Genre: Racing Developer: Sega Ent. Publisher: Sega Ent. Players: 1 Released: 1986
Being the super massive packrat of a collector that I am means my taste of games and consoles really seems to change almost on a weekly basis. I really like just grabbing two or three games at a time – good or bad – and playing them through as well as I can just to see how they are. I then usually write reviews for them just to share my thoughts and also as a point of reference for myself to come back to when I need a memory refresher. I was playing a handful of Sega Master System games because I just got my Sega Master System II repaired, and I threw in World Grand Prix because I had never played it before. By the end of my play session, I had mixed thoughts on Sega’s attempt at a Pole Position and/or Rad Racer clone.
World Grand Prix, like I stated above, takes heavy inspiration of Pole Position, where we get to race with Indy-style cars across a dozen unique race tracks. The goal is not to place at the end of each race but rather to gain the best finish time, as you can gain points. The better the finish, the more points you gain. After you earn enough points over a few races, you are allowed to visit a shop to purchase upgrades for your car. You can get an upgrade for your accelerator, your handling, or a new engine. This gives you the impression that Sega tried to make this title stand out and really make it feel like you were getting an advanced racer for your Sega Master System, but truth be told the game is pretty much only average in every way possible.
My biggest quibble with World Grand Prix is with the poor A.I., or just how the A.I. works in general. You have to qualify for each new track, which is quite difficult, mind you, and the A.I. is exceedingly tough to deal with. I swear that the other cars on the track are out to screw you over rather than race. If you are in the opposite lane and they are in front of you, they will almost always swerve into your lane and crash into you. If there are cars in both lanes they both switch lanes at the same time. It becomes almost impossible to avoid crashing unless you come to almost a complete stop and let them move out of the way. This issue makes the action very hard to predict, being that it’s often impossible for you to pass the other cars, and the crashes waste way too much needed time. In my opinion, this alone is the single factor that makes World Grand Prix very frustrating to play and the harder difficulty levels only worsen this effect. A failure to qualify on any single race means a game over and that you start over from scratch. This made the game feel dated for a 1986 release. It had more in common with racing titles released in the arcade around 1982-’83.
Thankfully, World Grand Prix has some very responsive controls. You have a manual two-speed transmission that shifts gears by pressing up or down during the race. The speed perception is also pretty decent. The graphics are very good as well, featuring bright colors and lots of background details. Each track looks different, and the game as a whole looks better than any NES racer of the day. Unfortunately, the difficulty makes it hard to see many of the different backgrounds. The music is also just kind of there, and with the system having such a weak sound chip the music and repetitive sound effects only detract more from the overall engagement.
The one last feature that may pull a few of you in is that World Grand Prix does have a custom track editor. It’s actually kind of cool but only features the first race’s background palette and no options as to how you race on the track. It’s at least worth a look, though.
World Grand Prix is not a bad game overall. It can be playable after you get used to the opponent cars’ movements, and it may be mildly enjoyable then. Diehard racing fans will enjoy it, but casual fans will be bored pretty early on, like I was. If you want a good but simple racing game for your Sega Master System, then play Hang-On, which is my personal favorite racer on the system.
SCORE: 5 out of 10