Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Night Rentals: F-Zero

Not every game that we consider an awesome classic was a winner for me back in the day.  Fresh from having thoroughly enjoyed Mario Kart. I decided I needed to give that sci-fi racing game I had seen at the store a try.  When I got home and found myself getting run off the "road" and into space or exploding on the track more often finishing the race--let alone placing--I had begun to wonder why I had bothered renting a racing game in the first place. Even one as cool looking as F-Zero.

Graphics and Style:

Mode 7 makes an appearance again here the same way it does in Super Mario Kart and still helps to give the game a nice sense of depth even to this day. Back when I was a kid the backgrounds to the game bored me to a bit and I thought as an adult it might have been because I was somehow more enthralled as a kid by the brighter colors offered by Super Mario. Well, as an adult I guess not much has changed because I still feel like there should be more going on.  There are some nice touches in F-Zero's background like futuristic cities and such, but that's about it. And, while I appreciate that underneath the tracks there's an ever-scrolling ground--this neat trick of the graphics just didn't ad much for me personally. Besides, with the fast pace of the game, who has time to look at that graphic when zooming along? In fact, why would I want to drop into the awaiting abyss just to see the pretty graphics? I see right through you F-Zero! As if the being run off the road wasn't bad enough.

Music and Sound:

Here's the obligatory shout out to the Mute City Theme:

"Mute City Theme"

Yeah, I can see why this theme gets remixed and updated over the years, even to this day it really helps get you in the mood to zoom along at break-neck speeds through narrow corridors. You need that feeling throughout a game like this and with tunes like the Mute City theme and Sand Ocean:

"Sand Ocean"

--you really get in the state of mind you need. I don't think many of the tunes would make my iPod, but there's enough 16-bit goodness there to get you pumped up.

Gameplay and Control:

You can select from knight, queen, or king leauges; and you have your pick of one of four vehicles to race with.  Every racer has their own unique advantages from strength to speed to acceleration and more. I think having only four racers was a mistake on Nintendo's part, but as this was one of the early games it might have just been due to lack of space on the cart, I'm not really sure. What it lacks in racers it more than makes up for in tracks.  Each track has a recharge station somewhere in it and your going to want to pit your ship as much as possible on the higher levels because destroying other racers is one of the core mechanics of the game.

You see, F-Zero isn't just about beating other racers to the finish, it's about survival. Make no mistake, most tracks, even the easier ones, will likely trash your car to point of it nearly exploding. If the dangers of the sharp turns and tricky jumps don't kill you, you can always count on one of the other racers to murder-ram you until you're nothing more than a smoking cinder.  Even the fairly tight and easy to use controls won't help you because your opponents can seem more bent on killing you than finishing the race. One thing I will say though for this is that it's kind of neat to see the number of racers allowed to continue decrease with each passing lap and knowing that you can up your chances of falling into that qualifying number if you simply bump off the other racers.

Memories and New Thoughts:

I have to admit that F-Zero is one my more recent pick ups, despite it having been one of those games I rented off and on as a kid. You'd think that meant I loved it, but in fact I just was so frustrated with that I kept trying to do better just to know that I could actually complete a league. Well, that never happened, and if my recent replaying of it is anything to go by, I probably never will. Oh, I'll grant that the music for some of the levels in F-Zero were among Nintendo's best. I'm pretty sure a huge chunk of my favorite tunes from video games come from the Super Nintendo selection regardless of how well I liked the game. However, aside from the mode 7 tricks with the "floor", I can't help but think how it just doesn't compare to all the variation in Super Mario Kart. (Which is probably why I bought that one and only rented F-Zero.) I'm glad to have the game in my collection, even if it does serve as a reminder of why I never really got into racing games.

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