Review by TKDBoy1889
Amazing futuristic racing
I have played quite a few racing games from Nintendo. F-Zero is definitely among the best ones I've played. This was one of my absolute favorite games as a child and to this day I enjoy turning it on once in a while when I'm in a racing kind of mood. It excels in so many aspects.
F-Zero takes place far, far in the future, where several planets co-exist and technology has gotten very advanced, to the point that race cars hover and race tracks are far above the ground where races take place at 400+ KMH, which is over 200 MPH. The controls and gameplay are some of the tightest I've seen in a Super Nintendo racing title. There are four cars you can choose from, each varying in terms of their top speed, acceleration, and handling. You pick a car and then compete in one of three league, each consisting of five races. The cars have a nice balance between them and differences are enough that each car requires it's own feel to get used to. For example, I thought the yellow one was unbeatable because it's sheer acceleration and quick steering, but then I learned that it can actually oversteer and slip easily without proper usage. The race tracks present various hazards that can actually kill you, an uncommon concept in racing games that F-Zero pulls off well. You have a life meter, and if it's depleted your car will explode. The sides of the track are lined with barriers that hurt, there are magnets that will draw you in and hurt you, and a few tracks even have mines to dodge. These hazards actually make the game more fun as opposed to a hindrance, because they are used in the proper amount and never overdone. Plus each track does have a pit area that lets you slightly replenish your power bar if you're running low. Stopping or slowing down lets you regain more but lets the opposition catch up, leaving this a grey-area choice that I like having. It's not all or nothing, it can vary because even blazing through it will give some health. This hazard aspect is also fun because of the great control you have over your car. This is not a game whose difficulty lies in clunky or stiff controls. Controls are responsive and the cars handle well, simply requiring time to develop a feel for each one.
That being said, this is still a game with challenge. But most of the challenge lies in great design. The tracks are well made and have plenty of challenging parts in them. Some even offer possible shortcuts that are high risk/high reward as you can seriously pull ahead but slipping up can hurt or even kill you. There are three leagues and three difficulty levels. The leagues vary in difficulty of the tracks and the difficulty setting alters the challenge from the AI racing against you. You can race any league at any challenge, offering up to nine different experiences. Even the beginner's level in the knight league can offer some challenge for beginners. Playing the hardest level in the King's league is really intense even for experienced players. It's a good type of challenge though. The opponents can get tough but never cheap or overpowered, and your own reflexes and skills are what it falls down to. That, and mastering the tracks themselves. The tracks can honestly get pretty tricky, especially in the Queen or King league, and likely will require some practice to get down pat. Hazards get tricky to avoid and there are some really sharp turns to master. But the design of them all usually ends up with a good feeling that results a desire to win, and a triumphant feeling when you win the race. The game also does give you a slight edge as every time you complete a lap you get a turbo boost to use at your leisure. These are quick nitro-like powers that make your car gain speed for a few seconds, catching up if you fall behind. Just make sure you don't use these during turns as doing so will likely result in getting bashed back and forth between barriers, losing even more time as enemies pass you by. Thus, using turbos is a timed choice to maximize their efficiency (or harm.) And this is one of the things I like about F-Zero, the choices involved. Do I risk this shortcut? Is the turbo good to use now? Should I slow down to regain health? The game still revolves around quick reflexes and skillful driving, but this helps add a bit more depth to the experience.
Graphically F-Zero is not the best I've seen on the SNES, but it's still very appealing and nicely designed from a visual point of view. The playable cars are all nicely detailed with cool designs that really give off that futuristic style setting, and the tracks all have nice backgrounds to represent the nature of the planet you're on (Yes, planet. This is a futuristic game, remember). On the downside for graphics aside from the four distinguished cars all the other cars look exactly the same. And they honestly have a really, really silly looking design. They just look really weird and awkward. Even if they kept them all the same, they should have done a different design. But this is a minor quibble. Another strong point in the graphics and visual department is the sense of speed this game gives. And it seriously delivers here. The pacing of the game is really fast at top speed, and the graphics are able to keep up with that speed seamlessly, giving a very immersive feel and a good adrenaline boost as the scenery goes by quickly. It really does add to the experience.
The music in this game is really, really good. There is not a single track I dislike, and a few of the tracks could be be among my favorite SNES music selections. Not all of them, just a few. But all of them are really good, and quite a few of them fit well into what the setting of the track is supposed to be, like the one that takes place in a canyon or the final one in the King's League that gives a good "final race" feel. Sound effects are also pretty good, although at time generic and simple. The sound of your car's jet engine sounds good, if generic, and manages to not get annoying despite being on throughout the entire race. The sound when you hit a barrier hard sounds pretty brutal, and even taking minor damage otherwise is decent. Other effects like using a turbo boost, regenerating power, and such things also follow into the category of "nothing special, but okay."
Among the more disappointing factors, probably the biggest is the lack of multiplayer. Lack of a multiplayer mode in a racing game is always somewhat of a bummer, as they are among a genre more well suited to play along with a friend. Sadly two friends cannot partake in this game at once, and this is probably it's biggest drawback.
Another disappointing factor is the inability to play most of the tracks in time trial/practice mode. Over half of the tracks can only be played in grand prix mode. It's understandable to make them more secretive and special to play once you get that far in the higher leagues, but it would have been nice to have an option to unlock them once you beat them, or a password. Alas, there is nothing of this sort. It also stinks that when more difficult tracks give you trouble, you have to play through a whole league to be able to practice again with them. Despite these limitations, however, this game is incredibly fun on it's core gameplay alone, and the replay value is high because of the different leagues and cars you can pick. Plus the fun factor alone makes it worth picking up and playing time to time.
In conclusion, despite these drawbacks and flaws F-Zero is still one of my favorite racing games of all time. Not perfect, but incredibly fun and still amazing to play. If you're looking for fun two-player racing, you'll have to look elsewhere like Top Gear or Mario Kart, which are other great SNES racing games that feature co-op. However, if you enjoy some single player racing this is one you definitely should look into. The great controls, fast pacing, and fun challenge all make for an amazing game that any racing fan should try out.
Challenge: Easy-very hard. (Depending on setting and league)
Replay value: 8/10
Final score: 8/10
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: F-Zero (US, 08/13/91)
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