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F1 Circus
エフワン サーカス
(1990)

   
There's something not quite right about F1 Circus. Maybe it's the fact that the track only ever goes upwards - like a seemingly endless stream, a constant straight line that never ends. Maybe it's the fake names, deliberate distortions of famous racing legends like 'A.Semna', 'A.Plost' or 'N. Manserr'. Hard to say.
No wait: it's the SPEED. Hot damn this game is fast! Gone are the days of slowly plodding around short overhead circuits à la F1 Dream (1988); here the game will propel you along at speeds you never thought imaginable. As soon as you pass third gear the backdrops become a blur, and your fate completely uncertain... Will you reap victory and carve your name alongside those of motor sport legend, or simply plough your tin-box speedster into a solid concrete wall and finally find out what 'DNF' stands for?
F1 Circus came as a complete shock to those fortunate enough to experience it back in 1990. Although it may be completely unrealistic in terms of a sporting simulation, what it does do is provide a gut-wrenching insight into the sheer adrenalin of F1 racing - that incomparable high of holding on for as long as possible, riding the crest of that high wave known to the privileged few as 'The Edge'.
A single mistake and it's over: crashing into an opponent damages the car (a pitstop will cost you at least a place or two) whereas sliding off trackside will see your car immediately 'Retire'. Off. Over. Nil points. Next race. Brilliant.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The game was an immediate success, and proved a very valuable cash cow for struggling developer Nichibutsu. The old masters hadn't really delivered much since the glory days of Crazy Climber (1980) and Terra Cresta (1985) so it was good to see F1 Circus and its innumerable sequels keep them on track for just that little bit longer.
The tragedy though, is that they blew it - following superbly playable 'fixed 2D' iterations they made the strange decision to use 'Mode 7' for the SFC Super F1 Circus, completely destroying the fluidity of the gameplay. In Super F1 Circus 2 they scrapped the overhead viewpoint altogether for a standard 'behind the car' perspective similar to Exhaust Heat (1992), except nowhere near as good. That was the death knell for the series: if the early games were masterful arcade-style racing games, the later 3D titles are just plain awful.
Oh well, no bother. At least you have the early overhead titles games, and as F1 games go they are some of the finest games the sport has ever inspired.
 
 
 

Super F1 Circus (1992)
 

Super F1 Circus 2 (1993)
 

Super F1 Circus 3 (1994)
 

 
F1 Circus
エフワン サーカス
PC ENGINE
DETAILS
Format PC Engine
Released 14 Sep 1990
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID NB90002
Size (cm) 14.2 x 12.4 x 1
Weight (kg) 0.10
PRICE
STATUS
Behold: the fastest overhead racing game in the West. Or the East for that matter.
A truly stunning game for its time, and a massive PC Engine landmark.

Standard PCE case, 4Mbit HuCard, monochrome booklet.

F1 Circus '91
エフワン サーカス'91
PC ENGINE
DETAILS
Format PC Engine
Released 12 July 1991
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID NB91004
Size (cm) 14.2 x 12.4 x 1
Weight (kg) 0.10
PRICE
STATUS
Perfection: F1 Circus gets itself the best upgrade you could wish for: the front-end is superb, the gameplay is smoother, the visuals more colourful, and the racing is even tougher.
Strap in.

Standard PCE case, 4Mbit HuCard, booklet.

F1 Circus MD
エフワン サーカス エムディ
MEGA DRIVE
DETAILS
Format Mega Drive
Released 20 Dec 1991
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID T-71013
Size (cm) 17.8 x 12.8 x 2.5
Weight (kg) 0.18
PRICE
STATUS
Near-direct port of F1 Circus '91 for the Mega Drive.
Many players rate this version as the best: it features a really handy 'track radar' on the right hand side of the screen, making a lot of courses more manageable.

Standard MD case, 4Mbit cartridge w/ battery backup, colour booklet.

F1 Circus
エフワン サーカス
FAMICOM
DETAILS
Format Famicom
Released 7 Feb 1992
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID NBF-7F
Size (cm) 14 x 9.5 x 2
Weight (kg) 0.12
PRICE
STATUS
The Famicom gets itself a late but surprisingly efficient version of Nichibutsu's F1 classic, featuring cover art from the first game and content closer to that of '91.

Standard FC cardboard packaging, 3Mbit cartridge, 22-page monochrome booklet.

F1 Circus Special - Pole to Win
エフワン サーカス・スペシャル ポールトゥウイン
PC ENGINE SUPER CD-Rom²
DETAILS
Format PC Engine
Released 26 June 1992
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID NBCD2002
Size (cm) 14.2 x 12.4 x 1
Weight (kg) 0.10
PRICE
STATUS
Right: if you had to choose one version of F1 Circus, then this is the one to go for. It has everything: smooth playability, detailed interface, and enhanced sound & music.
No joke: this is a phenomenal game.

CD case, PC Engine Super CD-ROM²
disc, 20-page colour manual, spine card.

Super F1 Circus
スーパー エフワン サーカス
SUPER FAMICOM
DETAILS
Format Super Famicom
Released 24 July 1992
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID SHVC-FC
Size (cm) 19 x 10.5 x 3
Weight (kg) 0.16
PRICE
STATUS
This is the moment when everything started going wrong in the world of F1 Circus: the SFC's 'Mode 7' rotating backgrounds reduce one of the smoothest and most playable overhead racing games ever into a horrible jerky mess.
Such a shame.

Standard SFC cardboard packaging, 8Mbit cartridge, colour booklet.

Super F1 Circus Limited
スーパー エフワン サーカス リミテッド
SUPER FAMICOM
DETAILS
Format Super Famicom
Released 23 Oct 1992
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID SHVC-FD
Size (cm) 19 x 10.5 x 3
Weight (kg) 0.16
PRICE
STATUS
So-called 'Limited' re-issue of the SFC Super F1 Circus, with only a few minor differences of note.

Standard SFC cardboard packaging, 8Mbit cartridge, colour booklet.

F1 Circus '92
エフワンサーカス'92

PC ENGINE
DETAILS
Format PC Engine
Released 18 Dec 1992
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID NBCD2007
Size (cm) 14.2 x 12.4 x 1
Weight (kg) 0.10
PRICE
STATUS
F1 Circus returns for one last outing on HuCard, in a near-direct port of the Super CD F1 Circus Special.
It's almost exactly the same in fact (i.e. brilliant!) but without the CD-Rom polish.

Standard PCE case, 6Mbit HuCard, booklet.

Super F1 Circus 2
スーパー エフワン サーカス2
SUPER FAMICOM
DETAILS
Format Super Famicom
Released 29 July 1993
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID SHVC-N2
Size (cm) 19 x 10.5 x 3
Weight (kg) 0.16
PRICE
STATUS
It's all over for F1 Circus... For some inexplicable reason Nichibutsu have completely turned their back on what made the series such a success in the first place, producing a pisspoor 3D racing game instead.

Standard SFC cardboard packaging, 8Mbit cartridge, colour booklet.

F1 Circus CD
F1サーカスCD
MEGA-CD
DETAILS
Format Mega Drive
Released 18 Mar 1994
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID T-71014
Size (cm) 14.2 x 12.4 x 1
Weight (kg) 0.10
PRICE
STATUS
Whoops. Looks like Nichibutsu tried way too much with this one.
On the surface, a sprawling motor racing RPG for Mega-CD with 3D gameplay, tons of different setup options and a great historical context. Technically, a disaster of the highest order.
One of the worst driving games EVER.

CD case, Mega-CD CD-ROM disc, colour booklet, spine card.

Super F1 Circus 3
スーパー エフワン サーカス3
SUPER FAMICOM
DETAILS
Format Super Famicom
Released 14 July 1994
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID SHVC-N3
Size (cm) 19 x 10.5 x 3
Weight (kg) 0.16
PRICE
STATUS
The carnage continues with a third F1 Circus turkey on SFC.
It's a better game than part 2, but still a complete and utter mess.

Standard SFC cardboard packaging, 16Mbit cartridge, colour booklet.

Super F1 Circus Gaiden
スーパー エフワン サーカス外伝
SUPER FAMICOM
DETAILS
Format Super Famicom
Released 7 July 1995
Publisher Nichibutsu
Product ID SHVC-AN4J-JPN
Size (cm) 19 x 10.5 x 3
Weight (kg) 0.16
PRICE
STATUS
Nichibutsu's final F1 Circus release is another ambitious catastrophe similar to the Mega-CD F1 Circus CD: RPG setup, different types of cars, tons of options, messy gameplay, confused visuals, shoddy finish.
Oh well.

Standard SFC cardboard packaging, 16Mbit cartridge, colour booklet.

 

'F1 Circus' and 'Nichibutsu' are registered trademarks of Nihon Bussan Co., Ltd.
'PC Engine' and 'NEC' are registered trademarks of NEC Corporation
'Mega Drive', 'Mega-CD' and 'Sega' are registered trademarks of Sega Corporation
'Famicom', 'Super Famicom' and 'Nintendo' are registered trademarks of Nintendo Co., Ltd.
F1 Circus TM & © 1990 Nichibutsu All Rights Reserved
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