Classic F1 games: Super Monaco GP

Posted on | Author Gerard Hetman

Super Monaco GP appeared on Sega, Amiga, Atari and other formats in 1989
Super Monaco GP appeared on Sega, Amiga, Atari and other formats in 1989

Codemasters’ F1 2009 game was seen on video for the first time yesterday – which led to lots of comments about favourite F1 games of years passed. Guest writer Gerard Hetman remembers Super Monaco GP.

Produced by Sega for the Genesis/Mega Drive platform, Super Monaco GP was released in 1990 after being styled on an arcade?ǣbased game of the same name.

With two modes of play, an awesome soundtrack, and many lifelike features (including a grid girl appearing at the start of each round) Super Monaco GP is still widely played and remembered today, and helped inspire legions of F1 fans the world over to develop their first interests in the sport.

The basics

The Genesis/Mega Drive-based version of Super Monaco GP contains two main game play modes: ??Super Monaco GP?? and ??World Championship.?? In the ??Super Monaco GP?? mode, players first qualify and then race a five-lap contest similar to the arcade game. Through the race, new position limits force the player to maintain top positions, or the race will end. Winning the first race put the player into a second, rain-filled race with the same demands. Bagging the second race win rewards the player with little more than a shot of a podium ceremony and a trip back to the start menu.

The ??World Championship?? mode is the centrepiece of the game, and gives players the chance to experience the ups and downs of the Formula 1 circus. Each of the 16 circuits used in the 1989 season is contained in the mode.

These were Jacarepagua (Brazil), Imola (San Marino), Monaco, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (Mexico), Phoenix (USA), Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Canada), Paul Ricard (France), Silverstone (Britain), Hockenheimring (Germany), Hungaroring (Hungary), Spa (Belgium), Monza (Italy), Estoril (Portugal), Jerez (Spain), Suzuka (Japan) and Adelaide (Australia).

The game contains 16 one-driver teams which bear loose resemblances to real-life drivers and teams of the era. The teams are broken down into four groups, based on team competitiveness and prestige. Players start off with the Minarae team, in the ??C?? group.

The teams and drivers (with nationality) are:

??A?? Class

Madonna A. Asselin (France)
Firenze F. Elssler (Austria)
Millions G. Alberti (Italy)
Bestowal A. Picos (Brazil)

??B?? Class

Blanche J. Herbin (France)
Tyrant M. Hamano (Japan)
Losel E. Pacheco (Spain)
May G. Turner (Great Britain)

??C?? Class

Bullets B. Miller (USA)
Dardan E. Bellini (Italy)
Linden M. Moreau (France)
Minarae Player starts game with team

??D?? Class

Rigel R. Cotman (Great Britain)
Comet E. Torino (Finland)
Orchis C. Tegner (Sweden)
Zeroforce P. Klinger (West Germany)

After selecting between an automatic, three-speed, or seven-speed transmission at the start of each Grand Prix weekend, players can take as much free practice as they wish, before running a one-lap qualifying session. After setting a place on the grid (players start no worse than P15, even if they crash on their qualifying lap) they are allowed to select a rival for the race. If a player challenges and beats the same rival twice, they normally get an offer to join that team, hence giving them access to more competitive cars with which to score more points and, eventually, win the championship.

Here?s a video from the first round of the game in ??World Championship?? mode:

Players get points for finishing in the top six, and keep progressing through the seasons until they win their first World Championship. Besides bragging rights, wining the championship also gets the player a ride with Team Madonna, if the player has not already earned the seat.

Beating G. Ceara

At the first race of the title defence season, the player will be surprised to find he?s being challenged at the first race by a new driver in the Bullets team, G. Ceara – an obvious replication of Ayrton Senna. Ceara quickly proves to be quite a challenge, and if the player cannot beat the talented newbie, he?ll find that Madonna will drop him in favour of Ceara, sending the player packing to a lower-tier team. From there, the goal is to progress back up the ranks and win a second World Championship.

It is almost impossible to keep up with Ceara. Although it takes several near-perfect laps to catch up to and overtake him, the good news is once he is passed, Ceara is relatively easy to keep behind. Once he?s beaten twice, Ceara becomes a non-factor in future races, and even the least skilled drivers should have little trouble running away with the title in the Madonna Car.

However, Ceara keeps challenging the player while driving for Bullets, and it?s quite funny that after each victory, the player keeps getting offers to replace Ceara with the Bullets team! Here?s an excellent demonstration of a challenger beating Ceara at Imola. Note the impressive sub-50s lap times:

Upon winning their second drivers’ title, the player beats the game, with a montage of the competing drivers set to a nifty theme song as the parting shot.

Realisms and simulations

Super Monaco GP offered an impressively lifelike depiction of F1 given its enormous limitations. While the area surrounding the driving surface at each track is featureless, the backgrounds and cityscapes for each circuit are ultra-realistic, from the forests of Hockenheim to the airfield at Silverstone to the deserts of Phoenix.

While the team names are not exact, each team uses the corresponding colours of their assumed real-life counterparts-the only exception is Madonna, who swapped the red and white Marlboro colors (as the team is presumably based around McLaren) for a more child-friendly yellow and red scheme. Each rival driver also has a unique personality, reflected in the on-screen comments they offer when accepting or offering a challenge.

Moving up to the top teams is the key objective for every player, but Super Monaco GP mirrors real F1 in the manner that drivers can also be dropped for poor performance. Indeed, players can choose to rival a team lower on the pecking order?? but if they lose to a lower-ranked rival, they will be challenged at the next round by the same driver, who has an eye on the player?s race seat!

While the game dose offer passwords to save progress, the combinations of letters and numbers are extremely complex, and take a great deal of time to write down and then re-enter. As a result, if you are playing Super Monaco GP on Mega Drive/Genesis, make sure to have plenty of time on your hands!

The game also has several bugs, most notably the flying flagman at the end of races (below). In terms of faults, it is truly difficult to see what could be made much better in the game. One glaring fact that shows up is players always have ideal weather for each round, but unlike the real-life circuits, this does not detract from the action on the track.

Real stories

Super Monaco GP cartridge
Super Monaco GP cartridge
For fans such as me, Super Monaco GP offered an introduction to the world of F1 that I would never have had otherwise. Growing up in 1990s America, before the internet and with little American involvement in the sport, F1 was an unknown commodity outside of motorsport circles in the USA.

I got my copy of the game from my uncle as a birthday present in 1992. In the ensuing years, I played the game frequently and became a bit familiar with the sort, despite having no other exposure to Formula 1. I?ve been raised in a sports-mad family, but most of our focus has been on the tradition big three American sports of baseball, basketball, and my personal favourite-American football.

It wasn?t until 2007, when Lewis Hamilton?s win at Indianapolis gained front-page attention in the American sports media, that I acquired a true taste for F1. Despite seeing the United States Grand Prix disappear from the calendar just as I was becoming interested, I dove in at the time and have never looked back. As I play the game now, it is quite interesting to drive the tracks that, for many years, I only referred to by the name of the country they were in. But now, I am able to add names to the faces and the places I have recognized for so long.

Super Monaco GP was followed by a sequel, Ayrton Senna?s Super Monaco GP II, which featured Senna as a character in the game, as well as in marketing and promotions for the title. Today, the game is immortalised in countless YouTube clips, as well as with a Facebook group created by longtime fan Liz McLaren. Copies of Super Monaco GP are never hard to find in used game shops worldwide, and if you have an old Sega Genesis or Mega Drive laying around , it will surely be worth a few moments of your time to fire up and jump back to the days of Senna, Prost, Mansell and the rest??

This is a guest article by Gerard Hetman. Want to share your passion for your favourite retro F1 game? Write us a guest article.