Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Famicom Grand Prix: F1 Race (FDS)

One problem I often come across when it comes to selecting which Famicom game to buy next is actually finding out whether a title is worth purchasing. Usually a quick scout around Google or the Famicom World forums provides plenty of suggestions but there always seems to be the odd game that slips through the net or doesn’t receive much coverage. A quick search on eBay brings up little useful information for F1 Race often the case that the games sequel is mistaken for it but then I guess that’s one of the reasons for this blog. To find and explore these hidden gems that most seem to have passed by.

If it wasn’t for the games sequel I wouldn’t have known that F1 Race even existed and despite the name the two share very little in common besides Mario as a mascot. F1 Race is a top down perspective involving F1 vehicles whilst its successor (FGP 3D Hot Rally) is back behind the vehicle with a choice of Rally cars to drive, two totally different games but from the same series. It was sheer luck that the eBay seller I bought the sequel from had a spare copy of this hanging around and for the small sum of £8 I was sent a pretty decent version. The disk comes with all its original health warning paperwork, manual, case and even the plastic shell cover that protected new titles on shop shelves.

The sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed that the disk is blue with a protective cover over the disk reading section. This works similar to the protective metal sheath on a floppy disk preventing dirt from damaging the disk itself. A God send considering just how easy it can be to damage or wipe the data and it makes me wonder why Nintendo didn’t use these. Some further digging and it appears that Nintendo held several competitions back in the 80’s for its Famicom Disk game series, people would save their highest score (or lap time in this case) to the disk and post it back to Nintendo to win a prize. This ranged from pencil cases to a special release Game & Watch shaped like the Famicom mascot Diskun.

Released in 1987 by Nintendo the game was limited to the Japanese market and from what I could learn on Wikipedia it seems Nintendo did have plans to release the Grand Prix series to other countries but for reasons unknown decided against it, which is sad when you realise just how good the games actually are.

Loading the disk I was presented with a chequered flag motif on the title screen as well as a side scrolling F1 vehicle (take a look at the video to see this in action) which compared to past Famicom games I’ve reviewed is a definite improvement. The two choices we will focus on are time trial and Grand Prix racing, time trial is literally just that. You select a track, the number of laps, other cars and a turbo option then it’s simply a matter of racing around the track trying to get as fast a time as possible. Once finished you save the score to disk and then send it off to Nintendo for a chance to win some prizes. I can’t read a work of Japanese but I can only assume the competition has long since ended!

The Grand Prix section is where the real fun lies. Racing against other cars to gain the fastest lap record each successive win nets you a cash prize that can be used to buy further F1 cars. The controls do take a bit of getting used to with you having to turn the whole car in a direction rather than the steering seeming to curve its just a matter of moments to get past the strange feeling that could even improve as you buy more F1 cars and it wont be long before you are speeding your way past the other racers. It’s not as simple as it sounds however because each car has a level of maintenance or health if you will as well as a lifetime for tyres and having to keep an eye on the fuel gage. The lower each becomes the more unresponsive the car is and you are often faced with the decision of pressing on or risking wasting valuable race time by making a pit stop.

For a Famicom game it does a pretty good job of recreating the Grand Prix experience which stands well in its favour. There is no option for a second player considering the available parts of the track that can be seen at any time it’s understandable. I will say this I’m not a fan of 3D racing games and it’s a joy to go back to the routes of the genre and play some top down racing fun, another game to be added to the regular pile.

On a side note this is the first entry that will include some game play videos. This is all new and I’m experimenting with what I can actually do at the moment but if people would like to see different types of clips then please feel free to post some comments in the requests section. I may even go back and record similar video’s for past blog entries.


Anonymous said...

Wait, do you play your games stretched to widescreen? :s

Lorfarius said...

I use a Samsung HDTV but the camera had to record in Widescreen in order to fit the entire game in shot. The problems with my camera setup Im afraid.

Anonymous said...

I tried this game, but I could never win. I know some cars have "turbo". Is there any way to use this?
Also, do you have to win the whole grand prix to win money?

Lorfarius said...

From what I've seen the only way to win money is by winning Grand Prix races. I'm afraid I'm yet to win enough money to buy another car so haven't had chance to try the Turbo out yet!

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