F-Zero (video game)
North American box art
|Release date(s)||Super Family Computer/SNES
F-Zero (エフゼロ Efu Zero?) is a futuristic racing video game developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo for the Super Family Computer/SNES . The game was released in Japan on November 21, 1990, in North America on August 23, 1991,[cn 1] and in Europe on June 4, 1992. F-Zero is the first game of the F-Zero series and was one of the two launch titles for the SNES in Japan, but was accompanied by additional initial titles in North America and Europe. In late 2006, F-Zero became available for the Virtual Console service on the Wii and in early 2013 for the Wii U.
The game takes place in the year 2560, where multi-billionaires with lethargic lifestyles created a new form of entertainment based on the Formula One races called "F-Zero". The player can choose between one of four characters in the game, each with their respective hovercars. The player then can race against computer controlled characters in fifteen tracks divided into three leagues.
F-Zero is acknowledged by critics to be the game that set a standard for the racing genre and the creation of the futuristic sub-genre. Critics lauded F-Zero for its fast and challenging gameplay, variety of tracks, and extensive use of the graphical mode called "Mode 7". This graphics-rendering technique was an innovative technological achievement at the time that made racing games more realistic, the first of which was F-Zero. As a result, the title reinvigorated the genre and inspired the future creation of numerous racing games. In retrospective reviews of the game critics agreed that it should have used a multiplayer mode. F-Zero became part of the Player's Choice line by selling at least a million copies.
F-Zero is a futuristic racing game where pilots race inside plasma-powered hovercars in an intergalactic Grand Prix at speeds exceeding 500 km/h. There are four F-Zero characters that have their own selectable vehicle along with its unique performance abilities. The objective of the game is to beat opponents to the finish line while avoiding hazards such as slip zones and magnets that pull the vehicle off-center in an effort to make the player damage their vehicle or fall completely off the track. Each machine has a power meter, which serves as a measurement of the machine's durability; it decreases when the machine collides with land mines, the side of the track or another vehicle. Energy can be replenished by driving over pit areas placed near the home straight or nearby.
A race in F-Zero consists of five laps around the track. The player must complete each lap in a successively higher place to avoid disqualification from the race. For each lap completed, the player is rewarded with an approximate four-second speed boost called the "Super Jet" and a number of points determined by place. An on-screen display will be shaded green to indicate that a boost can be used, however the player is limited to saving up to three at a time. If a certain amount of points are accumulated, an extra "spare machine" is acquired that gives the player another chance to retry the course. Tracks may feature two methods for temporarily boosting speeds; jump plates launch vehicles into the air thus providing additional acceleration for those not at full speed and dash zones greatly increases the racer's speed on the ground. F-Zero includes two modes of play. In the Grand Prix mode, the player chooses a league and races against other vehicles through each track in that league while avoiding disqualification. The Practice mode allows the player to practice seven of the courses from the Grand Prix mode.
F-Zero has a total of fifteen tracks divided into three leagues: Knight, Queen, and King. Difficulty is determined by the league selected and difficulty level chosen. The game has three initial difficulty levels: beginner, standard, and expert. The master difficulty level is available for a given league once that league on the expert class is completed. The multiple courses of Death Wind, Port Town, and Red Canyon have a pathway that is not accessible unless the player is on another iteration of those tracks, which then in turn closes the path previously available. Unlike most F-Zero games, there are three iterations of Mute City that shows it in either a day, evening, or night setting. In BS F-Zero 2, Mute City IV continued the theme with an early morning setting.
The player can encounter hazards in each race. Some tracks have rough areas that slow down the vehicle when driven over. Land mines deal a large amount of damage and can send the vehicle out of control when hit. Sections of track with magnetic field block coating reduce traction. Down-pull magnets pull machines that are airborne down thanks to a jump plate and will damage and slow down machines that are not airborne when if they drive over them. Anti-gravity guide beams keep vehicles from falling off the track but damage them when doing so. Left-pull and right-pull magnets drag vehicles towards the walls that they are installed next to. In Grand Prix mode, the player must also avoid backmarkers which come in two varieties: orange backmarkers and flashing backmarkers. Flashing backmarkers will explode if the player collides with them, damaging the player's vehicle. Orange backmarkers are obstacles that must be lapped and will not explode if the player's vehicle collides with them.
F-Zero is set in the year 2560, when humanity's multiple encounters with alien life forms had resulted in the expansion of Earth's social framework. This led to commercial, technological and cultural interchanges between planets. The multi-billionaires who earned their wealth through intergalactic trade were mainly satisfied with their lifestyles, although most coveted more entertainment in their lives. This resulted in a new entertainment based on the Formula-1 races to be founded with vehicles that could hover one foot above the track. These Grand Prix races were soon named "F-Zero" after a rise in popularity of the races. The game introduced the first set of F-Zero racers: Captain Falcon, Dr. Stewart, Pico, and Samurai Goroh. IGN claimed Captain Falcon "was thrust into the limelight" in this game since he was the "star character". An eight-page comic was included in its SNES manual that carried the reader through one of Captain Falcon's bounty missions.
This game has four machines that the player can select. They are the Golden Fox, Blue Falcon, Wild Goose, and the Fire Stingray. All machines have the same top boost speed.
The Golden Fox is the slowest machine of the four and has the weakest traction and durability, but has the quickest acceleration and turn speed. It is piloted by Dr. Stewart (Romanized as Stuart in the game's English manual), a medical doctor who is trying to impress and attract women with his racing prowess.
The Blue Falcon has a slow top speed, weak traction, high acceleration, and high turn speed. It is piloted by Captain Falcon, a bounty hunter.
The Wild Goose is durable, has a good top speed, medium traction, slow acceleration, and slow turn speed. It is piloted by Pico, who is rumored to be a hit man.
The Fire Stingray is durable, has the maximum normal top speed, maximum traction, the slowest acceleration, and the slowest turn speed. It is piloted by Samurai Goroh, the leader of a band of thieves. He is Captain Falcon's rival.
Development and audio
F-Zero was one of the launch titles for the SNES that Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development had approximately fifteen months to develop completely. In Japan, only it and Super Mario World were initially available for launch. In North America and Europe, Super Mario World shipped with the console, and other initial titles included F-Zero, Pilotwings (which also demonstrated the console's "Mode 7" pseudo-3D rendering capability), SimCity, and Gradius III. The game was produced by Shigeru Miyamoto and designed by Kazunobu Shimizu, under the name Isshin Shimizu. The title was downloadable over the Nintendo Power peripheral in Japan and was also released as a demo onto the Nintendo Super System in 1991. Takaya Imamura, one of the art creators for the game, was surprised to be able to so freely design F-Zero's characters and courses as he wanted since it was his first game.
Notable in the development of F-Zero was its use of Mode 7 graphics. Mode 7 is a form of texture mapping available on the SNES which allows a raster graphical plane to be rotated and scaled freely, simulating 3D environments without processing any polygons. The Mode 7 rendering applied in F-Zero consists of a single-layer which is scaled and rotated around the vehicle. This pseudo-3D capability of the SNES was designed to be represented by both F-Zero and Pilotwings, with 1UP.com stating these two games "existed almost entirely for the sake of showing them off".
An F-Zero jazz album was released on March 25, 1992 in Japan by Tokuma Japan Communications. It features twelve songs from the game on a single disc composed by Yumiko Kanki and Naoto Ishida, and arranged by Robert Hill and Michiko Hill. The album also features Marc Russo (saxophones) of the Yellowjackets and Robben Ford (electric guitar).
Reception and legacy
F-Zero became part of the Player's Choice line by selling at least a million copies. F-Zero was widely lauded by game critics for its graphical realism, and has been called the fastest and most fluid pseudo-3D racing game of its time. This has been mostly credited to the development team's pervasive use of the "Mode 7" system. Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell commented "this abundance of Mode 7 was unheard of" for the SNES. This graphics-rendering technique was an innovative technological achievement at the time that made racing games more realistic, the first of which was F-Zero. Jeremy Parish of Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote Mode 7 created the "most convincing racetracks that had ever been seen on a home console". Parish said F-Zero used the SNES's technology "to give console gamers an experience even more visceral than could be found in the arcades". 1UP.com editor Ravi Hiranand agreed arguing F-Zero's combination of fast-paced racing and free-range of motion were superior compared to that of previous home console games. IGN's Peer Schneider assured readers F-Zero was one of the few 16-bit era video games to "perfectly combine presentation and functionality to create a completely new gaming experience". The game was praised for its variety of tracks, and steady increase in difficulty. GameSpy's Jason D'Aprile thought the game "was something of a finesse racer. It took lots of practice, good memorization skills, and a rather fine sense of control." Matt Taylor of The Virginian-Pilot commented that the game is more about "reflexes than realism", and it lacked the ability to save progress between races. F-Zero's soundtrack was lauded.
In GameSpot's retrospective review by Greg Kasavin, he praised F-Zero's controls, longevity and track design. Kasavin felt the title offered exceptional gameplay, with "a perfect balance of pick-up-and-play accessibility and sheer depth". Retrospective reviews agreed that the game should have used a multiplayer mode. IGN's Lucas Thomas criticized the lack of a substantial plot and mentioned F-Zero "doesn't have the same impact these days" suggesting "the sequels on GBA very much pick up where this title left off".
F-Zero has been credited with being the game that set a standard for the racing genre and inventing the "futuristic racing" sub-genre of video gaming. IGN ranked it as the 91st best game ever in 2003, discussing its originality at time of release and as the 97th best game ever in 2005, describing it as still "respected as one of the all-time top racers". During the 10-Year Anniversary Contest in 2005, GameFAQs users voted F-Zero as the 99th best games of all time. ScrewAttack placed it as the 18th best SNES game. F-Zero reinvigorated the racing genre inspiring the future creation of numerous racing games inside and out of the futuristic sub-genre, including the Wipeout series. Amusement Vision's President, Toshihiro Nagoshi, stated in 2002 that F-Zero "actually taught me what a game should be" and that it served as an influence for him to create Daytona USA and other racing games. Amusement Vision collaborated with Nintendo to develop F-Zero GX/AX, with Nagoshi serving as one of the co-producers for these games.
Nintendo initially developed the sequel of the first F-Zero game for the SNES, although it was broadcast in several versions on the St.GIGA subscription service for the Satellaview attachment of the Super Famicom instead. Using this add-on, gamers could download titles via satellite and save it onto a flash ROM cartridge. The sequel was released under the Japanese names of BS F-Zero Grand Prix and BS F-Zero Grand Prix 2 during the mid-1990s, making them the second installments of the franchise. There are tracks named as a follow-on from F-Zero—such as "Mute City IV", since Mute City I-III appeared in the original game. BS F-Zero Grand Prix contained a new track along with the original 15 tracks from the SNES game and four different playable vehicles. According to Nintendo Power, the game was under consideration for a North American release via Game Pak. IGN states BS F-Zero Grand Prix 2 features one new league containing five tracks, a Grand Prix and a Practice mode.
Although the F-Zero franchise made the transition to 3D graphics on the Nintendo 64 with the release of F-Zero X in 1998, Mode 7 graphical effects continued to be used for the Game Boy Advance (GBA) installments Maximum Velocity and GP Legend. The third sequel F-Zero: Maximum Velocity was released for the GBA in 2001. This installment was described by GameSpy as a hard overhaul of F-Zero and featured improvements to its graphical effects. F-Zero GX/AX, released for the Nintendo GameCube and the Triforce arcade system board respectively in 2003, was the first video game collaboration between Nintendo and Sega. GX is the first F-Zero game to include a story mode while AX was called by GameSpot as the first to get a "proper arcade release". The most recent installment in the series – F-Zero Climax – was released for the GBA in 2004 and is the first F-Zero game to have a built-in track editor without the need for an expansion or add-on.
- According to Stephen Kent's The Ultimate History of Video Games, the official launch date was September 9. Newspaper and magazine articles from late 1991 report that the first shipments were in stores in some regions on August 23, while it arrived in other regions at a later date. Many modern online sources (circa 2005 and later) report August 13.
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