A Game Pitch: F-Zero

 

I wrote this article three years ago on my old blog on Wix and was so proud of it that I wanted to share it on my new blog here. This is the first entry in a series I call “A Game Pitch”. In this series I will write articles discussing game series that have not had installments in years or game series that have lost their way in the eyes of most fans. However most of us fans are quick to hop on the problems we see in games, but never attempt to offer a solution and that’s where “A Game Pitch” comes in. Here I offer solutions and ideas that I think can bring something new to the table and today I’ll start with F-Zero a series that I miss dearly.

To get straight to the point F-Zero has been dormant for way too long now. The last game released was F-Zero Climax released back in 2004 exclusively in Japan, but for us in North America and Europe the last title we would see was F-Zero: GP Legend for the Gameboy advance which was a vanilla version of climax and based off of a sorry anime localization that aired on 4kids TV when I was younger.

However my experience with F-Zero mostly was on home consoles and was one of the very first games I played. I was only three and a half when I would play F-Zero on the SNES at my daycare center with my friends in the morning before we went off to preschool. I didn’t even know it was called F-Zero since I couldn’t even read at the time, but regardless I would own every console installment of F-Zero as I got older. I bought F-Zero X for Nintendo 64 and F-Zero GX for the Nintendo GameCube; the last home console title released in the summer of 2003 while I was still in elementary school( which shows how long its been).

I view the absence of F-Zero as a symbol for Nintendo’s loss of diversity in my eyes. While the big N still has the most diverse library in the industry, its a far cry from what it used to be. Even the GameCube; a console which was loved by me but didn’t seem to capture of most gamer’s back then is a testament of this. Loved platforming? Mario was right up you’re ally. Craved Adventure? you couldn’t go wrong with Zelda or Metroid. Wanted some mindless looney toon mayhem? Mario kart and Mario Party could scratch the itch. And if you wanted are serious racer focused on technique the games like Wave Race and F-Zero are for you. I’m sure you get the picture at this point. Nintendo had a game series to cater to certain demographics. While one game might not have been for you there was almost certainly another out there for your taste. Nintendo definitely had a game for everyone back then.

Fast forward to Wii/DS era there wasn’t a F-Zero title to be seen on either platform. Granted it was rough for a lot of Nintendo’s more niche franchises at the time, but none where in the situation F-Zero was in. Star Fox might not have had a Wii installment, but we did get Star Fox: Command on the DS. Same goes for Custom Robo, no Wii installment, but we did get Custom Robo Arena on the DS which even supported online play just like Star Fox: Command. Even Chibi-Robo got a game that generation for the DS, While F-Zero got nothing on the Wii or the DS.

I honestly couldn’t grasp why F-Zero had been left out on either Console. Both of these Consoles where pushing online-multiplayer through the Nintendo-Wifi Connection at the time, and the DS showed it was more than capable of handling a F-Zero game after Mario Kart DS. It seemed like a simple concept and the series would have no installment on the next generation platforms either. While Nintendo has certainly calmed down a bit, I felt like the niche titles from their library were getting very little love while Mario was getting games left and right and leaving everyone else in the dust. However Miyamoto would later provide answers in interviews later on.

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The first interview was back in 2012 on the french site called Gamekult, which was translated into English on Nintendolife. Miyamoto was shocked by a short survey on twitter which showed that one of the games french gamers missed the most was F-Zero.

His response is as follows: “I am really pleased to hear Twitter’s opinion, because since the first episode on SNES many games have been made but the series has evolved very little. I thought people had grown weary of it. I’d like to say: Thank you very much and try to wait by playing Nintendo Land’s F-Zero mini-game. I am also very curious and I’d like to ask those people: Why F-Zero? What do you want that we haven’t done before?”.

Like I said before this series is not only just talking about the problems, but providing solutions as well. Miyamoto states that the series has evolved very little. F-Zero is a racing game and most games in the genre evolve very little and instead expanded on each entry similar to the fighting game genre. Most people who fell in love with the series did so because of the racing. My answer to him is that F-Zero is not game driven by a story or plot so keep improving on the series like every installment in the series has. Add more tracks, add more pilots, improve on the track design, and push the hardware to its limits to make it the best looking F-Zero game released. F-Zero GX offered a cart creator which was one of its best features. You could build your own machine and even design a logo for it, but you could only choose pilots from the game to drive your vehicle. So take it a step further and let us create our own avatar in the next game to make in our own image to make it seem like we personally are at the wheel.

As for what do we want and you haven’t done before the answer is simple and that is online multiplayer. To this day we have never had a F-Zero Game with online-multiplayer and the world has been ready for it. I’m no game developer but getting an HD F-Zero Game to run with twenty players online at a constant 60fps sounds like a worthy challenge alone. Nintendo has heard this complaint time and time again, but part of your fanbase are adults now. Nearly all of my friends that I would race back in the good old days have moved on. Sure we would play local multiplayer if we had the luxury but online is how we game with each other now. Even look at it from the competitive side of things. The F-Zero community has never had the chance to test their skills against the world to see who’s the best out there aside from comparing time trials.

We also have never had a track editor for fans that live outside japan. During last generation with the WiiU Miyamoto has always stated that he was seeking ways to utilize the gamepad and he missed a big opportunity at that time, but he has a chance to follow up on it with the Nintendo Switch. The touchscreen is the perfect and most effective way for course creation. Look at Mario Maker, sure its subtle but its a match made in heaven.

The last quote I will bring up is from Miyamoto during a interview in 2015 which I found on Gamespot.
Miyamoto states that the struggle lies due to the fact that he doesn’t have a good and new idea that he could bring to F-Zero to make it a great game again and he goes on to state that the answer might lie in a new controller interface.

The first thing ill address is the control issue. I respect Miyamoto and he has done a lot for the industry but I have to respectfully disagree with him on this issue. Why does it seem like the niche and less popular titles have to have a “new” control scheme to be relevant in his eyes. Even during the Wii era arguably when motion controls were at a all time high, he never forced these things onto Mario or Zelda. Sure Games like Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess had motion controls but they were subtle and natural instead of being forced. With Mario Galaxy you would flick the remote to make Mario spin and With Twilight Princess you would swing the remote to swing Link’s sword or aim at the screen to aim his bow. These games added motion controls but did not jeopardize the core game play. If you must look at something to work on look at Mario kart Wii. This game provided a handful of controller options including the Wii-Wheel which was challenging to use but not too outlandish either. If you want motion controls in F-Zero then put in Joy Con support with it for the switch.

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As for F-Zero needing a good “new” idea to be a great game again i’ll answer that with a belief of mine. If a game is truly good it will stay good and not rely on gimmicks to be relevant. A good game will stand the test of time and bring entertainment to the player reguardless of the player’s age, or era its played in. F-Zero, F-Zero X, and F-Zero GX were great games back then and they are still great games to this day and seeing that gamers younger than me who have purchased these games and are enjoy them as much as I did shows this.

-Off Course Comet