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F-Zero

エフゼロ

Developer / Publisher: Nintendo
21 November 1990
F-Zero [エフゼロ] - cover art
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3.40 / 5.0
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458 Ratings / 3 Reviews
#1,352 All-time
#10 for 1990
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1990 Nintendo  
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JP 4 902370 501254 SHVC-FZ
1991 Nintendo  
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US 0 45496 83002 1 SNS-FZ-USA
1992 Nintendo  
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GB 0 45496 83002 1 SNSP-FZ-UKV
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Title
After the absolute travesty that was Super Mario Kart, I got a few people from a couple of different places mentioning F Zero, another SNES racing game that used mode 7 scaling to give the effect of being placed in a 3D environment. After hearing those comparisons I was admittedly a bit tentative to check this game out, but I'm glad I did, because this is really cool and suffers from very few of the criticisms I could place on Super Mario Kart. F-Zero really feels like an arcade racer done right, with the incredibly high speeds lending themselves to a lightning fast pace, and the core gameplay loop and game feel only adding to the adrenaline rush. Along with this, the game demands a high degree of adaptability and intricate knowledge for each of the 15 tracks here, feeling as if it heightens both the skill floor and ceiling tremendously, encouraging some pretty rigorous practice in an attempt to improve your skill and track times by any amount you can, feeling rewarding every step of the way.

One of my favourite things about this is the way that the game feels endlessly nuanced in ways that largely don't matter unless you're actively trying to perform at your absolute peak. Each of the 4 cars you pick between feel significantly different from one another but all feel great to play in their own ways, often coming down to personal preference about which one works best for you. While there's only one car that any speedrunner would dream of using due to its extremely high speed and handling, it definitely doesn't feel quite so cut and dry due to the high risk high reward nature of it. New players who pick it will find themselves losing with this one more often because of the car's strengths being balanced out by being extremely punishing for every minor mistake you make, for example.

Each car essentially feels as if it fills its own niche that only really gets broken once you're at the point where you're already incredible at it and just want to improve yourself, and I love this, the game manages to set up this dichotomy in how a player is expected to approach things depending on if they're casually playing things or gunning for their best, with the decision making dropping off a bit as you get better, replacing it with a game that feels infinitely harder due to the player essentially expending all of their safety nets in pursuit of those extra couple of seconds. While you could say that a similar dynamic could be applied to a lot of games, I don't really recall one making me consider this to quite the same degree as I did while zooming down these tracks at absolutely ludicrous speeds. This feels especially true with the boost you get at the end of each lap, where there are so many potential applications for them and it really depends on your current position that determines where you end up using them, as while you could always save it for the optimal point in the track, you could also decide to wait for a slightly safer point or even save it in case you make a mistake and want to get back up to top speed as quickly as possible. The utilisation of such tools becomes something that completely encompasses the experience and it makes it even more insane when it's happening while the player is driving at such high speeds.

While the core gameplay feels superb most of the time, controlling with just the right amount of weight and being a constantly exhilarating experience, the game isn't really perfect either, mostly thanks to how strangely cruel it is in certain aspects. A lot of the later tracks seem to have these one or two moments that feel specifically designed to trip you up every time without fail, where your speed management and turning has to be absolutely perfect for you to not get thrown around or lost the majority of your momentum. While I'm all for the game challenging you to do that bit better and master its mechanics and level design, I do feel like it's a bit much to be so harshly punishing for not being absolutely perfect, as that sort of stuff feels like it should more be something you do to improve at the game rather than requiring it to not completely fail. That infamous jump in White Land II is a particularly brutal example, where if you aren't fast enough, you don't only bump into a couple of obstacles and need to build up speed again, but you straight up die and need to start the race again entirely, even if you're on the final lap.

I also feel like the physics when you bump into another driver are really, really janky, often sending you in seemingly random directions and very easily derailing your entire race, which is particularly nasty given how many cars are on the track most of the time. Overall I think that F-Zero is a pretty sick game though, it feels great to play, and even though I'm awful at it, I still felt that drive to try and improve myself, the game just feels so cleanly built to always make the player simultaneously love the feeling of driving but never feel 100% satisfied with their performance, always striving to get better and truly feel the thrill of driving at high speeds flawlessly. Starting to get why there are those people who are still gunning for a new F-Zero game at some point in the future, and apparently the sequels are even better, so I'm looking forward to that.
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Kempokid 2022-02-18T07:07:12Z
2022-02-18T07:07:12Z
3.5
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Title
F-Zero is the racing franchise that Nintendo has forsaken. It predates the first Mario Kart game by a couple of years, so this means F-Zero was Nintendo’s first foray into establishing a series in the racing genre (the one-off NES title Excitebike withstanding). Once Mario Kart emerged on the SNES in 1992, both franchises coexisted for a few generations until Nintendo decided only to invest in the wildly popular Mario Kart series and leave F-Zero in the dust. We have not seen hide nor hair of F-Zero in almost twenty years, besides Captain Falcon’s long-running stand as a character in Super Smash Bros. I can’t say I’m surprised that Nintendo stopped investing in F-Zero and focused solely on Mario Kart as their juggernaut racing franchise. Why is this you may ask? Because Mario Kart is accessible while F-Zero only reaches a niche demographic of gaming masochists. Why would Nintendo, a company that thrives on its user-friendly properties, put effort towards a franchise that makes people want to tear their hair out due to sheer frustration? It wouldn’t make sense to do this from a marketing standpoint, and that’s the reason why Nintendo gave up on the series many years ago. What Nintendo failed to realize is that this niche market still hungers for more of the meaty challenge that only F-Zero provides. As early as the first F-Zero game on the SNES, the series provided a high-octane racing experience that tested the limits of the racing genre.

The first F-Zero also tested the limits of what was capable on the new SNES. As a launch title for the system, its ulterior goal was to showcase the capabilities of the new console. If Super Mario World showcased an evolved translation of the NES side scroller, F-Zero showcased features that could not have been functional on the NES at all. The potential of the new “mode-7” feature on the SNES was exhibited greatly with F-Zero, almost as if the feature was crafted with racing games in mind. “Mode-7” graphics detail a rotated background layer, changing the perspective to give the illusion of 3D graphics. That’s right, this was the prototype for the 3D revolution that would become the standard for gaming, and it was used as early as a SNES launch title. While other SNES games used snippets of mode-7 graphics, F-Zero utilized them to the best of their capabilities. Racing games of previous generations were restricted due to graphical limitations. They were presented in a myriad of perspectives, but none of these did the racing genre justice. The new mode-7 graphics created the most ideal racing perspective for a console that predated the 3D era. Not only did the pseudo-3D graphics allow the player to see their car from the back, but it allowed the player to see what was directly in front of them. Racing games of previous generations could only render only a minuscule amount for the driver to see on the road. F-Zero puts everything in clear sight so the player can anticipate everything from dirt pits, road curves, and other drivers. It seems so simple in retrospect, but this was a revolutionary change for the racing genre at the time.

The futuristic evolution of the racing game that F-Zero upholds in a technical sense is supported by its futuristic aesthetic. F-Zero is a racing game set in a time that nobody alive in 1990 or today will ever experience. The high-octane speeds that the racers accelerate to surpass any flux capacitor and quite frankly, scare the hell out of my comparatively unadorned 21st-century being. The tracks are winding and the backgrounds all look like concept art from Fantastic Planet. There is more context to F-Zero’s racing league and its drivers, but this is only elucidated in the game’s manual of which I do not possess (the SNES was before my time and I played this game on my Switch). What the game presents is that the player has a choice between four different racers whose cars have distinct stats. The blue car (of which I’m only pretending not to know that this is Captain Falcon’s car because the game doesn’t tell the player) is the car with the most balanced level of speed, handling, and acceleration. It’s the perfect car for beginner players. The other cars have stats that exceed the blue car in some aspects but are lacking in others. This way, the small selection of racers the player has is at least varied. There are fifteen tracks in total divided into three grand Prix each with five tracks and each grand Prix gets progressively more difficult.

Speaking of the difficulty, I think F-Zero should serve as a lesson that we as people should not attempt to surpass the limits of automotive technology. The racers of F-Zero drive at speeds in the 300-500 range, tripling the rates of speed of any present-day automobile. Driving at these perilous speeds is probably why F-Zero is so goddamn difficult. The player can see plenty of what’s in front of them, but good luck trying to avoid the many hazards each track presents. This can include having to execute the sharpest of U-turns, avoiding the patches of snow and dirt on the tracks, dodging unexploded ordnance, and not misstepping any of the various jumps that could lead to the driver’s death. All the while, the player has to contend with the other racers who swerve masterfully around the courses even on the easiest difficulty. The other racers are ruthless and will defend their position as their lives depend on it. Even if the player is in first place, another driver will always be tailing them. One minor mistake on the player’s part will most likely cost them their position. Trying to pass other racers on the tracks tends to turn F-Zero from space-age NASCAR into space-age bumper cars. Passing the other racers without getting nicked is incredibly hard to do because the tracks are so narrow. The possibility of the player coming into contact with another racer is highly likely and will result in the player getting bumped around on the track like a pinball. The most frustrating aspect of this is the generic yellow and brown racers on the track who have no stakes in winning the race. Their only purpose is to cause grief for the player, acting as obstacles even when all the other racers are behind them. Some of them explode upon impact just to fuck the player over even harder. All of this battering and bruising the player will experience will lower their energy bar which is essentially the car’s health meter. After too many clangs and clashes on the road, the energy bar will deplete and do a constant warning flash if it’s too low. There’s one long stretch of each track in which running on it will replenish the energy meter, but it only charges a minuscule amount. If that energy bar goes to zero, the car will blow up and the player will have to start the race over again. The game will only give the player three chances, and they’re going to need all of them.

The ironic part about how innovative F-Zero was to the racing genre is how it seems like an arcade game. If I didn’t know any better, the demanding difficulty curve and the lives count scream arcade game to me. As one could probably tell from my reviews, I’m not a fan of games with this format that were made for consoles. The difficulty has little to do with my grievances here. Rather, it’s due to the lack of tangible rewards the player gets for overcoming the hardest racing game on the NES. All of the tracks, racers and grand Prix that are available from the start are all that is offered. What about the two or three racers that are always in fifth and sixth place? Unlocking their cars would at least be some incentive to keep playing the game. After winning a grand Prix, there is no grand ceremony giving the player a gold trophy. All the game will do is tally up the player's scores. I’m not someone who thrives off of bragging rights, so merely keeping scores like an arcade machine is not enough to satisfy me. There isn’t even a multiplayer mode which should be mandatory for any racing game.

If anyone out there thinks they are the Mario Kart grandmaster, playing F-Zero will be a humbling experience that will put them in their place. Alternately, if you’re someone who feels frustrated by being hit with a blue shell and losing a race, those unfortunate snags are nothing compared to the trials and tribulations on the futuristic tracks in F-Zero. I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but I had to play F-Zero on the easiest difficulty to experience the full game for this review. The easiest difficulty still managed to bend me over and make me its bitch. I got so frustrated with being tossed around on these tracks that I almost gave up. This is most likely the shared experience of many players of F-Zero, but I still kept playing. There is something so gratifying about progressively getting better at this game after struggling to even place in first on the beginning grand Prix. Learning how to properly drift and slide past those acute angles on the roads with little trouble feels like I’ve become a more capable person, something that no other racing game provides. That’s the appeal of this game that makes getting pummeled worth it. All the same, the game would’ve benefited greatly from providing the player with rewards for mastering it. The first F-Zero might have been a cutting-edge racing title that showcased the potential of the SNES’s hardware, but it still felt a little rudimentary all the same.
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Erockthestrange 2020-09-11T08:49:38Z
2020-09-11T08:49:38Z
6.0
1
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F-Zero is well and truly an under appreciated title in not only the SNES library but Nintendo's IP's in general. Its well regarded now that the original game was more or less a fully fleshed out tech demo for the SNES's Mode 7 chip and its capabilities and for that it is a beautifully realized game and tight racing sim. Scratching that, however, leaves a game with a fatal flaw. A solo only experience. Granted a game like this with the graphical limitations of the 32-bit console would be incredibly difficult to render and, with hind site, the games spiritual successor Super Mario Kart definitely show that maybe a 2 player mode wouldn't have been in this games best interest after all.

One of my favorite aspects of the game itself is just the background art and music, which really gives it a very nostalgic and enticing atmosphere that always brings me in. Who doesn't get goose bumps when seeing the endless purple desert dunes and low hanging gas giant on Silence or the gorgeous twilight coastal setting of Port Town. Its arguable how well the game has actually aged, still a great edition to the SNES and the start of an equally great racing franchise.
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_tumbleweed_ 2021-06-30T05:23:57Z
2021-06-30T05:23:57Z
4.0
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400 km/h!
A very fast paced and arcadey racer. There are 4 vehicles to choose from and a nice variety of tracks. The visuals are fine for its time, but unfortunatly their attempt at simulating a 3d environment with 2d tech was not quite there.. There are some sections of the tracks that are simply ugly to look at. The music is quite addictive.
Gameplaywise it offers a nice challenge, but i found myself bored with it once i mastered how to turn well. The enemy AI is quite aggressive and at times they almost seem to crash on you on purpose. I liked how there is something close to a damage model in the game, and you effectively can blow up once you take too much damage. Playing it nowadays it is still an enjoyable experience, but i think that its later sequels as well as the Wipeout series offer a much more polished similar type of experience.
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Threntall 2016-06-26T10:23:55Z
2016-06-26T10:23:55Z
3.0
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Catalog

Subcon_Onirico エフゼロ 2022-09-24T10:58:50Z
2022-09-24T10:58:50Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
anderd0504 F-Zero 2022-09-19T21:17:22Z
Switch
2022-09-19T21:17:22Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Convalescence F-Zero 2022-09-17T21:17:03Z
Switch
2022-09-17T21:17:03Z
low7
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
CodaScapegoat エフゼロ 2022-09-15T13:17:27Z
2022-09-15T13:17:27Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
MirM エフゼロ 2022-09-14T07:47:40Z
2022-09-14T07:47:40Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Rebellious_Spirit F-Zero 2022-09-11T02:08:42Z
SNES • US
2022-09-11T02:08:42Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
SneedDeck F-Zero 2022-08-29T21:11:38Z
SNES • US
2022-08-29T21:11:38Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
2trucks F-Zero 2022-08-29T20:02:29Z
SNES • US
2022-08-29T20:02:29Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
rustedpeices F-Zero 2022-08-28T12:21:39Z
SNES • US
2022-08-28T12:21:39Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
asformyself エフゼロ 2022-08-23T14:39:26Z
2022-08-23T14:39:26Z
3.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Baller16 F-Zero 2022-08-16T22:28:32Z
Switch
2022-08-16T22:28:32Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
blankdfieldd エフゼロ 2022-08-15T19:43:42Z
2022-08-15T19:43:42Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Player modes
Single-player
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1x Cartridge
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  • mimisnowball 2021-07-11 21:29:51.293306+00
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