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Saturday, 13 July 2013

Super Monaco GP - Classic Inspection



Super Monaco GP is a cherished gaming memory of mine. It was loosely based on the famous street race in Monaco and for a while, probably my favourite racing game. Super Monaco GP put you behind the wheel of the stupendously famous Ferrari V12 641, the very car that Alan Prost and Mansell once whizzed around in. I was really good at this game, would play it for weeks, if not months on end. In fact, I still play it today, more-so on the Mega-CD, as that was the version to feature CD-quality sound, music and voice overs.

You were presented with three game modes, Arcade, World championship and Free Practice. In the arcade mode, a qualification lap would quickly establish your position on the grid. Then it was onto the starting line. Everything looked the same, only in this mode you had to contend with a position indicator, once you made it near the front, you pretty much needed to hold that position, otherwise, it was game over. It wasn't long before I completed the arcade mode and became 'King of Monaco'. In fact, I've won it more times than Ayrton Senna.

The Championship mode was the real allure for me. It was spread over sixteen courses, with the wonderful ability to challenge rivals. You could even change teams, progress to a better car and defend the World Championship. Gone was the position limiter, but in came the added pressure of finishing in the top six, or beating your rival.

If you play racing games today, Super Monaco will feel very familiar. The track layouts are authentic and like real racing (I can only imagine), practice made perfect. I remember it took me quite some time to go from worrying about crashing, to being totally prepared for the next curve. One mistake meant race over, or worse still... the loss of a championship. There were three setups around the gearbox, you could go with an automatic or manual shift. If you wanted extra speed, a manual was the way to go, and although more involved, towards the end I was downshifting between turns, and accelerating through the seven-speed gearbox, whilst weaving through heavy traffic.

I've played nearly every version of Super Monaco GP, and whilst the majority are very faithful, it's the Sega Megadrive version that was built and tuned to the max. The Megadrive crammed in extra circuits, and a whole season of racing, thanks to the 'World Championship Mode'. To say this game was impressive is something of an understatement! The Megadrive version was simply stunning, featured fast graphics and captured all the presentation of the coin-op original, including the girls of Sega.

As you can see from the above screenshots, the Amstrad version looks detailed and colourful, on closer inspection, it does run a little slower than the Speccy version, but there's enough here to satisfy petrol heads. The C64 conversion has nailed it in the speed department, graphics are big and bold and the car is speedy throughout. As usual for the C64, sound and music rival those of the 16-bit versions, making the C64 version of Monaco GP a favourite of mine. I saved the best for last, although it does really come down to personal choice. The ZX Spectrum version for me was the most authentic, I loved playing this on my +3. Surprisingly, the intro, presentation and music survived a healthy transition and as with the Megadrive and Amiga versions I quite often take this out for a nostalgic spin. A great game on all systems in truth, but how they managed to pull this off on the humble Speccy is beyond me. 

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