Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing (NES)

Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing

System: NES

Release Date: March 1990

Developer: Data East

Publisher: Data East

Genre: Racing

F-1 racing comes to the NES through Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing. This is a game from my childhood, so I was happy to come to it for a playthrough. Race through sixteen courses around the world to be the World Champion! Practice your racing against opponents or alone in the time trials, then go for the gold in the World Grand Prix. You can choose to race as the stat-maxed Al Unser Jr. for the easy win, or you can create your own racer. Give him a name and set the colors of your car from the whole NES color palette.

Before the race, you can get advice from Al and set your attributes. The more speed, the higher your max. The more acceleration, the quicker you get up to speed. The more durability, the more hits from other cars or turn signs you can take. The more suspension, the finer corners you can take without flying into the grass. The more pit crew points, the faster your pit stops will be. The more turbo points, the more time you can run your turbo before it runs out.

Then you can practice if you want to try to learn the course. Or you can jump into the qualifying heat. The faster you go, the closer you can get to the pole position. As long as you stay on the course, you should be able to qualify pretty high on the list. Different courses may seem to emphasize different attributes, but I’ll come out and say it doesn’t matter. Keep your acceleration, suspension, and pit high and have enough turbo to get 60 counts.

Races are easy once you get 35 or more attribute points. You can hold the d-pad Up to expend turbo for an entire lap, as it’s basically one unit of turbo per second and each lap is less than 60 seconds if you’re good. Then you pit, refuel, and come out holding your turbo. Normally, you’d expect to fly off the track if you’re going too fast around a turn. Not in Turbo Racing! Here it seems you lose traction on the corners the same amount no matter what speed you’re going.

The hardest part is when you’re gunning for the top three. Everyone else just races, but the top three go out of their way to block you off from passing them. This leads to a lot of spinning out, but not for them, they’re immune, just for you. The courses are all pretty easy, but at least they have the country’s landmarks in the background for you to enjoy. Just look at all of those Mt. Fuji!

Graphics: 1.5

The track has hills that obscure your view and the backgrounds are varied.

Sound: 1.5

Music is pretty decent, but there is a super annoying beep that I think signals that someone is behind you.

Gameplay: 1.5

There’s not much to this racer. You hold the A Button and Up while turning corners. Your progress is saved, so you can come back later.

Difficulty: 2.0

After I earned enough points in my first six races, I won 9 of 10 to finish the game. Difficulty comes from the hand cramps you’ll experience.

Fun Factor: 2.0

I enjoyed myself to play through all 16 races.

Overall Grade: 1.7

Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing earns a C-. It’s not a great racing game, but it’s a decent enough outing from Data East.

Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing Video Review on YouTube