This post was written for The Well Red Mage but sadly was never published because of my removal from the site. I am no longer The Five More Minutes Mage, but I can still provide you with the following:
“My name is Captain Falcon”
– Captain Falcon, F-Zero: GP Legend
Note: This game was originally released for the SNES(Super Nintendo Entertainment System), but was played on the Wii U
Checking the mini map one last time, you activate your turbo. Your vehicle zooms past your competition, nailing you the first place spot. That’s one way an F-Zero race could have turned out. The other outcome goes something like this: You lose all of your car’s power and your car explodes. I gotta say, the quality of F-Zero exceeds Mario Kart 8, but so does the difficulty. F-Zero’s difficulty doesn’t come from blue shells, but from the course itself.
F-Zero has no plot whatsoever, which is relatively common in racing games. It features no tutorial, the two options when you start the game are Grand Prix and Practice. After doing one race, a third option will appear: Records. Grand Prix and Practice are the only modes where you actually race, Records is just a collection of your best times on the different courses.
Those different courses are where F-Zero’s difficulty is at. Each race has five laps around a course. Hitting the boundaries of the course depletes energy from your Power bar, and bumping into other vehicles can knock you out of control (or, if you’re lucky, send the other vehicle sailing into a wall). In addition, you need to come out above a certain place, for example 15th place, in order to stay in the competition. There is also the fact that your vehicle is going an average of around 400 kilometers per hour, which makes those turns really, really hard.
F-Zero is relatively simple. Pressing one button will make you go, another activates your turbo. The turbo boosts your speed immensely and can change the outcome of a race. That turbo could save you, or it could be your weakness. Using the turbo at the wrong moment could place you in a predicament where you zoom forward, only to hit a wall, and then bounce to the other side of the course, only to hit a wall on that side of the course, which bounces your car back to the other wall, which in turn bounces the vehicle back to repeat the cycle. So yes, using the turbo is hard, but so is navigating the actual course.
In each course, there are dangers that can slow you down, including slippery roads and magnets. Each can send you into a wall, which will not only slow you down, but also deplete your power. The power meter basically measures the vehicle’s health points, so if that power bar runs out, your car will explode. Observe what happens when your power meter runs out:
Considering F-Zero’s sharp turns, and your vehicle’s incredibly fast speed… be prepared to see a couple YOU LOSTs before you truly master F-Zero, although the power bar can be recharged by driving your vehicle in a striped zone near the start of the course lap.
Now let’s get to explaining the game modes: first, Grand Prix. You’ll need to select one of four vehicles, which vary by appearance, but not much else. The Blue Falcon has medium acceleration and modest max speed. The Golden Fox has the highest acceleration, but the lowest max speed. The Wild Goose has modest acceleration, and a medium-high max speed. And last but not least is my personal favorite, the Fire Stingray, which has the lowest acceleration but the highest max speed. After that, you must select a league. A league is a set collection of courses. Your three choices are the Knight League, the Queen League, and the King League. The Knight League is the easiest, the Queen League has a medium difficulty, and the King League is hardest. Still not challenged enough? After selecting a league, you then have to select a class, or difficulty level. The different classes are Beginner, Standard, Expert, and Master. So if you really want to test yourself, try doing King League, Master Class.
Practice mode is simply practice. Practice mode just allows you to race alone or against a single AI opponent. The only courses that you are allowed to practice are the ones from the Knight League, one from the Queen League, and one from the King League.
Something that’s been bothering me is how big the courses are in F-Zero. Let’s say your vehicle is going about 400 kilometers per hour and the race takes about four minutes. Doing the math, going around 400 kilometers per hour would mean that you are going a kilometer in approximately 1.25 seconds. One lap around the course would be 64 kilometers, and all five laps would be 320 kilometers. So how is it possible to build and maintain these courses, and how impossibly big is your vehicle’s fuel tank?!
Oh well… Some questions just don’t have answers…
The 8-Bit Review
The visuals for F-Zero make the cut. F-Zero is a pretty good looking game, but I really think that the visuals for outside the boundary of the course usually just looks… unfinished. It usually just looks like some weird multicolored river or something. I did think that the visuals for the vehicles were pretty good, but everything else was just… average.
I thought the audio for F-Zero was pretty good, but not perfect. Some of the soundtrack was pretty cool, but some of the other stuff is just weird. Listen to a few tracks:
For example, in the course called Death Wind, the music included the sound of wind blowing, and the sound just irritated me while I raced. I don’t appreciate those kind of distractions. Also, listen to the original Big Blue compared to the remixed version in Mario kart 8 and Eight Deluxe:
That was unnecessary, but why not?
The mechanics and controls are really simple, and are very responsive. I also thought that some mechanics were neat, although not necessarily helpful. For example, when your vehicle hits an opponent’s vehicle, often times both racers are sent spinning out of control. This is annoying when you experience it, but I also found that it felt extremely realistic; it really felt I was desperately trying to steady my vehicle and continue on with the race. But really, F-Zero’s controls were really great.
As I mentioned before, F-Zero is extremely simple. It’s a game that you can really pick up and play. All you have to say is: That button makes you go. That makes you go faster for a short while. Use that to turn. EASY! One time a friend saw me playing, and asked to play. I said sure, and explained the games controls. He understood immediately, and had a great time.
F-Zero is difficult. That’s a fact. But somehow it all gives more to F-Zero’s charm. Racing at top speed, trying to avoid the magnets, land mines, walls, and vehicles is extremely challenging(especially when you have to make almost exact 90 degree turns) but it is just so fun.
F-Zero’s challenge and simplicity kept me coming back. You know that friend I mentioned when I talked about Accessibility? When we finished playing, he asked me if we could play again. I think that summarizes F-Zero’s replayability well.
I think that racing games are all kind of the same. Select a car, race some laps around a track. F-Zero mixes up the formula with cool courses and the addition of the Power bar, but overall, F-Zero is pretty similar to other games. Still, F-Zero came before a lot of modern day racing games, so if anything, modern day games are copycats!
My Personal Grade: 9/10
I really loved F-Zero. I’ve said this several times throughout the review, but I think that the challenge and simplicity of F-Zero makes it my favorite racing title. Really, please try to pick up this title if you can, whether it’s on Virtual Console or on the SNES Classic, F-Zero’s a must play.