Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! When you come across a hidden treasure its one of the best feelings in the world, especially in retro video game hunting. My NES collection is building up quite nicely these days but the last year or so finding a less well known game in good condition and reasonably priced is becoming more difficult. Combining these two factors and then it actually turning out to be any good feels like a mini miracle.
Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge – Nintendo Entertainment System
Go Go Go!!!
Straight from the first title screen and into the main menu Ferrari GP Challenge feels like it has been created by a team of people that care. You just get that feeling that the game has had a large amount of time and effort applied to it. Like most racing games from this era visuals and controls were always a mixed bag. Some games managed to get the look of an arcade racing game and some well…..did no. If you did find a game with great visuals then they ….normally played like “Big Rigs” (look that up if you’re not sure what this game is like….trust me you’ll never forget it)
Whilst the visuals in Ferrari GP Challenge are a solid average for its time, its the control and additions to the game that makes this a great find.
You start your career (or practice if you like) for Ferrari and asked to input your name and country. When the cars line up on the starting grid and see the standings at the end of the race, that little detail of your name and country printed next to your beautiful red car creates a feeling of realism. It makes me not want to see my name in 23rd place on the grid but 1st, sounds small but its such a nice little touch!
There are 16 tracks labelled as “authentic” with scenery matching the countries the courses are held in. According to a Wikipedia reference “It was one of the few 8-bit Formula One video games to adequately represent the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve as having an urban background. Along with this several other urban race tracks represented in the 1990 Formula One season are included however the Circuit de Catalunya is presented in this version as the ’round in Spain’ eventhough Jerez hosted the 1990 Spanish Grand Prix”.
You start of with a qualifying race to beat the clock and other racers lap times, this is a nice feature to warm you up for the race. This is also when you’ll notice how nice the car is to handle, I’ve played plenty of racing games that completely ruin the game with “realistic” handling or just lazy programming. This is an arcade game, it should be fun! Well hats of to you System 3, you have done a superb job here. You notice this even more when you get to the race.
With 25 other racers your job is to of course finish in the top three spots but as you progress round the track you will see on your (very well designed) dash board communications from your team. As you start to over take the other racers your minimum finish position starts to decrease meaning you have to keep up the good work. As long as you finish within the minimum position you can progress on to the next race. This is a great feature, not only does this suit new comers to the game but also pros too. It rewards practice, as finishing higher gives you more points in order to win the world GP and constructors league too.
As you fly round the track at approximately 300 km/h, manoeuvring round cars (yeah eat my rubber) you will notice the controls again. How slick it feels to be confident in over taking on a corner without completely loosing control (Sorry Rad Racer). Not saying there is no skill involved of course, touching another car will cause you both to go spinning off the track and most times be over taken by the chasing pack.
Notifications from your team will appear and pop up with moral boosting messages like, ‘nice take’ or ‘great job’ if you perform a smart overtake. However your team aren’t just there for a moral boosting pat on the back during the race, oh no! They will tell you when your tyres are starting to degrade or when oil has appeared on the track from other cars or even if your fuel is running low. Unless you visit the pit you will start to notice that lovely control slowly start to worsen, you wont be able to fly around corners with ease and grip anymore. When the screeching of tyres in the corners and the inability to overtake as efficiently become apparent, you need to visit the pit!
As you grind to a halt in the pit, time is of the essence. You need to mash the A and B buttons of the control pad in a timely rhythm to make your pit crew make the necessary changes to your vehicle. This adds a fun and mostly nice break to the frantic racing, of course the quicker you can pit the better your chances of coming out in a good position.
One other part of the game that i need to mention is the music. What a great job! Each stage has a theme and mostly (so far Ive not completed all tracks) the music has been really well thought about. There aren’t any annoying tunes or just the few repeating melodies, it’s a small thing but again, adds to the many plus points of the game.
As the races and qualifying can take a little time the game also has a pass code system so you can pick up where you left off. This is again a nice touch and makes you want to come back to the game instead of feeling that you have to complete the whole grand Prix in one sitting.
Finally i have to say that Ferrari GP Challenge was a great little find. I totally recommended anyone to play the game on a NES especially if you are looking for an alternative to Rad Racer or Days of Thunder. I picked this game up for £5, with box and manual all in great condition which proves there are bargains still out there folks, so keep an eye out.
I hope you enjoyed this post, please take a look at the rest of VGR2016, enjoy!