The Super Famicompletionists: F-Zero

The quest to play every Super Nintendo game in existence!

25 January, 2015

Developer: Nintendo EAD
US release date: August 23, 1991

LogicAndTrick

I really suck at this game!

AJ

I think I can safely say that I suck less at this game than you do. Even without being entirely familiar with it: it wasn’t a game I had back in my youthful, SNES-filled days.

LogicAndTrick

I’ve not played any game in the series before. The insta-death aspect is just brutal. Those electrified fences are pretty nasty for a game where collisions are hard to avoid.

AJ

Oh yes! I particularly like how terrifying those explosions are. You juuuuust miss clearing a gap and the sound and vision that greets you is truly horrific. F-Zero feels like a really pure kind of racing game, despite the sci-fi setting and gratuitous death sequences. It’s all about accuracy and instinct, which is the trademark of most realistic racing games these days.

LogicAndTrick

I guess that’s why I can’t really get into it. To me it feels like Mario Kart with all the interesting stuff stripped out.

AJ

It actually feels like it was the basis for the Wipeout series of games. Very similar in concept, except Wipeout brought in Mario Kart-style weapons into the mix. It’s kind of interesting playing this game now though: I’m familiar with the F-Zero franchise purely through its inclusion in the various Smash Bros. games over the years. Captain Falcon! Big Blue! The Mute City music!

The Mute City soundtrack from F-Zero

LogicAndTrick

But I’m somewhat similar in that regard: even though I haven’t played any of the games, I recognise the characters and music quite well. It’s kind of strange seeing a game where the main character only makes an actual appearance in the instruction manual.

AJ

I know! Did you like the comic strip at the end of the manual? I love how Nintendo injected that kind of depth into what is, on face value, a fairly simple racing game. And, simple though it may be, it still plays incredibly well. Granted, I’m far more of a racing game fan than you are, but I love that feeling of nailing a corner and not smashing headlong into an electric fence.

LogicAndTrick

The powersliding mechanic really does feel great when you get it right.

I just took a look at that comic, it’s hilarious: “I shall win to honor beautiful women everywhere!”

“I hate losing to any driver whose blood is red!”

AJ

I particularly like Captain Falcon’s “There are two kinds of drivers in this race – ME and the losers!”

LogicAndTrick

I feel there are not enough cheesy one-liners in modern game manuals.

AJ

That’s possibly because there aren’t any modern game manuals! It’s a good point to make though: reading the instruction manual back in those days was an absolute given. Everyone would do it because it was essentially the only way to learn how to play the game (aside from going in blind).

LogicAndTrick

That’s not to say that getting rid of the manual has been a bad thing. Who wants to read when you can jump in and play right away?

AJ

That’s true. Advantages and disadvantages, like all things.

LogicAndTrick

I think that for the most part, F-Zero is reasonably playable without reading the manual first. That’s more than you can say for some games, at least.

AJ

Oh, absolutely. It’s not a particularly dense game. I think Nintendo are the masters of creating depth from simplicity – the gist of their games are very easy to convey, but skills can be expertly honed to levels that not even they would’ve predicted.

I do think we need to discuss those graphics, though. Some really gorgeous tracks and ship designs (and a launch title for the SNES, no less!). It really showed the difference in power between the NES and SNES.

LogicAndTrick

Yeah, I think someone playing this for the first time, coming from the NES, would be quite surprised. The pseudo-3D effect works well, and was only really seen in arcade machines before this.

AJ

Absolutely. To get that kind of arcade experience in a home console would’ve been amazing. And Nintendo’s marketing at that time (and during the Nintendo 64’s run) certainly didn’t let that factor slide.

So, what do you think? Will you keep playing it?

LogicAndTrick

No. The game itself hasn’t aged well at all. There’s no multiplayer, there are only a few course options, and there’s little replay value to be had. Any relevance it had has been completely wiped out by thousands of superior racing games released since. The game has no unique factor that makes it stand out from any other racing game. While it was probably an impressive game for its time, it’s no longer worth playing.

AJ

Ouch! Though I figured that’d be your response. I probably will keep playing, but perhaps not extensively. As is the case with most racing games, the replay value comes from improving your lap times, which is not a pursuit everyone would enjoy. I’m actually really curious about the GameCube sequel now… might have to hunt it down.

LogicAndTrick

I’ve seen a few videos of the newer games, they look like an improvement. It seems that Nintendo has all but dropped the franchise, though its appearance in Mario Kart 8 DLC indicates that they haven’t forgotten about it.

AJ

I enjoy it for its kitchsy, 80s-tinged aesthetics and the kind of charmingly bonkers story and presentation that Japan particularly excels at producing. FALCON PUNCH!

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