Drive the console was able to run Virtua Racing without the necessity for an add-on like the 32x.
With the history of the SVP out of the way you can now understand how impressive it is to turn on your Mega Drive and be confronted with what is essentially Virtua Racing. There are the original Beginner, Intermediate and Expert courses from the arcade and the added benefits of Free Run mode and Multiplayer. There aren't many surprises content wise, however if you're a fan of Virtua Racing you probably weren't expecting and didn't ask for surprises.
The graphical accomplishments on display in this amazing package are the main selling point of what was a rather expensive cartridge at launch. The game is by no means a pixel picture rendition of the original arcade classic, nor is the 32x version of the game for that matter. The main graphical draw of Virtua Racing is the novelty of seeing your Mega Drive pushing polygons better than the Atari Jaguar. Not that I'm rubbishing the Atari Jaguar, I'm a closet fan of it (not anymore I suppose) but it's impossible not to compare this game to Checkered Flag. It's a fantastic looking game, with well rendered, vivid polygonal landscapes whipping by a steady frame rate.
The BadHowever impressive Virtua Racing is, it's still simply an augmented Mega Drive game. The colors, while vivid are somewhat bland if stood alongside the 32x Virtua Racing Deluxe. The polygons are generally clean, however they do exhibit jagged edges and the occasional indistinct mashing of models or environmental detail. Despite being a polygonal wonder, you can still tell this is a Mega Drive game and while that familiar nostalgia spurred warmth will comfort Mega Drive fans, those who are not Mega Drive fans will cluck their tongues at the muted tones and jagged polygons of the game.
While the SVP augments the graphical capabilities of your console the sound remains the same. If you're generally fine with the sound of the Mega Drive you won't mind, however a lot of people don't like the way the Mega Drive synthesizes sound. The fact that the SVP does nothing to improve the sound of your console may not impress you.
In the end the question remains whether this port of the game is necessary or not. With two versions of the game technically available on the console it begs the question whether the R&D costs into the SVP and this port of the game were truly needed. It's understandable Sega would have wanted to allow as much market penetration for their primary 3D console endeavours as possible however while this port of the game is an amazing novelty it seems somewhat more of a novelty than anything else.
The Bottom LineVirtua Racing on the Mega Drive didn't particularly do anything new nor did it break ground. It did however provide the Mega Drive with an impressive piece of technology that allowed it to provide non 32x owners to have their own piece of 3D arcade racing action at home.
The fantastic graphical and processing augmentation provided by the SVP however does little to lift the real Mega Drive feel that this game possesses. The muted tones, dark colors and ill composed music show that while 3D games on the Mega Drive are an interesting novelty they don't go beyond that.