F1 Race (Famicom, 1984)

 

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

DEVELOPER: HAL Laboratory

RELEASE DATE: 11/02/1984 (JP)

 

F1 Race is the first racing game for the Famicom, and it’s quite the impressive feat.

 

According to programmer Satoru Iwata, F1 Race “was the first game to use raster scrolling on the Famicom, a technique that many other companies would start using after. We had to program it ourselves; raster scrolling was not an innate feature of the Famicom hardware” (Satoru Iwata 1999 Developer Interview, Shmuplations).

 

Iwata and friends do it again.

 

Now, we at the Archive know a lot about video games, but technical wizards, we are not. We looked up raster scrolling and found that it is a type of parallax scrolling.

 

“Some display systems have only one layer. These include most of the classic 8-bit systems [including the NES]. The more sophisticated games on such systems generally divide the layer into horizontal strips, each with a different position and rate of scrolling. Typically, strips higher on the screen will represent things farther away from the virtual camera or one strip will be held stationary to display status information. The program will then wait for horizontal blank and change the layer’s scroll position just before the display system begins to draw each scanline. This is called a “raster effect” and is also useful for changing the system palette to provide a gradient background” (Wikipedia, “Parallax Scrolling – Raster Method”).

 

Raster scrolls, go!

 

Is this information right or wrong? How does raster scrolling apply to F1 Race? We’re not entirely sure. Please feel free to leave a pleasant, non-snarky explanation in the comments below.

 

F1 Race feels smooth and fast, two adjectives one wouldn’t use for other early Famicom titles. Most Famicom games released in 1983 and 1984 were stagnant one-screen affairs. No raster scrolling. No scrolling whatsoever – or very little, in the case of something like Lode Runner and Devil World. F1 Race might be using raster trickery to make the F1 car look like it’s blazing the track at over 300km/h, but the trickery does the job.

 

366 km/h will certainly make your bull run.

 

In F1 Race, you race against the timer, not the other computer controlled F1 cars. While the latter are definitely nuisances, the increasingly aggressive course layouts and the steadily decreasing timer are your real opponents. Your F1 car has two gears, Hi and Low, and they’re self-explanatory. Stay in Hi(gh) gear as much as possible so you can beat the timer and move on to the next course.

 

Pretty sure they built that mountain on rock and roll.

 

There are five courses per skill level, with three skill levels each. Not every skill level provides five unique courses, however, so you will see some repeats. Still, it’s worth learning F1 Race‘s intricacies in order to see the harder track layouts (PRO TIP: don’t brake on the sharp turns, just ease up on the accelerator as needed). Crash once in any capacity on any of the courses and you probably won’t win, due to the ever-dwindling time. But hey, at least you get your money’s worth.

 

GO stands for Game Over, alas.

 

F1 Race broke some ground on the Famicom with all its raster business. Still, as enjoyable as it is in the moment, its relative simplicity makes it an unlikely game for a franchise. Or so you’d think! Nintendo later revisited F1 Race on the Game Boy (with four-player capabilities!) and on two Famicom sequels, Famicom Grand Prix: F-1 Race, and Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally. Mario and friends were included in some form in all of these games because of course they were.

 

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