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Reviews on Retro Formula Racing (eShop Conversion)

Retro Formula Racing based on a specific era of barrel racer: specifically the very early polygon age, in which games like Racing Virtua (Oh, okay, it’s really only Virtua Racing) that wows video players.

Just like in Sega’s arcade racer, Formula Retro Racing uses large, chunky polygons for its cars and tracks and has very little shadows, giving everything an extremely clean look. and minimalist. Back in the day, this was necessary for performance, but in the modern era it’s purely a conscious design choice and we’re all for it. Like the Sega Ages re-release of Virtua Racing on Switch, this polygonal art style looks exceptional in HD and looks especially striking on the Switch OLED where its bold colors pop.

Unfortunately, however, the Switch version of the game also brings some pretty serious performance issues that can often be distracting. While the other versions of the game – to be released on Xbox and PC in 2020 and PlayStation next year – were able to hit a steady 60fps with relative ease, the Switch version also aim for 60 frames but often fall short.

Basically, whenever you’re racing for more than just a plain, uncharacteristic part of the track, the game starts to get a little choppy and obviously struggles to keep up with everything. . Given that one track, Monte Carlo, is based on the F1 Monaco track and is therefore full of other buildings and landscapes, this is one of the worst performing tracks and really gets in the way of enjoying what should be the highlight.

If you can handle these performance issues, what you have here is your typical arcade-style racer with solid reasonable handling. It can be quite satisfying when cornering at high speed because, in true Virtua Racing style, your car makes a pitiful squeal whenever you make a moderate turn, which means you’re always feel as if you’re pushing it to the limit even if you’re not. ‘t. It’s not very realistic, but it’s fun.

What’s less interesting, however, is how the AI ​​racers behave. It’s almost as if they don’t even realize you’re on the right track, and they regularly plow you down or get in your way, causing both of you to explode in a jumble of polygons and be forced to respawn. This shouldn’t be too frustrating given the fact that playing on Advanced difficulty often requires a perfect run to get to the finish line in the first place. On top of that, the game’s drafting mechanics (where you speed up by catching up with your opponent’s slide) don’t work until you’re actually right behind someone, which means smacking them in the back is something that happens often.

True to its roots, the game doesn’t have any sort of major progression system. The main Arcade mode allows you to simply play any of its eight tracks in Beginner, Advanced or Expert difficulty levels and the goal is simply to finish at the top first in each race and collect a trophy. Once you’ve collected all three trophies on every track, you’ve basically reached the limit of what you can do in Arcade mode.

There’s also another mode called Eliminator, which puts a fun spin on everything by essentially working like a survival mode. The aim here is to complete as many laps as possible without dropping to 10th place. That seems easy, but the weird thing is that each AI car gets a little bit faster each time you complete one. laps, which means they will eventually have a higher top speed than you.

Again, this mode comes in three difficulty levels and plays out on all eight tracks, meaning there’s at least one other fun chunk of gameplay to be had after all of the Arcade trophies have been earned. But once that’s done, there’s really not much else to do except try to improve your lap times. There is no master unlock, all the cars look exactly the same and work like we can tell, and there is no online multiplayer. There’s a split-screen multiplayer mode for 2-4 players, but as you’d expect, this mode also suffers from performance issues and can sometimes be even slower, which is a bad thing. real tiger.

Ultimately, these performance issues are the most disappointing aspect of the game. We don’t always stick to frame rates – some people sometimes take it too far, if you ask us – but there are certain situations where you have to step back and wonder why a game works the way it does. It’s clear from the way it looks, on paper the Switch should be able to handle something like Retro Formula Racing at 60fps without too much trouble. After all, more detailed games have solved this problem, which leads us to believe that there may be an optimization problem here.

The real problem facing the game, of course, is that its direct inspiration is also available on the Switch. All is well and good as an alternative to Virtua Racing on Xbox and PlayStation consoles, but when the actual Virtua Racing (in the guise of Sega Ages) is available, it costs half the price and runs at at 60 frames per second, then Formula Retro Racing suddenly became much harder to sell.

Inference

Formula Retro Racing is not a bad racing game. It’s perfectly fine, it handles well enough, and it does a good job of recreating the art style of the early ’90s arcade era. But its performance issues on the Switch and annoying AI behavior have meaning it’s only really worth considering if you’ve thoroughly washed everything to do in Sega Ages Virtua Racing and are looking for something else to scratch that same itch.

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