F-Zero on the SNES was a marvel when it launched, on this day, back on 21st November 1990. And it was a big hit with critics and fans!
Some add-ons followed, but the first true sequel didn’t arrive until 1998. F-Zero X! It was fast! It was furious! And it looked like total rubbish (but it wasn’t)!
F-Zero X on the Nintendo 64 Was Fast
F-Zero X is odd as it’s one of the final installments for Nintendo’s largely abandoned series.
The last official game from the series is F-Zero Climax from 2004. And Nintendo didn’t even handle that, Japanese developer Suzak was (and they’ve since gone bankrupt… yay?).
But whilst Nintendo finally relented with another underused series and released Metroid Dread in October 2021, F-Zero fans have little to celebrate.
Other than looking forward to seeing F-Zero X arrive on the Switch’s Nintendo 64 catalogue, we can’t expect any further games from the series.
Which is a shame, as X is something of a fast and furious marvel.
Nintendo wanted the game as speedy as could be. And so it did just that. Tracks like Silence really let you break the speed of light.
That track we spent a lot of time on in time attack mode, trying to shave a few hundreds of a second off our best score.
However, the main element of F-Zero X was the racing. Principally, that’s the grand prix mode.
The astonishing thing about that remains the sheer scale of the competition you go up against. There are 29 computer characters in each race!
That makes the action pretty fraught as there are vehicles everywhere, so you have to pick your way through the field carefully.
Nintendo went to great lengths to give the impression of massive speeds in the game, with the speedometer reading in excess of 900kmh at times.
And it’s that blitzing pace that really impresses.
F-Zero X is bloody fast!
In 1998, quite a lot was made about how the game looked pretty ropey with bad graphics (compared to many other N64 games, say Ocarina of Time).
The scaled down graphics were a technical necessity to accommodate for the incredible speed of the game. Nintendo wanted no slowdown.
Shigeru Miyamoto had actually begun concepts of the title in mid-1996 when finalising Mario Kart 64 (launched in 1997).
Alongside fellow game designer Tadashi Sugiyama, Miyamoto set to work on the title and it was developed in Nintendo EAD.
To keep the game ticking at 60 frames per second, the polygon count was kept low and background detail is almost non-existent. N64 fogging (so legendary in Turok: Dinosaur Hunter) was also put to effect.
Not being graphics snobs, we had no issue with these limitations.
As the result is a berserk racing game that’s stood the test of time very well. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a fine racing game. Look at this thing!
It was a critical hit at the time, but many in the gaming press had a whine about the low graphical quality of the game.
It even impacted the overall score it got in various reviews, with the press lamenting its basic appearance.
Nintendo also used a squealing heavy metal soundtrack for the title, which didn’t sit well with everyone. It’s not our type of music at all, but it’s bearable!
To add to the longevity, Nintendo also included a random track generator.
That was an incredible addition for the time, although we remember many tracks popping up simply as ovals.
However, every now and again you got an absolute killer of a track! Literally, you’d have 20+ competitors flying off the track to their death in the first corner (or some such).
Nintendo also released a disk drive expansion kit for F-Zero X in April 2000. However, this was for Japan only as part of its failed 64DD launch.
So, yeah, you could design tracks in that and race on them. But as the 64DD was a commercial failure this is a pretty obscure feature.
What remains instead, for most fans of F-Zero X, are the intense memories of speed and mayhem.
It’s a fun racing game even now. And we find even a retro charm in its cut back appearance, which accommodates for blinding speed and often excellent track designs.
As for the series, again there’s been no new F-Zero game since 2004.
Along with Star Fox and Metroid, it’s one of Nintendo’s great underused franchises and many fans would love to see a new title.
Whether that ever happens, we’ve no idea. The F-Zero games never did sell particularly well, which will dent the big N’s enthusiasm.
Apparently, there was a pitch for an ultra-realistic new title for the Switch. But Nintendo decided against backing the project.
To some extent we can see why, as there’s no too much you can do with this idea anymore.
And there are plenty of futuristic racers on the market available should you want to get your speedy fix.
On the plus side, F-Zero X should also make it to the Switch’s N64 game catalogue before too long. So, there’s that to look forward to.