Format: Super Nintendo
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 1992 (UK)
What's that? The Sega guy doing a big launch title of the retro Nintendo system he has the least affinity for? Yeah, that's right. Why? I like it, dummy.
F-Zero was, as just said; a launch title for the Super Famicom and continued its launch love-in with the other territories over the gruelling 3-year rollout of Nintendo's 16-bit system. Much like Pilotwings (and to a certain degree Super Mario World), it was pretty much meant as nothing more than a flashy tech demo to showcase the capabilities of the so-called Mode 7 psuedo-3D gimmickry. It worked, quite obviously. While I was never much a fan of Pilotwings and I have a genuine feeling that Super Mario World was a massive disappointment and somewhat a copout with all things considered (when factoring in the stark differences in presentation-style and gameplay between the Western versions of the SMB trilogy), F-Zero is a launch title that stood out and continues to, for me; as the best of the bunch. SNES loyalists will likely admit to wetting themselves over the general idea of you even thinking of mentioning the game, so it has a legacy that's worth noting from that alone. But has it aged? Is it still good? Spoilers for this review: it may have aged (ever so slightly), but it is still good. Bingo.
F-Zero pretty much foreshadowed the popularity of future futuristic (gosh) racing games of its kind. I'm mainly looking at you, wipE'out" (yes, that's how its spelt on the box. Good job, Psygnosis)! Seriously, what was it with floating cars in the 90s? The aforementioned, then you had Pod Racing with Star Wars, etc. Crazy 90's! Anyway, the original F-Zero with its pumping soundtrack, Star Trek-esque result of Earths meeting with aliens (we all get along, kinda) combined with the wealthy still in need of some speed (I mean F1...you), blah-blah-yadda-yadda...Coz no one cares about the story. Unless its Captain Falcon on a bounty mission.
Considering this game pre-dated the release of Super Mario Kart, it actually looks and feels superior. Better tracks, better graphics and better music. I could also swear it runs faster (even if in general Nintendo hated Europe so PAL-optimisation was simply something they mocked). This is all a major point in me adding to its lastability at the end of the article. So treat it as a deus ex if I contradict with any other points further on in this article. Boom. FALCON PUNCH!
When the game loads up you're not exactly overcome with options. Grand Prix or Practice. Literally, that's it. Enter GP and you have the choice of Class and Cups though, in a similar vein to the Big N's later flagship racing franchise. The only let down is the use of the select button to select, as my select button is now broken. Cheers, Nintendo. Make my life difficult! Graphically speaking, you have to keep it all in context. Pseudo-3D, much like actual polygon-based 3D titles, tend to age pretty harshly. This being an early example of Mode 7, you'd think that'd be the case. But in retrospect of what Mode 7 went on to give us, it remains a shining example and a marvellous achievement. Looking like a cross between Super Monaco GPII and Space Harrier, its little visual flares still stand fine on their own proverbial two feet.
Typically someone would now go on about the benchmark and precedence this all set and OMG LOOK HOW GOOD ZOMG that Mode 7 is/was on the SNES. Yet there are some lovely little graphical touches I do appreciate. I like the fact the little flaps move side to side on your vehicle in response to where you turn. I dig the overall look of the tracks and vehicles that make them easy to differentiate from one another. It's all good stuff, sir. Though, one could argue about the lack of 'stuff' on some levels. What's that mean? Basically, an argument could be made about slight blandness as the game isn't full of a million and one background sprites. But to be fair, it becomes irrelevant as you zoom your way through the tracks and doesn't hinder the gameplay by any respect.
But, y'know. Graphics are only one part of a game and can be very minor in the overall enjoyment if the rest of the presentation and gameplay sucks.
But this doesn't suck. F-Zero is quite simply fun, addictive and remains a challenge. It ranks high with me as it is a game that replicates something I could be playing in the arcade and that's the style of games that I adore. Those were the games I was raised on and introduced to at an early age. So when I finally bought my SNES back in College, F-Zero was a logical choice for me to jump all over (alongside Killer Instinct). The controls are swift and responsive to the point where it's rare you'll be cursing at anything bar yourself if you don't achieve your race-orientated goal(s). It lacks those cheap tricks that some racing games put in that may as well tell you: "Hey, kid. You aint gonna win." - thusly, when you place first and nab that trophy, you feel utterly boss! Success, sir.
The sound design of the game is very, very nice. I'm not a massive fan of the SNES' sound chip as I'm a big fan of arcadey goodness and it never sounded legit for me. While others will fondly spiel about how they heard instruments for the first time, I will tell you they were sucky midi samples that should be reserved for keyboards in a music class at school. But F-Zero is different. There's a fair amount of drums and bass kicking out amongst the layered synths which make it all worth while. It's music that excites and makes you want to be hitting speeds at well over 400km/h and never look back. That's what you want. You don't want soft, reverb-laden nonsense. You want hard hitting, heart-pounding greatness. That's what F-Zero achieves, which is an impressive feat to me, more so than any Mode 7 graphics. The sound effects are also just as grand, everything is fitting and sounds correct to the overall presentation. Nothing sticks out like a sore thumb, audio-wise - it's all just right on the money - adding to the feel of actually being sat at home with a personal arcade machine in your living room. Just get a bunch of cardboard boxes and make your tube into cab and turn the lights off. Works for me. Shup.
There is a great sense of speed in F-Zero that is missing from many SNES titles across the board that I feel immediately draws a guy like me to the game. Plus, Captain Falcon. But there is a great sense of depth through the fact of its simplistic genre ideals tagged with the fair learning curve. You have to play it more, to get the most out of it. That's the primary of any great title. It also begs the question who simply doesn't adore hitting a ramp and hopping over another vehicle? No, seriously. Tell me. I want to hit them.
I am doubtful that if you're fresh to the original F-Zero coming straight out of a newer title (or the Sega co-produced Triforce rendition of the series) that you will be absolutely flawed in a good way due to the limited options available. But the options, for me, become null and void when you actually bother to sink your teeth into the meat of the game. The engine is quite simply fantastic and outshines much of what has come since, which as mentioned about the lastability, keeps the game relevantly playable in this day and age. It's all about those 15 amazingly designed tracks that you come to learn, memorise and downright adore. It's the idea of starting a GP and actually finishing it. NO SAVE STATES! It all adds to that level of success felt when you're Mr Pole Position.
A downside could be easily pointed at the fact there is only four racers to choose from. Not that that really matters because Captain Falcon. So, yeah...It also lacks the big multiplayer option of a certain 'other' title on the SNES. I'll let you guess which. But stuff it, coz y'all just gonna have to watch mah skillz! It must be said though if you're a fan of old school arcade-style racing games, this should be in a Top 5 go to when it comes to home consoles. That includes those that aint futuristic. Why? It's FUN! Plus the stuff already stated, d'uh!
I am an unabashed fan of this game and the franchise at large. It's just one of those games where the critical acclaim is well deserved because it's a genius little piece of gaming history. Setting a bar for what a racer could/should be on the Super Nintendo, F-Zero benefits greatly for keeping the contextualisation in mind when first entering a play-through. But if you don't love it off the bat, there is likely something wrong with you. You should get checked out. Then after getting checked out, go back and check in with the game. Coz F-Zero is awesome.
Bottom line? F-Zero is my personal favourite SNES game (at least in my collection - one does not own UN Squadron). So go play it. Play it now.
Verdict:- An incredibly solid arcade-style racing game that stands head and shoulders above its fellow platforms competition. Limited options do nothing to take away from the lastability with its pure genre-defining brilliance of this gem from Nintendo's large back catalogue.
F-Zero is quite simply one of the best games on the SNES and one of the best racing games ever made. If you don't love it, you're a wrong'un.
Second Opinion:- When you launch a console and you only give customers 2 games to play you better make sure those 2 games are something special, F-Zero for the Snes is exactly that and then some.
Overshadowed by Super Mario World when the Super Nintendo hit the market this game was soon snapped up as the perfect distraction from platforming and has rightly gone on to be a real cult classic, Transbot approves of everything here.
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10