On the Genesis, Super Monaco GP was a true revelation. Although it looks kind of funky by today's standards, this Sega 16-bitter was the racing game to beat. Compared to the middling driving games we saw on 8-bit systems, this Genesis game really wowed. Electronic Gaming Monthly was so impressed that they gave the game not one, but TWO perfect 10s, unheard of in 1990.
It's only natural that Sega would want to capitalize on the success of the Genesis racer by porting it to everything else they made. As you would expect, much of that amazing 16-bit effect was lost in the translation. Instead of being one of the best looking racing games to hit a console, Super Monaco GP was reduced to yet another ho-hum 8-bit racer that handles poorly and offers almost no depth.
You take your chances when it comes to 8-bit racing games. With hardware that seems to actively work against the fundamentals of a 3D driving experience, most 8-bit attempts aren't worth playing. Sadly, that's the case with this Super Monaco GP port. All of the trappings are here: Frustrating handling issues, very few modes, a poor sense of speed and ugly graphics.
In a curious move, Sega decided to force the two-player split-screen mode ... even when you're playing solo. While some players may find it useful to see who you're racing against, I found it distracting. I also didn't care for losing half of the already small real estate to a computer-controlled character.
You race on a flat piece of barren land with the hint of huge cities and casinos in the distance. The result isn't very convincing and is often excruciatingly boring. And while the Genesis game hinted at taking itself seriously, there's no effort put in to make this a simulation racing game. This is nothing more than Final Lap Twin with a bigger budget.
The good news is that the game has a pretty good two-player mode, which does make up for some of the shortcomings. I actually preferred playing this with a second player, since both players have to put up with vehicles that seem to want to crash on every turn. Even though the backgrounds are lackluster, there are enough two-player tracks to keep you interested for an afternoon.
Super Monaco GP on the Master System fails to live up to the 16-bit original, but that goes without saying. What you're left with is a mediocre racing game that is helped by a fun two-player mode. The graphics are bad and the single-player mode is forgettable. I would stick with Hang-On or OutRun if you're looking for a racing fix on the Master System.