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RELEASE DATE: 1984 (arcade); 1985 (SG-1000)
Speeding around the globe in a F-1 Formula car is a vagabond’s pursuit. You don’t drive for euro-sign bags full of money, glamour shots, or command of supermodels. You drive for the sharp turns, the squeal of the brakes, the visions of heaven as you narrowly escape death. No game can embody the recklessness of traveling around courses at 300 km/hr, but GP World – for all its technical limitations – comes close. The threat of death as you drift around a dangerous corner won’t be real, but the sweat dripping from your furrowed brow will be.
Naturally, Canada has the easiest course layout, so you’ll begin your world-encompassing mega race there. The goal in GP World isn’t to take first place, but to beat the qualifying time listed at the top of the screen. Race two laps around the course before your timer reaches the qualifying time limit, and you’ll move on to the next course. Other F-1 drivers are present to give you grief, as well. Many will know their place and allow you to pass, but some will try to bump you off the road, like some common wastrel. Pay the fools no mind: they are jealous of your luscious jet-black wavy hair and expensive Italian sneakers.
I never knew France had so many factories.
The races continue through America, Brazil, Spain, France, and others, with each successive country’s courses increasing in difficulty. Luckily, controlling your car is as smooth as a bathtub full of luxury oils. Accelerate with button II, brake with button I, and shift gears with the joystick. Most races, it’s possible to accelerate with abandon, but braking is imperative as you caress tight turns; particularly since other drivers tend to linger directly in front of your car as you turn. If you crash into them at full speed, you’ll explode, but if you ease off the gas, you’ll only bump their car. There is no penalty for crashing, however, other than lost time and perhaps your ego. Run your fingers through your hair and get back on track.
These screenshots may not show it, but trust me, there are other drivers on these courses.
The level editor is GP World‘s one minor revelation, even if it is restricted. Custom levels are constructed atop a grid where you can add and subtract pieces of the course at any given point. However, you are limited to the pieces the editor gives you, and those pieces are always based on the curvature of the last piece you placed. For example, if you place a straight line, you’re then given the choice of another straight line, a curve to the left, and a curve to the right. Certain pieces when placed, however, give you only one option to build upon, leaving your course design relatively limited. Your level is forced to stay within the grid, so there’s no building outside of it. I had to constantly rethink the level I made to stay within the narrow parameters of the editor. In the end, the level just wouldn’t work. If you’re playing along with these games (something I encourage all readers to do), let me know if you had better luck than I did with the editor.
Drive on that, sucka.
The SG-1000 GP World is not the end of the story. Originally, the game began life as a Laserdisc arcade game in 1984. Sega took real first-person road footage and placed pre-rendered Formula 1 sprites on top of it. As you can see in the screenshot below, Father Time has not been kind to these visual pyrotechnics. Perhaps the game looked breathtaking in 1984 when it was first released, but looking at screenshots of the game now brings confusion to one’s soul. Those car sprites don’t belong on that real road, and it’s hard to trick your brain otherwise.
Am I in driver’s ed again? What’s happening here?
Obviously, the arcade GP World couldn’t be ported to the SG-1000 as it was. A downgrade was necessary to even make the game work. Unlike many of Sega’s SG-1000 arcade ports, however, a downgrade was just what the road crew ordered. Even after almost three decades, GP World for the SG-1000 remains genuine class, while the arcade is now a minor novelty. Stay classy, readers. Vroom, I say. Vroom vroom.