Approximate Release Date: August 23, 1991
In 1991, F-Zero was a beautiful game.
Racing games for the NES, such as Rad Racer, had to fake many visual effects to give the appearance of speed and three-dimensionality. It looked good for the time, and the games were often fun, but it limited developers with what they could do with the gameplay. These racing games all played and looked very similar. So when the Super Nintendo and its special background-scaling Mode 7 abilities were released, this opened the doors for new experiences in the genre.
F-Zero was the first racing game for the SNES, but it often seems more like a tech demo than a full, retail experience. The game looks great, and still plays solidly, but what’s missing from the cart drags the entire experience down. There are 15 tracks and three difficulty levels, but they all feel so similar, and many tracks reuse backgrounds which doesn’t help matters. There are four vehicles which handle differently enough to be distinct, but each race has about sixteen racers competing for the top spot.
What this means is you see the same four cars multiple times on tracks that don’t have a lot to differentiate themselves from one another. And there’s no multiplayer to race your friends. It’s about as bare bones as a racing game could be. But at least the music is amazing.
That’s the biggest bummer about F-Zero; It feels like 50% of a game. But it nails the controls, sense of speed, and style of a futuristic racing game with a rockin’ soundtrack. It’s worth playing, just don’t spend all of your allowance on it.
Tomorrow: The Konami Code enters the 16-bit generation in Gradius III.