When last we met, I sang the praises of Super Mario Kart. Another SNES racing game I’ve always wanted to play was F-Zero. All I really know of it is what I have been taught by Super Smash Bros. and I have only played the N64 sequel a couple of times. I do know that it was an SNES launch title and that there had been one on every Nintendo console until the Wii unless, of course, you count the Virtual Console where I played it. But you didn’t come here for trivia, did you? No, you didn’t. It’s cool. I know you just want me for my reviews.
F-Zero is a futuristic arcade style racer that values hot, nasty speed above all else. Instead of race cars, you are flying hovercraft around racetracks that are designed to appeal to the race fan who enjoys a good crash. You have a power meter that depletes as you hit other cars and the energy barriers that line both sides of the track. This power meter can be replenished by driving over a special section of track during each lap. If you run out of energy, well, you’re dead. In the future, we race for keeps. Hold on to your pink slips. We’re racing for our very breath.
Each race is a five lap affair and each race I encountered was chock full of challenge. Most times, I found that the track itself was just as much my opponent as the other hovercraft. Your mileage may vary but I personally prefer to be more concerned about racing my actual opponent than a track that is trying to kill me. What I did enjoy, though, was that you would encounter lap traffic that would get in you way and really mess up your mojo. There you are trying to complete a pass, you have the momentum, but nooooooopppeee. There is a futuristic elderly driver in front of you with no idea how they got on the track but they do know that they have to get to the diner before the early bird special ends. While I did enjoy trying to traverse the lap traffic, the thing that got me about it was two fold. First, I am encountering lap traffic by the end of the first lap. That is actually impossible if we all started the race at the same time. Also, why does it seem that there is far more lap traffic than actual cars that started the race? Other items in the gameplay made no sense to me whatsoever. If I am in a hovercraft, why does it matter what sort of terrain I am traversing? Why do the rough looking parts of the track slow me down? Makes no sense. Also, no multiplayer? Seriously? Kind of a big oversight, don’t you think?
A masterful job was done of using the SNES hardware to convey just how fast you were really going. The futuristic cityscapes were all done very well and you really did feel like you were racing in the future. A special piece of animation I really enjoyed was on the Blue Falcon (I didn’t use any other vehicles. Call me brand loyal to Captain Falcon). When I turned, the flaps on the Blue Falcon moved appropriately. I know this isn’t the earth shattering development one would expect me to be impressed by, but it is attention to detail. It is looking at your game and asking what you can do to make it just a bit better and then actually doing it. It’s going an extra mile and I am a huge fan of a developer going an extra mile.
While I did enjoy the visuals, the audio was hit and miss for me. Where it hit was the soundtrack. Every track was just spot on for the track and super catchy. I can see why people are still in love with it. It truly is a killer soundtrack, probably one of the best on the whole console. Where it missed for me were the actual sound effects. I get where they were coming from with the sounds. They needed to sound futuristic and they did. They were well placed but good gravy did they annoy the piss out of me.
Now the annoyance of the sound effects I think is either related to or caused by what I am about to describe next. I am 31 years old. I have been gaming since I was five. Never, ever, has a game ever caused me any sort of physical distress with the exception of my first few bouts of Wii elbow and some Rock Band related soreness once those drums came out. As I played F-Zero, I got an extremely vicious headache. I am not prone to headaches and have never had a migraine in my life. This headache was so severe that it required a two hour nap to dispatch. It’s definitely a first for me. I’m not sure what about the game may have caused it, but it was a bit unsettling to say the least.
Despite the health concerns that will likely keep me from trying to play this again, my time with it was enjoyable. It was exactly what it was trying to be: a futuristic arcade racer that gave you a remarkable feel for speed. Nailed it. If you are looking for a multiplayer racing experience, you’ll want to keep looking as there is not one here. As a single player racer, I can see why this is so popular among the SNES faithful. A loose cart is currently going for around $6 so there is really no reason not to snag one if you happen across it someplace. As for the headache, me getting one does not mean you will. Give it a try but by all means quit playing if you get one. That goes for any game. Some things are just not compatible with some people. I will see you folks back here in two weeks with my next N64 review. In the meantime, go enjoy the beautiful sights of the new 1 More Castle layout. Hard to look away, isn’t it?