Skip to main content

F-Zero: 30th anniversary

Among its SNES launch titles, Nintendo made sure to include two games that took full advantage of the system's Mode 7 scaling graphics. It needed to prove to parents that it was worth spending $200 on a new system that couldn't play all the NES games they had already bought. One of those two games was a racing game called F-Zero (the other is Pilotwings).

Watch a video version of this review

F-Zero is a great game. It feels like a classic racer (like Rad Racer), but with the added gimmick of taking damage. When you hit a wall or other vehicle, not only do you get banged around but you lose some energy on your Power Meter. Your top speed decreases if you lose too much power. When the Meter hits zero, your car explodes! Energy can be regained each lap by driving over the Pit Row strip, where a ship re-energizes your hovercraft from above.

Absorb the healing rays of the Pit Row.

The game does a great job of making you feel like you're going incredibly fast, seeing as you're piloting 26th-century hovercraft that top 400 kph. Sharp turns at high speeds require slowing down (press X or Y to brake) or (better) sliding with R and L. Failing on turns results in bouncing back and forth off walls, costing you both power and velocity. You can get up to three Super Jet turbos (press A to use).

When I was a kid, I sucked at F-Zero. I would keep bouncing off the walls until BOOM! Game Over. This is a far cry from Rad Racer, in which your car can careen through the air end-over-end repeatedly, only to somehow be set back on the course again in pristine condition. For this anniversary I played F-Zero again for the first time and discovered that, yep, it's still hard. It took many repeated attempts for me to clear Death Wind II. I wouldn't say the game is too difficult, though. If anything, the challenge keeps it interesting.

Boy, did I see this a lot.

There are fifteen tracks spread across three circuits, and the game has four unlockable difficulties. It keeps records of your fastest time for each track, so there is some replayability here.

The game's biggest drawback by far is the lack of a two-player mode. Many were the children who lamented this grave and astonishing omission! It's such a missed opportunity because the flat tracks would easily lend themselves to stacked split-screen. Indeed, the game's would-be sequel, Super Mario Kart, did exactly that. F-Zero would have been much better with head-to-head. Alas.

F-Zero is renowned for its music. The songs are sort of jazzy and match the game's futuristic feel. For kids in 1991, the game looked and sounded incredible, compared to NES games. Today it looks kind of plain, but seen through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia it easily falls into the category classic. Personally, I still don't enjoy playing it that much, but I liked taking it in as an aesthetic experience and just sort of "vibing" with it. I'm sure many SNES players today feel the same.

One last thing: the game itself has no story; you simply select one of four vehicles. The manual, however, includes an eight-page comic about the racers called "The Story of Captain Falcon." It has an early-90's vibe to it, including great lines like "Your slimy lizard-butt is mine, creep!" and "I shall win to honor beautiful women everywhere!"

Grade: A-

Linked Reviews
"With smooth handling, tight track design for 15 circuits, and accessibly addictive Grand Prix gameplay, F-Zero is a game to repeatedly revisit, no matter which format you choose to play it on – even if it is only a single-player title."
— James O'Neill, Nintendo Life, 9/10

"The rollicking, high-spirited soundtrack and excellent sound effects only add to the immense fun."
— Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the SNES Library, 4.5/5

"Despite some failings, F-Zero helped introduce the Super NES with eye-popping ferocity."
— Jeremy Parish, Super NES Works

"This futuristic racer was hard and fast, with mind-bending Mode 7 graphics and an impressive variety of tracks to challenge even the most seasoned racing fan."
IGN, #18 of Top 100

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: 30th anniversary

Hard to believe it's been thirty years since The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past came out on the Super Nintendo, yet here we are! A Link to the Past is in contention for the title of Best Nintendo Game Ever . It perfectly reinvented, reimagined, and revolutionized everything great about the original Legend of Zelda . First off, the story is expanded, with five pages devoted to it in the manual, including background mythology not included in-game about the three gods that made the Triforce. The opening cinematic tells of a war centuries earlier, which resulted in seven wise men sealing the Triforce away in the "Golden World." When the game begins, the boy Link awakens on a dark and stormy night, hearing the voice of Princess Zelda in his head, asking him to rescue her from the dungeon of Hyrule Castle, where she's been imprisoned by the evil wizard Agahnim. Link finds his uncle, wounded, who gives him his sword. Link's first task is to rescue Zelda, then lead h

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja: A whimsical adventure in Japan

Growing up, I played The Legend of the Mystical Ninja at my best friend's house (though I was bad at it), and I had been looking forward to trying it again. It's an unusual, fun adventure game. I recently learned that in Japan Legend of the Mystical Ninja was preceded by three Famicom games and followed by three more Super Famicom games, none of which were localized for the West! The Japanese name of the series is Go for It, Goemon! It's based on a 1980 Japanese arcade game called Mr. Goemon. The emulation community put out fan translations of the Famicom games between 2009 and 2017. Surprisingly, no translations of the Super Famicom games existed until 2020, all three created by the same people . The series takes places in early-modern Japan. It has a light-hearted anime aesthetic. The titular character is a spiky-haired kid named Goemon. If a second player joins the simultaneous action (highly recommended), Goemon is assisted by an older, overweight ninja named Ebisumaru.

Street Fighter II: 30th anniversary

Thirty years ago today Street Fighter II made the transition from arcade to living room on the Super NES. Although quickly eclipsed by its two successors, for one year it was the hotness. It would be hard to overstate how popular Street Fighter II was in the early 90's. Its predecessor was downright bad, but Street Fighter II invented the PVP fighting genre as we know it. Its roster of eight characters was a huge step-up from Street Fighter's two (Ken and Ryu, who returned for the sequel). The next iteration of the arcade game, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, which hit arcades just as the SNES port arrived, let you play as the bosses as well, increasing the roster to twelve. A false rumor said a secret code would let you play them at home as well. While that wasn't true, there was a code (↓, R, ↑, L, Y, B) to let both players choose the same character for a mirror match. A prime strength of the game is how interesting each character is: the American airman Guile (think