The F-Zero universe is far less idyllic than you might believe. Look at that sentence. It’s kind of ironic that I even wrote it, but let’s consider the ramifications. F-Zero greatly represents our classic, fantastical look at the future, as it has flying cars, mankind spread throughout the galaxy (with some alien friends), and flashy, bright lights with pastel colors. But if you look behind the veneer, you’ll discover that the world of F-Zero represents nearly the ultimate in dystopian futures.
Case in point: Mute City. Anyone who’s played the original F-Zero, or even read the manual, knows that “Mute City” doesn’t refer to the fact that the city is quiet, or that it manufactures mute buttons for television remote controls. No, “Mute City” is short for “Mutant City.” Essentially, it’s saying that nearly its entire population is comprised of freaky mutants horribly disfigured by decades of exposure to toxic waste.
Now, if living in a city of dirty, disgusting mutants (and Dr. Stewart) isn’t enough to convince you, let us not forget, NOT forget, that crime is rampant in the future. Lauded F-Zero pilot Samurai Goroh is himself a noted highway bandit, apparently living on a planet which is populated nearly completely by other robbers and brigands. While one wonders why anyone with anything of value would even consider flying within fifteen galactic parsecs of this planet (“parsec” is a measure of distance, not time, Star Wars fans), apparently in the F-Zero universe, it’s somehow a reasonable way of making a living for Goroh and friends.
Looks like a nice little game to play, right? You’re toying with lives there, buddy.
Several other criminals appear in the F-Zero ranks, including the notoriously corrupt Black Bull, who considers himself Captain Falcon’s rival, and the seriously evil Blood Falcon, who considers himself Captain Falcon’s rival. And probably Mr. EAD. Anyway, when you’ve got tons of totally corrupt and larcenious villains like these running around the place, you’ve got to have a pretty tough force for good to take them on.
And here we come to Captain Falcon himself. Widely regarded as the F-Zero universe’s primary protagonist, the good captain is in reality a tough-as-nails bounty hunter who hunts his targets on a dead-or-alive basis. Those of us who were lucky enough to have the original Super NES game were treated to a short F-Zero comic book included in the instruction manual, which started out with Captain Falcon zooming in the for the kill. I’m not joking. In the F-Zero instruction manual, Captain Falcon literally kills a random villain with a gun. He then takes the corpse back with him so he can collect the bounty. This may be the most violent thing ever associated with a first-party Nintendo property in all recorded history.
All this topped off by Black Shadow, the most evil being in the universe, who has a personal grudge against Captain Falcon, but is perfectly happy slaughtering the other competitors, too. Which brings us to another point: F-Zero racing is deadly. Pilots ships blow up frequently on the tracks, and yes, it’s obvious that you can “Try Again” after a game-over screen, but we all know what really happens when you pilot a car off a race track that 20 miles up in the air, don’t we? I think we do. Not to mention there’s a mode in F-Zero X that’s even called “Death Race.”
So, yeah, F-Zero is a lot darker than we usually take it for, primarily because of the bright lights and pretty colors. Next time you’re taking John Tanaka out for a spin on Big Blue, though, remember that there are lives at stake– and each race could be your last.