Maximum Velocity: What We Want in a Wii U F-Zero Game

The dormant futuristic racing series is overdue for a follow-up.

By Jake Shapiro. Posted 03/19/2014 09:00 4 Comments     ShareThis

F-Zero and Mario Kart have a symbiotic relationship. They’re Nintendo racing games at opposite ends of the racing genre spectrum: F-Zero is a tough, futuristic racer for a niche hardcore audience, and Mario Kart is an approachable, family friendly mass-appeal blockbuster. The original F-Zero was a launch title for Super Nintendo, showing off the new console’s Mode 7 graphics and Super Xtreme ’90s style. It was an innovative, fast-paced title, although it was missing any sort of multiplayer mode. It paved the way for Nintendo EAD’s next racing effort, Super Mario Kart, which built off F-Zero‘s ideas and incorporated two-player split-screen to launch one of Nintendo’s most commercially successful franchises of all time.

There hasn’t been a home console F-Zero since F-Zero GX on GameCube in 2003, over a decade ago. Mario Kart 8 is coming up in May as Nintendo’s big summer release, and as Nintendo EAD uses it to learn the ins and outs of making racing games and competitive online play on the Wii U hardware, it’s the perfect opportunity to kickstart F-Zero. Mario Kart 8 could do for F-Zero on Wii U what F-Zero did for Super Mario Kart on SNES.

F-Zero GX is an under-appreciated gem. It’s one of the most difficult games ever published by Nintendo, and it was the first-ever collaboration between Nintendo and Sega. GX was handled by Sega’s subsidiary studio Amusement Vision. In typical F-Zero fashion, GX pushed its platform’s hardware limitations with gorgeous graphics and a fittingly epic soundtrack. Not only did it sport over 30 playable characters with unique F-Zero racers, but the game also let you create your own. In addition to the standard grand prix mode, GX had a devilishly daunting story mode. And of course, the most important part of any good racing game: GX‘s genius level design, from giant casinos to the classic Mute City to literally racing on a Möbius strip.

It’s also the perfect time for F-Zero to rise from the grave because its closest Futuristic Racing competitor, Sony’s Wipeout series, looks like it may be over. Where am I going to get my futuristic racing fix now? With Captain Falcon & co. likely making an appearance in the new Super Smash Bros. on Wii U and 3DS this holiday season, everyone will be jonesing for some high-speed hover car action.

So what would I want to see in a Wii U iteration of F-Zero? Of course, F-Zero GX should be the template to build from. Everything that made GX great should make it into the new game. But what makes it feel fresh, what takes advantage of the Wii U hardware, and what sets it apart from Mario Kart 8?

Naturally, online play should be a major component. Online play was a big part of Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7 on 3DS, and it looks like it’ll be even bigger in Mario Kart 8. A new F-Zero game could learn from the online framework of Mario Kart 8 and take it a step further, catering to the older crowd likely to play F-Zero.

But that’s a given. Where F-Zero can set itself apart from Mario Kart is the customization. While Mario Kart simply lets players pick from a few different predetermined vehicles, F-Zero GX featured a meticulous machine customization suite. A new game in the series could take the customization to its logical conclusion and make the custom creations shareable online, à la Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

F-Zero gets its name from Formula One (or F1) racing. I’d love to see an F-Zero game that structures its races and leagues in a similar fashion to Formula One, where drivers can sign with different teams and the player can manage a whole crew, negotiating contracts and upgrading the various machines in their garage. This is where F-Zero’s customization options could play a big role.

Who would make the game, though? Sega and Nintendo still seem to get along swimmingly, with tons of Nintendo-exclusive Sonic games coming out, as well as the inevitable bi-annual Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games titles. F-Zero GX studio Amusement Vision doesn’t exist anymore, but GX producer Toshihiro Nagoshi is now chief creative officer at Sega. Between Sega and the internal development team at Nintendo EAD, I could easily see a great Wii U entry in the F-Zero series. What would you like to see in a new F-Zero game?

4 Responses to “Maximum Velocity: What We Want in a Wii U F-Zero Game”

  • 1396 points
    penduin says...

    In my dreams, they’d also resurrect the 64DD’s track editor and shape builder (I’m not sure if the latter ever happened, I just remember seeing pictures in Nintendo Power of someone shaping polygons into a hovercraft-like form. Probably one of the cancelled Mario Artist tools.)

    There could even be an online cup dedicated to custom tracks and vehicles – to participate, you select a vehicle and track you’ve built, and you’ll race through each competitor’s course in turn.

    Plus, what better way to handle custom tracks, shapes, paints, decals etc than on a giant touch screen? The only problem is what to name it. F-Zero U? F-U for short? ;^)

    Thumb up 2
    • 777 points
      Toadlord says...

      The track editor is without a doubt my number 1 wanted feature in a new F-Zero Game.

      Unfortunately, I think the closest thing we’ll see to it on the Wii U for the time being is FAST Racing NEO by Shin’en Multimedia. Hopefully it’s up to the task of being compared to the F-Zero series.

      Thumb up 0
  • 261 points
    decoupage says...

    I kept thinking touch screen + racing game = track editor, and penduin nailed it. This feature would truly highlight the advantage the Wii U has over its competitors, and it very would could create an online gaming environment that even Sony’s Little Big World might be envious of.

    Thumb up 1
  • 60 points
    Dustin Grissom says...

    We actually discussed this idea in the latest episode of the NintenBros Podcast (Features > Podcasts… if you want to look it up!).

    The main thing I always come back to is how insanely cool online could be. I remember playing F-Zero GX during a grande prix, and seeing 31 bright, glowing tail lights ahead of me, zipping past me, and flying off the track. The visual gave me goosebumps, but imagine if each pair of tail lights belonged to a real-life person you’re competing against online. 32-player online races… Blows my mind everytime I describe it to myself!

    Thumb up 0

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