TV Game

racing roundup (tentative title?)

People seem to like it when I talk about racing games so I played some more for the blog woo hoo let’s goooooooooo!!!

First up is Nakajima Satoru Kanshuu F-1 Hero MD. For those unaware, Satoru Nakajima is a former driver and teammate to Ayrton Senna, known for uh…being a teammate to Ayrton Senna. But, you know, that’s good enough to get you six games with your name on them. And at least one of them is good! But not this one, though.

the main menu is presented by a group of seemingly bored women looking at something off screen. a good sign.

It’s an attempt at a Super Scaler game on the Mega Drive. Driving from a cockpit view, attempting to navigate courses with terrible draw distance. I could just barely get through a practice race, as the controls are really bad. No matter what your car’s setting are, you will go over the chicane when you want to reorient yourself on the track, and understeer every single sharp turn. Doesn’t help matters when you hit something (and you will), your car will (realistically) immediately stop dead in its tracks, back in first gear going zero kilometers per hour. It is barely playable.

and you only get half a screen to work with

To the game’s credit, at least its barely-concealed use of real-life teams and drivers did make me laugh. Big fan of Alain Prest and Nigel Mansol, here. Off-topic, but I was very glad to hear that Sebastian Vettel finally got the fuck out of Farreri; they were really fucking him over for too long.

a genetic clone of satoru nakajima made from circus peanuts gives you advice before the race

Much like Nakajima himself, his game is vastly outclassed by Ayrton Senna. It fucking sucks.

A funny thing here is that this actually left Japan. Here, it was known as Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge. Forget for a moment that Nakajima never actually drove for Ferrari- sorry, Farreri. Another funny thing: the Western version is actually much worse. AI cars all but vanish the moment a race starts, leaving you behind to sit there and slowly eat shit like a loser.

Also, what the fuck is this menu screen:


The next game is Nakajima Satoru Kanshuu F1 Grand Prix. This one is much better. Another top-down racer, only the controls are pretty good this time around. You can actually finish races, possibly even get a podium!

You can see in the screenshot above that it’s a very simple looking game. Very serviceable sprite work with a relatively unobtrusive HUD. But it works. After all, in a genre like racing, you need to be able to see the road in front of you. Another great thing you may have noticed is that the faster you go, the further to the bottom of the screen your car is, allowing you more time to see upcoming turns or other cars in your way. It seems like such a silly thing to get excited over, but holy fuck dude, I went off when I saw this. Finally, a developer that gets it! Varie Corporation had a meeting, and they said “we want to make a racing game, possibly even a good one.” and then proceeded to almost do that. What keeps it from being the best game on this post are the controls still being a little too touchy, and the view, even with the shifting viewpoint, is too zoomed-in for my liking. Other than that, the game is perfectly acceptable. A solid F1 game.

Something really cool is the use of photorealistic graphics for things like Nakajima, or even the pit crew working on your car. Hey, at least I appreciated it!


Last game for this entry is the best one. Nakajima Satoru Kanshuu F1 Super License. It’s more or less the same as Gran Prix, but with the issues I had with that game fixed. The handling is really good, and the viewpoint is far more zoomed out. There’s finally a top-down racer that’s playable.

The biggest complaint I can throw at the game is the AI cars not giving a fuck and trying to collide into you. Strangely, though, this isn’t that bad. You spin out for a second, but then immediately pick up speed, something that F1 Hero got hilariously wrong. Granted, it’s not a realistic situation for a game that’s meant to be a simulation, but sometimes you have to make concessions in the name of making something good, rather than real.

Now look at this fucking menu. This kicks ass. The look of a man who is dead serious about his racing. And he doesn’t give you some ho-hum POINT OF ADVICE. No, he provides you with NAKAJIMA’S EYE, motherfucker!

It’s great. You have this super serious racing pro telling you how to take turn 7 and to look for the gaps your opponents leave. But then there’s this sudden shift in graphical style, and you get these anime babes informing you of your grid position and the upcoming Grand Prix.

hey baby, want to make MY pole position?

hachi machi

This is the game, right here. Not only is Super License the best F1 game on the Mega Drive, it might very well be the best racing game on the system. I will have to investigate this further.

There are three more Nakajima games to play, but I will save those for another time. One of them is on Super Famicom, F1 Hero ’94, and given the other F1 Hero, I’m not super confident about it. The other two are on Game Boy. Much as I love the Game Boy, the idea of playing a racing game on it fills me with a primordial fear. Like opening the door to a murder scene, or going underwater in Final Fantasy VII. Racing is fun, and getting into the sport is probably the best decision I’ve made all year.