- Written by Brandon Perton
Welcome to the future. In this world, humanity has apparently run out of things to entertain themselves. The mega-rich have been upping the ante steadily to the point where only one thing can really get their adrenaline racing again – racing extreme machines that hover several feet above the ground. F-Zero is an entertaining racer set in a futuristic universe (that frankly sounds awesome).
As one of the original launch titles for the SNES, a lot was expected from F-Zero. The game's title refers to a racing circuit called F-Zero which is created and maintained by the extreme-ultra-rich intergalactic traders. These fine folk made their fortune during the time humanity expanded into other areas of the cosmos.Things get fast and furious quickly. F-Zero has races on tracks which are suspended 300 feet in the air by the use of anti-gravity rails. And the cars? Well the cars themselves are fitted with state of the art super-magnetic technology which allows them to hover and zip through these tracks.
This game featured cutting-edge graphics using “Mode 7” technology, which basically allowed developers to create flat textures that could simulate 3D environments. It was a tremendous graphical leap at the time, and is one of the major selling points of the SNES. It can be argued that F-Zero exists only because people who funded it wanted to show off the Mode 7 prowess of the SNES. However it came to be, F-Zero was a commercial success and became a staple of the Nintendo roster. The gameplay style also inspired several other games that came after.
You're given a choice of four racers to choose from, and each of them have a suitably badass car.
− Dr. Stuart with The Golden Fox
− Pico with Wild Goose
− Captain Falcon with The Blue Falcon
− Samurai Goroh with Fire Stingray
Each of these vehicles has a distinct handling style and different speed/acceleration characteristics. You'll have to spend some time with each one to get the hang of it. Beginners might want to start with Captain Falcon, while more advanced folk can take The Golden Fox for a spin. The controls are tight, and you'll never feel like one car is objectively better than any of the others. Mistakes are usually player error, which is the hallmark of a good control system.
The graphics are where F-Zero really shines. The futuristic setting and the super-powered descriptions of the cars require the game to provide a certain kinetic feel, and it delivers. You'll feel like you're zipping around these crazy levels at insane speeds.
You can compete in three different leagues, all of which have a separate set of courses. Some of them feature jumps that you need to control, while others feature tight corners emphasizing timing over pure speed. You'll always be competing against the three other main characters along with a whole host of AI cars, so it always like a busy time on the track.
vehicle has an energy bar which when depleted completely, will cause your vehicle to explode. You lose energy when you crash into an obstacle or another car on the track. To refill your energy, you'll have to drive through special sections on the course. If you zip across this section too fast, you won't be able to recover enough energy, so you'll have to adjust your speed depending on how much damage you have accumulated. This mechanic was changed in later entries in the F-Zero series, which featured much faster recharge rates allowing you to keep speed levels high throughout. After each successfully completed lap, you are given one boost which you can engage to gain some ground on your competition.
The game is fairly challenging, and later levels require precise understanding of the control scheme. In addition, there are environmental hazards such as wind on certain courses which make your progress even more hazardous. Magnetic rails on some tracks can pull you out of your route quickly and devastatingly.
The collision mechanics aren't the best, and certain innocuous interactions will send you careening and tumbling across the screen like a leaf. Other times, you'll hit a car and jump straight back, defying physics in this futuristic world.
F-Zero is a great showcase of the power of the SNES and the Mode 7 graphics. The visuals do a great job of conveying the speed of your cars. The main F-Zero theme is great, although you might grow tired of the in-game screech the cars make quickly. Luckily, you can play around with the music controls to the point where these won't bother you.
If you're a fan of racing games and fancy riding around in a car that's flying around due to the power of magnets, give F-Zero a look.