Review by LastStand

"Hooray for rotation!"

I don’t know what’s come over me these past couple weeks. I’ve had this strong urge to play old games. I don’t know why. My friend tells me to save up my money to buy new GameCube games, that I am stupid for spending my money on “old games with terrible graphics.” I don’t know how to explain to him this nostalgia, especially since he is two years younger than me and was never as much into games as I was. He wanted me to buy Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (which was a fun rental, but not fun enough to fork over 50 bucks for). Instead, two days ago, I gathered four bad games and headed out to my local Game Crazy store and sold these four games for a measly $11 total to buy Super Mario Kart and F-Zero for the SNES. The difference was $15, and it was worth every penny. Then, yesterday, I bought both Final Fantasy II and III on eBay (and I can’t wait til I get those home). When will it all end? Probably once I complete my collection with all the games I want (after I get FFII and III, I still need Super Metroid, Secret of Mana, and Chrono Trigger; that will certainly run me broke).

On to the game. F-Zero was one of the launch titles for the SNES, and was probably one of the ugliest games for the SNES graphically. In fact, as a kid, I only recognized it as “that one racing game with the colorful circles for walls.” However, Nintendo used this game as the launch for its new concept: Mode 7. Mode 7 refers to the SNES’s ability to rotate objects, which also helped to create a greater sense of speed. Although the game looks severely outdated today, it is very fun and quite difficult while it lasts.

Graphics: 5/10
Yay for Mode 7! Boo for everything else! Yes, although this game did graphically allow for a good sense of speed, everything else is butchered, especially in comparison to the great graphics of Super Mario World, which came out at the same time. No roadside detail. The track simply consists of the following: the gray track (no texture), the colorful circles for walls, the land outside the track (which looks like an awful representation of a cityscape in Mute City and Port Town), and the horizon. All of this is ugly, save for maybe some of the landscapes, especially Big Blue. The machines look decent, considering it is 1991, but they almost look like they’re drawn in crayon. Maybe I’m just too critical, but I think the graphics suck.

Story: N/A
It’s the 26th century (I believe). People race. Woo hoo.

Sound/Music: 9/10
F-Zero music rules. Everyone by now probably recognizes the old Mute City and Big Blue tunes, and although they are done with a simple synthesizer (I believe), they are essentially very good. The music for the Silence track is also good (music for Silence, hmm…), as well as that of Port Town. I like them all except for maybe that of Death Wind. Most of these music tracks even carried over to F-Zero X.
The sound is good, too. When you touch the circle-walls, it sounds almost as if your ship is being zapped. When you crash into the wall, it sounds like a small explosion. The engines sound like little vacuum cleaners. When you hit another craft, it actually sounds somewhat realistic. Bad sound by today’s standards, but good for 1991.

Gameplay: 8/10
The gameplay is simple: get a certain rank for each lap to move on. There is no point system. You only have to finish the five races in each cup without running out of lives. You must finish your first lap 15th place or higher (out of 20), 10th or higher on your 2nd, 7th or higher on your 3rd, 5th or higher on your 4th, and 3rd or higher on your 5th (the final lap). This is not an easy task, especially in the later cups and harder difficulty levels.
There is boost in this game, but not like that in F-Zero X. For each lap you complete, you earn a boost, which you may use at any time by pressing A. This gives you about a five-second boost. You cannot carry more than 3 boosts at once, but you will probably be using them whenever possible. After your first lap, yellow drone crafts will appear, almost like traffic. They are slower than your craft, and they will often move right in the way of you. The game also has a strange physics model that causes you to fly to the side every time you hit another craft, no matter where you hit them. Hitting one of these yellow drones could lose a race for you.
There are three cups (they call them leagues): Knight, Queen, and King (no unlockables this time around). Each consists of five courses of increasing difficulty, and each begins with some version of Mute City. The toughest part of the game is winning the race without dying. You have a power meter that goes down each time you hit a wall (not when you boost) or another craft. There are pit zones at points in the track, but they refill little power. If you rank out or die, you lose a life. If you lose all lives, you get a game over. You can earn extra lives at every 10,000 points, which are earned in different increments depending on where you placed at the end of each lap.
You have four crafts to choose from: Blue Falcon, Golden Fox, Wild Goose, and Fire Stingray. Each has their own statistics, so practicing with each will help you find the best one for you. There are three modes on the main menu: Grand Prix (pick a cup and race the five corresponding races), Practice (pick from a few tracks to race a single race [why did they not allow you to pick from all tracks?]), and Records (view your best times you earned in Grand Prix). You will get the most fun from Grand Prix, which will most likely keep your attention for a while.

Lasting Appeal: 7/10
One thing this game really needed was a multiplayer mode, which is unfortunately nonexistent. Because of this, you may not play for long, also because there is no attacking (which is very fun in F-Zero X and GX). However, with three difficulty levels (which can make the game very hard on Expert) and three cups, you will be playing for a while in Grand Prix. Trying to top your best times is also fun once you’ve mastered the tracks.

Challenge: Above Average
This is between the other two F-Zero games in challenge: harder than F-Zero X but easier than F-Zero GX. It is a pretty tough game, even if you already have experience with the later games.

Good Points:
-First game to feature Mode 7
-Good difficulty
-15 diverse tracks
-Diverse machines
-Good music and sound

Bad Points:
-Lack of options
-Only four machines
-No multiplayer mode
-Bad graphics

The Bottom Line:
A good, classic game, but certainly not as good as the other two F-Zero games. It’s fun to play for a while, but the lack of options really hurts this game. A must-have for vintage gamers and racing-game fans, but some younger gamers who grew up on later SNES or N64/PSX games would probably be disappointed with the lackluster graphics and simple gameplay. Certainly worth a rental (if you can find it; it’s 13 years old), but if you can find it to buy for cheap, give it a shot. I got it for $8 at Game Crazy, and it is worth it.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/30/04


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