F-Zero is a futuristic racing game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System on August 23, 1991 (November 21, 1990 in Japan, June 4, 1992 in Europe). One of the few launch titles for the SNES, it is the first game to utilize of the platform's psuedo-3D technology, known as Mode 7, which uses the rotation, scaling, and perspective effects to give players the illusion that they are racing in a real-time 3D racetrack.
The game takes place in the year 2560, where wealthy, intergalactic billionaires create a new brutal form of entertainment based on old Formula One races. The races, named F-Zero, used the latest technology (allowing machines to hover above the large track at incredible speeds). The player picks one of four pilots (including famous Captain Falcon, charismatic Dr. Stewart, alien Pico, and wily Samurai Goroh), each with their own machine that differ in both acceleration and maximum speed, and attempts to qualify in each of the fifteen circuits (split into three leagues: Knight, Queen, and King).
F-Zero received a multitude of sequels for subsequent Nintendo platforms (including F-Zero X for the Nintendo 64 and F-Zero: Maximum Velocity for the Game Boy Advance) and obscure console expansions (including the BS F-Zero Grand Prix series for the Satellaview and F-Zero X Expansion Kit for the Nintendo 64DD). Each game in the series further expands the game's story and lore while adding a variety of crazy tracks (including those in full 3D).
In F-Zero, players must maneuver their incredibly-fast F-Zero machine around five laps of each circuit, avoiding various hazards (such as rough roads, slip zones, land mines, magnets, and the track's barriers) and other F-Zero machines (including critically damaged racers, which explode upon impact) while attempting to overtake and maintain a winning ranking among their computer-controlled rivals.
Basic Controls and Handling
Players use the B button to accelerate, the X or Y buttons to brake, the left and right parts of the D-Pad to steer left and right, and the L and R buttons to shift the machine's weight to the left or right (letting players slide around tight corners with ease).
When the machine is in the air (due to hitting a jump plate), players can use the left and right parts of the D-Pad to steer the machine and the top and bottom parts of the D-Pad to adjust the machine's tilt, shortening or lengthening the jumping distance. Holding down on the D-Pad while landing a jump (in which the machine's rear is below its front) prevents an "impact shock" of landing incorrectly (which would cause the machine to decelerate).
After each lap is completed, the player is awarded with a manual four-second turbo boost (called the "Super Jet", shown as the S symbol in the bottom-right of the screen), which can be triggered by pressing the A button. Players can only stock three Super Jets at one time.
Each F-Zero machine has a vitality gauge, called "Power", which is drained each time the player's machine hits various obstacles, such as the track's barrier and opponent machines. As the gauge depletes, the machine begins to visually malfunction, both the machine and the gauge flashing and twitching. If the gauge is fully depleted or the player falls off the track, the machine crashes in a loud, fiery explosion and the player is immediately disqualified from the race.
Scattered throughout each circuit is a special "pit stop" strip. Players who drive over it slowly replenish the machine's vitality (due to a large floating machine that "heals" it).
When a player joins a league, they are given two "spare machines", which serve as the game's "lives". Players who are disqualified from a race must use up another machine in order to retry the race. If the player has no more machines, then the player ends the league with a Game Over.
Players can gain an extra spare machine for each 10,000 points accumulated. Players gain points by completing laps and races, with better placement gaining more points:
|Placement||Score Per Lap||Score Per Circuit|
|1st||900 pts.||2,500 pts.|
|2nd||600 pts.||1,500 pts.|
|3rd||400 pts.||1,000 pts.|
|4th or Below||200 pts.||Disqualification, see below.|
Players can get disqualified from a circuit in one of two ways: destruction of the machine and elimination due to a poor position in the rankings. Each race is an "elimination race" for the player machine only, in which the player (starting somewhere in the top four) must finish each lap above a certain threshold (15th for the first lap, 10th for the second lap, 7th for the third lap, 5th for the fourth lap, and 3rd for the last lap).
The game includes four difficulty settings: Beginner, Standard, Expert, and Master. Each setting increases the speed and aggressiveness of the opponent machines. Master difficulty is only unlocked after completing a league on the Expert difficulty.
The game allows players to pick from one of four powerful F-Zero machines, each with their own strengths and weaknesses (in terms of the maximum speed possible with the craft, the quickness of the craft's acceleration, and the craft's strength against other machines and obstacles):
- Golden Fox - Piloted by the former medical doctor Dr. Stewart (known in the instruction manual as Dr. Stuart), the Golden Fox sacrifices both top speed and strength for the quickest acceleration.
- Wild Goose - Piloted by Pico, a cold-hearted alien ex-soldier, the Wild Goose is stronger and faster than the Blue Falcon but has weaker acceleration.
- Fire Stingray - Piloted by renegade bounty hunter Samurai Goroh, the Fire Stingray has the fastest top speed and strength, but has very slow acceleration.
Once a player enters a league with a specific machine, they cannot change the machine at any time during the league.
The game is split into fifteen circuits, which are split into three separate leagues (Knight for novice racers, Queen for intermediate racers, and King for expert racers). Certain circuits are extensions or slight modifications of a previous circuit.
Players can play seven of the fifteen tracks at any time in Practice Mode, which eliminates disqualification and other F-Zero machines (giving a pure time trial experience).
- Mute City - A vast glimmering metropolis (and the center of the universe in terms of economic, political, and cultural activity), Mute City hosts the starting circuit in all three leagues (all minor variants of the same simplistic circuit).
- Big Blue - Built on a tropical planet that is 99% covered with water, Big Blue is the second circuit in the Knight league. A large portion of the track is covered in slippery water.
- Sand Ocean - Built on a planet whose entire surface is covered in sand dunes, Sand Ocean is the third circuit in the Knight league. The track itself contains a lot of narrow hairpin turns which require careful navigation.
- Death Wind - Built on a dangerous mutated planet haunted by vicious wild storms, Death Wind is the fourth circuit in the Knight league and the second circuit in the King league. The first version consists of a simple, narrow loop (where speed is key). The second version builds upon it with dangerous corners. Both versions include a dangerous wind (pushing the machine in one particular direction) and "dash zones", which sends the machine forward at incredibly-fast speeds.
- Silence - Built on a purple desolate planet where not a single noise could be heard, Silence is the final circuit in the Knight league. The track itself contains a fair amount of square corners and is one of the few circuits to include landmines.
- Port Town - A famous intergalactic trade center and space harbor, Port Town hosts the second circuit in the Queen league and the third circuit in the King league. It is the first circuit to include track-separating gaps (requiring major jumping air) and dangerous magnets (placed on the side of the track). The second version extends the first with narrow turns.
- Red Canyon - A rocky canyon favored by bandits, Red Canyon is the third circuit in the Queen league and the fourth circuit in the King league. Red Canyon includes dangerous zig-zag areas, landmines, and "down-pull magnets", which pull airborne machines to the ground. The second version builds upon the first by including a dangerous set of turn and a deadly "leap of faith" shortcut.
- White Land - Built on a popular snow-covered tourist spot, White Land is the fourth and final circuits of the Queen league. Unlike other multi-circuit areas, both versions are completely different. Both tracks are covered in rough snow and dangerous, slippery ice. The first track contains an area with a set of "down-pull magnets", while the second track contains a very wide gap that cannot be traversed with standard-velocity jumps.
- Fire Field - Set on top of a dangerous sea of magma, Fire Field is the final circuit in the King league (and the final circuit of the game). Consisting of dangerous turns, the track features an area where side-pull magnets are in the middle of the track. It also features a "pit stop" fork in the track, where taking the outer path leads to the power recovery strip (and a dash zone for catching up).
- Mute City I
- Big Blue
- Sand Ocean
- Death Wind I
- Mute City II
- Port Town I
- Red Canyon I
- White Land I
- White Land II
- Mute City III
- Death Wind II
- Port Town II
- Red Canyon II
- Fire Field
- Mute City I
- Big Blue
- Sand Ocean
- Death Wind I
- White Land I
- Port Town II