I Miss the Sega GT Series! Part 1

I’m not sure I could ever put into words just how much of a game changer Gran Turismo truly was in the world of auto racing video games. Sure there were the Ridge Racers, the Need for Speeds and the Test Drives, but it was Gran Turismo’s influence that echoed throughout the industry. Many games changed their formula to try and emulate it, while other games where just outright clones. In 1999 Sony released Gran Turismo 2 to assert their dominance and assure their games stayed on top of the imitations.

In February of 2000 Sega released their attempt to overthrow the juggernaut and named it Sega GT. With the Dreamcast floundering, the racing simulator market wasn’t completely wide open, but Sega GT came as close to replicated the Gran Turismo formula as it got for the console. Well, I guess you could use BLEEM!, but that’s a completely different discussion for another day. Sega GT was an ambitious game that takes a lot of cues from Gran Turismo, but adds a lot of Sega’s personality as well.

Sega GT starts off feeling very similar to Gran Turismo, as the player is required to undertake license tests. Yes, the old license tests are here, but I feel Sega made this aspect of the game far less of a headache than Gran Turismo. To even buy a car you are required to acquire licenses, meaning cars themselves are locked by different licenses. The great thing is you really only need to complete one license test to acquire the license. Not only that but the license tests in Sega GT are nothing like Gran Turismo, as they are simply a single time trial lap around a track with a certain car. Hit a wall, or gone off track? No problem! It will only slow you down, not kill the whole run. So far we’re off to an amazing start, if you ask me.

From there it’s pretty much the Gran Turismo formula. The player can race within the requirements for each given series of races, upgrade their cars and buy new ones with the prize money they’ve won. However, Sega GT has one aspect that really blew me away when I read about it. Right on the back of the case it says: “Build original cars from scratch — over 2 million combinations are possible!” Yes, you can build your own car(s) from scratch. On my original play through, some 18 years ago, I never delved too deeply into this aspect as things needed to be unlocked, if I remember correctly. What I do remember for sure was having an absolute blast building my own cars from what options I did have unlocked. Nostalgia may be failing me here and making it seem far better than it actually was, but regardless just the fact this option was included is amazing.

In many ways I think Sega GT was a great game, but I also feel it could have been better. The graphics are still pretty good and I would dare say they feel more like an Xbox era game. The car models were smooth but some of the textures were dull and lifeless. Handling was pretty good and upgrading the cars actually did make a noticeable difference. That might seem silly to say but there are some Gran Turismo clones out there where upgrades seem merely cosmetic, or just to give the player a reason to spend money. For me personally Sega GT was among the most adequate Gran Turismo clones, and I must not have been alone as Sega would renew the series for the Microsoft Xbox in Sega GT 2002 and Sega GT Online.

Posted September 27th, 2021