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Showing posts with label Video System. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Video System. Show all posts

Retrospective: F1 World Grand Prix II for Dreamcast

For a console that lived and died in such a relatively short span of time, the Dreamcast sure did rack up a veritable bounty of top class racers. No doubt if you're a fan of either the genre, the Dreamcast, or both - as I am - then you don't need me to list the big hitters here. If you're not au fait though, rest assured that if you're new to the Dreamcast and you're partial to navigating large, wheeled boxes down tarmac lanes at wholly ridiculous speeds, then you're in for a treat.
As a sub-genre of racing games then, the Formula 1 fan is equally well catered for when it comes to the Dreamcast library. There are no less than 5 separate F1 titles on the platform (well, 6 if you count Spirit of Speed, but in truth that's barely a game; and 7 if you count Super Speed Racing / CART Flag to Flag), each offering its own unique take on the real world motorsport and we have covered them all - albeit briefly - here at the Junkyard in the semi-distant past. But in this retrospective I wanted to focus on the game many aficionados consider to be the pinnacle of F1 racing on the Dreamcast, and also a title - it turns out - which has a fairly interesting origin story and an equally curious legacy: F1 World Grand Prix II for Dreamcast.
Before we even attempt to discuss the game's many positives and numerous failings, I think it is worth investigating the history of the F1 World Grand Prix franchise, and the enigmatic firm behind it - Video System. Video System Co Ltd was a Japanese developer and publisher that began putting out games in the 1980s in both the arcades and on home consoles such as the TurboGrafx-16 and Nintendo Entertainment System. Video System's foray into the world of F1 games began in 1991 with F1 Grand Prix on the Super Nintendo and in arcades; and this game spawned two sequels - F1 Grand Prix: Part II and Part III in 1992 and 1993 respectively.
F1 Grand Prix: Part II is playable on MAME
It was in 1998 that the series was rebooted as F1 World Grand Prix for the Nintendo 64, a game which was developed in partnership with a studio called Paradigm Entertainment. It's here where things start to get interesting, as the Nintendo 64 game and its 1999 sequel (F1 World Grand Prix II) are completely separate titles to the games that made an appearance on the Dreamcast, and they share very little other than a name. The Dreamcast version of F1 World Grand Prix was developed in-house by Video System, and received the suffix 'for Dreamcast,' simply to differentiate it from the Nintendo 64 version.
The N64 version of F1 World Grand Prix
Likewise, that game's sequel - the subject of this very article - was developed by Video System in a silo away from the Nintendo 64 version of F1 World Grand Prix II and comparing the two titles side by side demonstrates just how different they are in almost every way. If they didn't share a title and a publisher, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were from totally separate franchises that featured an FIA license. It gets even more curious when you learn that neither sequel was given a US release (though the prequels were), and the Dreamcast game was distributed in Europe by Konami.
Distributed exclusively by Konami...for some reason
There's precious little information available online about why this was, as Video System was still in a position to distribute its own games in the early 2000s; so why Konami - of all firms - was engaged to distribute F1 World Grand Prix II for Dreamcast in European markets is something of a mystery. Are you still with me here? OK - it gets a bit more interesting now. According to recently published information over at the Lost Media Wiki, a third game in the Nintendo 64 series - imaginatively titled F1 World Grand Prix III - was around 80% complete and fully playable before it was cancelled due to the console's waning popularity.

The Video System Enigma Machine

Special edition systems are nothing new when it comes to the Dreamcast. There are a multitude of officially-commissioned commemorative and promotional models that are well documented over at Sega Retro; with franchises like Resident Evil, Gundam, Seaman and Hello Kitty all being celebrated with their own bespoke consoles. Further to this, the number of other special editions, fan-made custom jobs and competition prize one-offs is difficult to actually quantify. Put simply, the Dreamcast customization scene is a subject of internet and pop-culture lore that could spawn an entire thesis if somebody was brave enough (and had the time) to devote themselves to it.
That person is not me, thankfully but with this post I wanted to investigate an oddity I found online and pose the question - is this an ultra rare, officially licensed promo Dreamcast...or simply the work of an over zealous F1 World Grand Prix II fan?