Last time, I talked about one of Taito’s most well-known driving games, Continental Circus. Today I’ll be looking at one of their lesser known racers, Ground Effects.
Much like Continental Circus, Ground Effects is a Formula 1 themed game that uses courses inspired by real circuits. Unlike Continental Circus however, this game carries a FOCA license allowing it to use cars from real F1 teams. Four teams are featured in Ground Effects: Mclaren, Williams, Ferrari and Benetton. Sadly, players can’t actually choose which team livery their car displays; you can only do this via the DIP switches. This is so the deluxe 4 player sit-down version of the game could assign a different team to each player.
As it was released in 1992, Ground Effects came out around the time that racing games were making the jump to 3D. Sega would release Virtua Racing in the same year with Daytona USA and Namco’s Ridge Racer just over the horizon. To be fair to Taito however, they weren’t the only people still making 2D racing games around this time; even Sega and Namco were still in the 2D racing market until 1993. These later sprite-scaling based games were generally quite impressive but they don’t have much of a following today. The switch to 3D hardware and the gradual decline of the arcade scene as home consoles became more advanced could go some way to explain why Ground Effects and its closest 2D rivals have slipped into obscurity. Even as somebody who regularly plays old racing games, I certainly wouldn’t have heard of this particular title if not for being into arcade emulation.
Overall, Ground Effects is a very well presented game that is quite enjoyable to play. It has a good soundtrack and nice chunky graphics with excellent sprite scaling and detailed background art. In the foreground, the screen is dominated by a big fat F1 car that spits sparks everywhere, this is something that always scores points with me. During the race, there is a chance that it will rain and this is accompanied by some very nice cosmetic effects. On the lap before it starts raining, the sky will darken ominously and during the wet laps your wheels will kick up nice little bursts of spray. As an extra bonus, if you’re racing at Interlagos you’ll even see a rainbow once the weather clears up.
If this game falls short anywhere it’s in the area of lasting appeal. Cosmetic flourishes aside it’s quite ordinary in terms of how it plays. I think this game stacks up very well against its contemporaries but it just lacks a certain something to help it stand out. It’s a fun game and I feel it deserves a little more attention but it just isn’t an all-time classic.
There is only one way to play Ground Effects at home currently and that is via emulation. There were no console ports and it hasn’t been featured on any retro compilations to my knowledge.
Bonus video: Footage of the game in action, 1st place on the San Marino circuit.