Continental Circus

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Continental Circus
Continental Circus Commodore 64 Cover.jpg
Commodore 64 Cover
Developer(s) Taito
Publisher(s) Taito
Designer(s) Unknown
Composer(s) Zuntata
Platform(s) Arcade, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC
Release date(s) Arcade Amiga[3]
  • EU: 1989
Amstrad CPC[4]
  • EU: 1989
Commodore 64[5] MSX[6]
  • EU: 1989
ZX Spectrum[7]
  • EU: 1989
PS2, Xbox, PC
Genre(s) Racing simulation
Mode(s) 1 player
Cabinet Upright or Sit-Down
Arcade system Taito Z System[8]
Display Raster (Horizontal), 320x240 resolution,
4096 colors on screen,
32,768 color palette[8]

Continental Circus, released as Continental Circuit in North America,[1] is a racing simulation arcade game,[9] created and manufactured by Taito in 1987. It was later ported to various home computers in 1989, including the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MSX and ZX Spectrum. It was then released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC as part of Taito Legends.

The arcade version of this game comes in both upright and sit-down models, both of which feature shutter-type 3D glasses hanging above the player's head. According to Computer and Video Games in 1988, it was "the world's first three dimensional racing simulation."[9] The home conversions of Continental Circus lack the full-on 3D and special glasses of the arcade version, or the detailed graphics, but retain the essential gameplay structure.

The in-game vehicle is the 1987 Camel-sponsored Honda/Lotus 99T Formula One car as driven by Ayrton Senna and Satoru Nakajima. Due to licensing reasons, sponsor names such as "Camel" or "DeLonghi" are intentionally misspelled to prevent copyright infringement under Japanese law.

The player must successfully qualify in eight different races to win. At the beginning, the player must take 80th place or better to advance. As the player advances, so does the worst possible position to qualify. If the player fails to meet to qualify or if the timer runs out, the game is over. The player does, however, have the option to continue, but if the player fails to qualify in the final race, the game is automatically over, and the player cannot continue.

The game was commercially successful. It was number-two on the Coinslot dedicated arcade game chart, behind Street Fighter.[10] As a home conversion, it then went to number 2 on the UK sales chart, behind Power Drift.[11]


The game has eight courses, in which they were used within 1986-1987 season timeframe. The following are the course list:

Round Country Race Course Qualifying (minimum) position
1 Brazil Brazil Brazilian Grand Prix Autódromo Internacional Nelson Piquet (pre-2001 course) 80th
2 USA United States Detroit Grand Prix Watkins Glen International 60th
3 France France French Grand Prix Dijon-Prenois 50th
4 Monaco Monaco Monaco Grand Prix Circuit de Monaco 40th
5 Germany Germany German Grand Prix Hockenheimring (pre-2002 course, before the major renovation) 30th
6 Spain Spain Spanish Grand Prix Circuito Permanente Del Jarama 20th
7 Mexico Mexico Mexican Grand Prix United States Grand Prix West (in Southern California) 10th
8 Japan Japan Japanese Grand Prix Suzuka Circuit 3rd

Racing hazards[edit]

As in the real F1 races, the car is susceptible to damage from contact with another car. Once a player hits a car or a piece of the trackside scenery, they will be called into the pits. If they let the car smoke too long, it will catch fire, and the message "IMPENDING EXPLOSION" will appear. Either way, if they fail to make it back or hit another car, then they will crash or explode, costing several seconds.

Also, if the car reaches speeds in excess of 380 km/h, the speedometer will turn yellow as a warning to the player to let them know the car is going much too fast. If the car hits another car from behind, the collision will send the car into a devastating cartwheel until it explodes, costing several seconds.

In the same light, going too fast through a turn will cause the car to lose grip on the road. If the car loses grip, it will spin out of control. There's a low chance of a wreck happening, but this will definitely take several seconds off the clock. Also, from time to time, a thunderstorm will occur, causing the track to become wet, and causing the car to lose traction. In that case, the message "CHANGE TIRES" will appear, and the player must immediately get into the pits to change to wet-tyres. If the storm dies down, the road will be covered in puddles. This does not pose a threat.


Continental Circus did not offer much on music like most arcade racing games of the time did, but instead offered intro/outro music for each race in the vein of Pole Position and Pole Position II. Afterwards, the screen cuts to the start line of the race course, and an announcer comes on with the famous message, "Gentlemen, start your engines! 30 seconds before the start!" The spoken line was lifted from the 1972 French documentary, which this game bears the same name.

Arcade screenshot of Continental Circus

The entire collection of musical scores, sound effects, and voice clips were featured in a compilation soundtrack known as "究極TIGER -G.S.M.TAITO 2-". The musical score was composed by Zuntata, Taito's house band. Excerpts from the arcade soundtrack were included on the Sinclair User cover tape.[12] The music in the home versions was composed by Ben Daglish.

Title mistranslation[edit]

The game's original title appears to have meant to be "Continental Circuit", but due to a translation error, it ended up being called "Circus" instead. Some cabinets for the North American market are marked "Continental Circuit" instead of "Circus." However, the traveling F1 teams, cars, drivers as well as the spectacles of Formula One are sometimes referred to as the "F1 Circus" and there was a series of games with that title by Human Entertainment.[citation needed] The January 1989 issue of Sinclair User gave it the award for 1988 "Cock-Up of the Year" because of the title Continental Circus appearing to spell "Circuit" incorrectly.[13]

Incidentally, a French film about motor racing, released in 1971, was also called Continental Circus.


  1. ^ a b "Continental Circuit". Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  2. ^ "The Arcade Flyer Archive". Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  3. ^ "Release Information for Amiga". 
  4. ^ "Release Information for Amstrad CPC". 
  5. ^ "Release Information for Commodore 64". 
  6. ^ "Release Information for MSX". 
  7. ^ "Release Information for Sinclair ZX Spectrum". 
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ a b "Continental Circus arcade game review". Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  10. ^ "Sinclair User Magazine Issue 077". Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  11. ^ "The YS Rock'n'Roll Years - Issue 49". Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  12. ^ "6 Amazing Coin-Op Soundtracks from Virgin Games - VGMdb". Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  13. ^ Cock-Up Of The Year, Sinclair User, January 1989

External links[edit]