Review by mwallyn

"Still your daddy's F-Zero, so its still good"

The F-Zero games stand as probably my all time favorite video game series. I remember back to the day when I first turned on my SNES and played F-Zero. I'll be entirely honest, it kicked the crap out of me, but for a 5 year old, it couldn't have been that bad…but now 15 years later, I look back on the game that started it all for me. Captain Falcon, Dr. Stewart, Pico, and Samurai Goroh, racing around famous locales like Mute City or Fire Field at break-neck speeds in jet-powered hover cars such as the Blue Falcon. Nearly 20 years later, I'm taking a hard look back on one of the classics now re-released for the Nintendo Wii.


F-Zero tracks are set high in the sky, with all manner of traps and hazards to make already difficult races even more challenging. Every lap, you have to stay above a certain rank in order to continue racing, otherwise, you're automatically disqualified and you have to start over again. Falling off the track or losing all of your machine's energy will also get you DQ'ed. There are four playayble racers, each with a distinct set of characteristics such as top speed, cornering, and armor. Each of the three racing cups has 5 tracks set on various planets. There isn't much story to be had here; it's all about racing with F-Zero. The only real “story” comes from a quick comic included with the original instruction manual. Fortunately, F-Zero doesn't need a story. It's simple enough of a game to figure out, so adding much of a story would just bog it all down. Racing is all this needs to be, and F-Zero still does it very well.

One of the trademarks of F-Zero is its sheer difficulty. No, this isn't the kind of difficulty where it's because the controls are terrible or the AI is a cheating jerk; this game is legitimately hard. The controls are nice and polished and the AI, while challenging, remains fair throughout. Yes, it does take some getting used-to with the control scheme. Jet powered hover cars certainly don't handle like any other kind of car out there. It takes some time to master, but it feels so rewarding when you rocket past the competition or weave in and out of minefields effortlessly. However, the AI is incredibly fierce. Winning at the Master difficulty is truly an accomplishment of epic proportions. Difficulty often turns people off to F-Zero. I can assure you, give the game an honest shot and you'll find you have an incredibly engaging racer on your hands.

There are two major complaints to be had with F-Zero. The single biggest complaint is that there is absolutely no multiplayer in the game. F-Zero's lack of multiplayer is why Mario Kart is generally considered to be a better racing game for the SNES. It's truly a waste that an awesome racer has to be played alone. For such a fiercely competitive game, it should come naturally that multiplayer be included. It's not like multiplayer racing hadn't been accomplished before. But alas, it was never done for F-Zero, even in the Japan-only expansions released for the game. The second problem I have with this game is the Time Trial mode's track selection. You're only allowed to race on the Jack Cup tracks as well as a precious few selections from the Queen and King Cups. There is no way to unlock the rest of the tracks for use in Time Trial, no matter how high of a difficulty you can beat the game at. Especially with the King tracks, practice is KEY to surviving them. Why they aren't included is completely beyond me. Whatever the case, it's definitely disappointing to see this excluded from the game.


Even at its inception, the F-Zero series has constantly set the bar in terms of graphics. Even F-Zero GX for the Gamecube, generally dubbed a “kiddie” system, had graphics to rival even the strongest competition from the other major consoles. Despite being a launch title for the SNES, F-Zero had graphics that few could rival and none could truly surpass. This is F-Zero's second great trademark; graphical prowess. Using Mode-7 graphics, F-Zero was able to effectively simulate 3-D environments on the 16-bit SNES. This alone is plenty enough for praise. But developers didn't stop there; the environment itself is a beauty to look at (although you should probably be paying attention to the road…). Over the megalopolis of Mute City, you can see the flashing city lights below you and skyscrapers off in the distance. On Fire Field, you can see the lava rushing underneath the track and volcanoes on the horizon. Even though I know I shouldn't, I still catch myself looking at the scenery around me simply because its so eye catching. All this detail and finesse and the game does not lag one bit. My only small graphics gripe is that the machines after the four starters the player can use are all just the same car but with a palette swap. A little more creativity would be rather nice, but that's rather nit-picky.


For a 16-bit game and an early one at that, F-Zero has some pretty good sound and some AWESOME music. F-Zero is a game set far in the future, so all the bleeps and bloops are quite fitting. Hearing the roar of the engines at the start feels incredibly intense, and you can tell people are closing in on you just by the sound. The sound is so immersive even for an older game. But what really stands out is the music. Each world has a super-cool theme to go along with it. Some are good, others are quite memorable and instantly recognizable. Many of these themes have endured into other iterations of F-Zero and even into other, non F-Zero games like Wario-ware or Super Smash Brothers. This is a testament to the quality of the sound and the endurance of the music in the game.


There are no secret machines to unlock, nor any special tracks to race on. The only real “unlockable” is a higher difficulty (surprise!). Master Class is unlocked only after completing a cup on all prior difficulties, so you'll be working hard to earn your way into that class. Because of the sheer difficulty of the game, you'll find yourself playing levels again and again quite frequently. It sounds like a bad thing, but with the intuitive controls and fair AI, you won't find yourself frustrated. Generally, it will be motivation to try again and try something else.

Aside from winning grand prix, there is also a records section which records your best lap time and several of your best total times for each track. Beating your old times and breaking records will keep you racing for a good long while. However, the lack of multiplayer definitely hampers the replayability of the game. Though I'm more accustomed to playing games alone, its hard to deny that multiplayer is a key component to gaming. Otherwise, it would be incredibly hard to put this one down.


Undoubtedly, F-Zero has aged a bit since it first hit the scene way back when. However, it still has all the makings of a fantastic game, even today. Though the graphics are from the 16-bit era, they still look fantastic as few could ever compare to it in the day. Outside of multiplayer, its issues are pretty much negligible. Multiplayer or not, F-Zero is definitely worth the pick-up, if not just for the nostalgia factor.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/15/10

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