Allow me to be fully transparent here: F-Zero is my all-around favorite Nintendo franchise. Likewise, F-Zero GX is one of my most cherished games ever; in fact I own several copies of it including opened and sealed copies of the NA and JP versions. Now for the sake of this article, it’s important for me to also disclose this next bit of information: I’m sort of a closet racing game fan. Regardless of my complete apathy for the sport of racing itself, or the fact that I’ve never been nor will I ever be a “car guy,” there’s something inherently fun about soaring around a track at breakneck speeds all the while jockeying for position against several other determined wheelman. Games like Gran Turismo, Sega Rally, Sega GT, Daytona USA, and Forza really resonate with me, but it’s F-Zero that truly tickles my fancy.
If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you probably know I’m a bit of an otaku, and, because of this, I really enjoy almost all games that come from eastern developers. I revere their take on narration, storylines, characters, gameplay, and the like. Thus, when I combine this with my affection for racing games, F-Zero becomes kind of the perfect marriage of two things I hold near and dear to my heart. Better yet, F-Zero is the epitome of racing games in my eyes. Its sense of speed is astonishing, its lore (though often overlooked) is compelling, and the characters, such as my dude Falcon, are my favorite among the entire gallery of Nintendo personalities. To sum it up, I simply adore F-Zero.
In knowing this, you might suspect I’ve felt a little betrayed and a lot disappointed by the near ten year absence of F-Zero on home consoles. The last installment of the series came to us in 2003 per the GameCube, and featured some superb additions to the franchise’s formula, such as a story and customization mode, extended roster reaching 40 pilots, Internet leaderboards, pilot profiles, replays, and even new racing techniques such as the infamous snaking strategy intentionally implemented to add another layer of strategic depth to the title’s gameplay. Needless to say, F-Zero GX is the total package. It’s because of how well-rounded GX is that Shigeru Miyamoto recently expressed that a new entry in the F-Zero series hasn’t happened merely because they don’t want to churn out more of the same product– and that the series has gone as far as it can. While I can understand his logic, I don’t necessarily consider releasing a sequel to a game, that’s been out of the limelight for ten years, as overloading gamers with “more of the same.” More of the same is Call of Duty– not F-Zero.
So the question, then, becomes this: what new features would we need to see in an F-Zero game to shake things up and provide players with refreshing experiences? While my initial thought is, again, nothing, just give us more of that F-Zero goodness, that won’t cut it according to Mr. Miyamoto. So with those stipulations put on the situation, I went to the proverbial drawing board to brainstorm what a new F-Zero could entail in the way of original or at least additional concepts.
For starters, I’d want to see an expanded story mode. F-Zero GX was a step in the right direction regarding this subject, but what it implemented was vastly limited– only Captain Falcon’s story is told in GX. While I love Falcon, the game has a comprehensive set of other pilots that were just itching for a fleshed out backstory and a quality narrative outlining the trials and tribulations of their journey in competing in the Grand Prix.
We don’t need all-encompassing stories for each pilot, as F-Zero is an arcade racer first and foremost, but some classic Nintendo storytelling with the occasional cutscene that provides us with just the right amount of narrative depth would go a long way. Seeing deeper into the cockpit of these machines and giving players a chance to find emotional attachment to these seemingly nameless faces not only gives us more reason to play the game, but it also makes each race against them all the more meaningful. I want to know that, if I’m racing as Falcon and I just took out Samurai Goroh, my actions have consequences, and those ramifications could impact a character that I may have already learned about and grown fond of by playing through their respective campaign. This level of emotional sentiment gives more purpose to our actions in the game, but even without the psychological implicates, this merely grants us an experience that has a ton of replayability.
Moving past the campaign, though, I crave more customization. I was enthralled by what GX had to offer, but I think there’s more to be explored in this department. Going one step further, I want to be able to create my own pilot and F-Zero machine. This feature could border on making F-Zero something it’s not, i.e. a simulator, so the developers would need to read lightly to avoid making it too complex. Striking a balance between accessible, but deep is a difficult achievement, but if anyone can do it, it’s Nintendo. After all, being able to build my vehicle from scratch and then earn new parts for it, while concurrently growing my very own character by dishing out attribute points to make him a more effective pilot would enrich the gameplay exponentially. While I usually scoff at games that so trivially make use of RPG elements, I think the breadth of F-Zero could be widened by using some of these roleplaying facets. Though this could create balance issues with my next desired feature, online multiplayer, it could be worked around with some sort of filtering system set up by game hosts to include or prohibit custom characters in order to level the playing field.
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