Ripe for a Reboot: F-Zero
Ripe for a Reboot is a semi-regular feature which takes a classic game or series which has been neglected by developers or publishers over the years and makes a case for introducing it to today's market in the form of a sequel, remaster or full reboot.
Picture the scene. It’s 1992 and a young boy has saved up his pocket money in order to pay for half of a Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The other half has previously been agreed to be purchased by said boy’s father, whether he remembers that little conversation or not. On the day of release, Easter if recalled correctly, they head to Comet to grab a release unit with the enclosed copy of Super Mario World. This game is one of the greatest ever made — even today — and occupies the boy and his friends all weekend and beyond.
Yet, it’s not enough, is it? As a youngster you have all the time and none of the money to buy and play games. It’s a cruelty of life that when you have monies you likely have none of the time. I digress. The point is that although you could quite happily spend all of the time in the world playing Super Mario...World, it’s quite nice to have something else, as well.
Back then the world was a different place and this young boy would peruse the local newspaper on a daily basis. It turned out that people sold things in those papers in the early ‘90s, and one such posting in late summer highlighted some SNES games being sold. This boy pestered his father to drive him to the seller’s house to look at the games. Somehow an agreement was reached and upon visiting, this young person was totally entranced by Nintendo’s own F-Zero, or what would go on to become known as “the greatest driving game ever made”.
Seriously, F-Zero was and still is, an absolute gem of a game. A futuristic racer with four playable characters and three competitions — the Knight league, Queen league and the King league — each with five races and increasing in difficulty. The aim was to drive fast, place in the top two of each race at least and ultimately garner enough points to win the league in which you were competing.
The cars went super fast (over 400 kilometres per hour) and handled like hovercrafts but meaty ones, with different characteristics dependent on the car and racer chosen (it was always Captain Falcon, of course, the main man and best all-rounder). Using the shoulder buttons allowed your vehicle to lean, ensuring you had the ability to take harder corners, faster. The state of the art Mode 7 scrolling meant the graphics on the SNES were amazing too, giving a 3D feel in a 2D world. Super Mario Kart had nothing on this game, despite what every other person in the world said. To be honest, very little since has, with multiple titles taking influence from F-Zero (cough, wipE'out", cough), but little meeting or exceeding its quality.
This grateful boy spent hours learning the game, winning each and every competition (at each difficulty level, too) and then time trialling once all else was done. Part of the fun of the time trialling was in trying to make the mythological shortcuts, including jumps to skip parts of the track, using the jump plates positioned on the tarmac in places. That cartridge is one still owned by the boy, now a grown man, despite trading in (regrettably so) most others in exchange for supposedly newer and shinier titles.
Fast-forward now to the summer of 2003, and a visit home from university to see the parents in between academic years. Much of that summer would be spent playing F-Zero GX on the Gamecube (a companion game to the arcade-only F-Zero AX), at first feeling frustration at the sheer difficulty of it all, before finally getting it and completing all competitions and the exciting and engaging Captain Falcon-led story mode. It was all down to the trigger buttons, and how you had to ride those whilst otherwise doing all the usual things you’d expect to do in a racing game. After everything was done and dusted, time trialling remained engaging beyond anything else, so much so in fact that a screenshot of one brilliant time on one particular track was taken. That time far exceeded anything done by readers of a famous gaming publication of the time (magazine, of course), so it just had to be submitted. What happened next is unknown, alas, with the superb time and the photographic proof lost in the ether between the homestead and the magazine’s offices.
Aside from appearances beforehand on the N64 and since on the Gameboy Advance — in Japan at least — Nintendo hasn’t shown any desire to make a further entry into the series. It’s not a totally dead idea based on various questions and answers from Miyamoto-san over time, but frankly why is there even a question? Driving games are popular these days even if there was a lull around the turn of the decade, F-Zero is of proven quality, the brand exists and the Switch plus its accessories is perfect for arcade racing. Mario Kart 8 has already proven this, and gamers love it — despite F-Zero being a superior series in my opinion. So why doesn’t Nintendo just make a sequel, or a reboot, or whatever it likes? That boy whose story we heard earlier is me, and I’d be the first in line for anything F-Zero.
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