A Second Look @ Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge (NES)
Feel free to listen to this while reading this review:
Old school racing games were about as simple as you could get: select your car, select your track, mash the gas button, and don't crash while passing the field of mindless drones ahead of you. A few signs and fast-approaching corners were the only hints that you were going fast against a static background image. Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge didn't deviate from this formula (why fix what isn't broken?) and that unfortunately cements itself into the annals of racing game history as "just another old racing game." System-3 was only able to put a couple of stand-out ideas into the mix but that just wasn't enough to keep it afloat in people's memories.
Pressing select on the start screen will let you choose between either practice or will take you into a qualifying lap. If you choose to practice, you can select from any of the game's SIXTEEN(!) tracks. That amount was practically unheard of back then for an NES game. Monaco GP, Silverstone, Spa, Circuit de Catalunya, and Suzuka Circuit are among the real-world locations that have been pixelated; but while the elevation changes from each track are omitted they remain challenging if you're unprepared. At the same time the removal of elevations means that unless you know these tracks by heart, you won't recognize any of their 8-bit counterparts. There are no car variations to choose from and zero colors to customize with, the only options of automatic or manual gearbox can't be adjusted for some odd reason. You're stuck with a 3-speed automatic that isn't really automatic.
FGPC's password system is a jumbled mess of 21 characters and letters that allowed you continue the main game from a previously won race. It holds about two hours worth of playtime if followed through long enough but little to no reason to play it again.
The classic tragedy: crashing in old games
If Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge could go down in history for one thing it would be for the soundtrack that is chiptunes gold (I hope you pressed play on the video above). Before going into a qualifying lap, you can choose to turn the music off but that would mean listening to the constant hum of an engine while playing. Neil Baldwin was the composer for this game and has done the score for several other NES games like Magician, James Bond Jr, Jungle Book, and Lethal Weapon.
In the end Ferrari Grand Prix Challenge on the NES did nothing new or exciting for the old racing genre. The Ferrari license is wasted here and without it, its just another GP racing game. Even with the Ferrari name attached to it it doesn't make the boring tracks or lifeless opponents any better. While it should be remembered for having an awesome soundtrack that alone doesn't make it worth seeking out unless you want it in your collection, enjoy old racing games, or are an absolute fan of Ferrari's.