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It’s September already and it feels like the year is flying by faster than ever. What better way to begin the final sprint to 2015 than with the 1990 Super Nintendo classic F-Zero.
What set F-Zero apart from the army of arcade style racing games that flooded home consoles and the arcades in the early 90’s was its unique and intense theme. Thanks to Nintendo EAD’s implementation of the then-breathtaking mode 7 pseudo 3d graphics, racers got the sense of being surrounded by an alien landscape full of ruined cities, craters, and other signs that the world you were racing through wasn’t the one you knew.
In the world of F-Zero, you are Captain Falcon: Bounty Hunter. When you’re not hunting bounties, you compete in a plasma car death race known as F-Zero. Talented (or just desperate) humans and aliens strap themselves into hover cars capable of insane speeds and then race around deadly tracks for the amusement of the wealthy. To the winner goes great riches. As for the loser, well there won’t be enough of them left to bury. It is grim dark at its finest and helped to distinguish F-Zero from the competition. The cast is fleshed out with three other racers in cars of varying speed and capability, but none so iconic as the good Captain himself.
F-Zero embodies the concept of gameplay that is easy to learn but difficult to master. An F-Zero race requires you to do five laps around a deadly and winding track. It is required that you stay near the front of the pack or you will be disqualified. The game features fifteen track stretched across 3 leagues. Each time your car takes damage, your energy level goes down. If it hits zero, your car will explode. There is no yellow flag here; the last thing you’ll see are the other racers zooming through the debris that used to be you.
Though almost any level can be played (though perhaps not won) using conventional racing methods such as well timed boosts, acceleration, and braking, the higher tier difficulty levels will push players to find ways to negotiate the course without touching that brake. Expert level players have set world record times crashing off course walls, other racers, and drifting lines that should not be possible even in a video game. This month we expect our Together Retro club members to completely re-discover the racing genre.
Sadly, F-Zero does not feature multiplayer. If this feels like a huge oversight on Nintendo’s part, then you are of an opinion many have held for 24 years.
The original F-Zero cart is very easy to come by as it was produced in mass-numbers for the launch of the Super Nintendo and appears to have been reprinted many times over the life of that storied console. For those who do not have a Super Nintendo, F-Zero is on offer both in the Wii Virtual Console and on the WiiU E-Shop.
F-Zero spawned an entire franchise that peaked with F-Zero GX for the Gamecube and its Arcade counter-part, F-Zero AX. Notable entries for the series also include F-Zero X for the Nintendo 64 and a few decent titles on the Gameboy Advance. Sadly, the series is mostly dormant now though Nintendo has been including elements of the franchise in many of their recent marquee titles such as Mario Kart 8, Nintendo Land, and (of course) Super Smash Bros. It is not quite a forgotten series but no one is holding their breath for a new sequel, currently.
There will be times shared, victories declared, and cheap defeats lamented. It will all be here in the Together Retro forums.