i’d been trying to get motivated to spend time with the original f-zero for SNES for ages. i’d really loved f-zero GX when i’d played it a few years ago, but although i had tried out the SNES version a few times it really hadn’t drawn me in. i finally gave it a fair amount of time recently, and although it’s technically impressive and for the most part i enjoyed the “beginner” and “standard” levels of difficulty (the exception would be the suddenly much more difficult final track of the last cup, called “fire field”), i came away just being frustrated by the difficulty. which is a bit odd, since i thoroughly enjoyed GX, often cited as one of the hardest games of all time.
it’s quite possible the mario kart series is to blame, since with those games it’s not too hard to win even with a few mistakes and if you really screw up there’s still a chance that you can make a comeback with a much-needed item. there’s a high probability that i’ve gotten “softer” and more impatient in my old age, but i think a better explanation is that the difficulty in f-zero just seems unfair in some crucial ways. videogamecritic.net’s review is a bit overly harsh in general, but i have to agree with him that the “pinball physics” is the main thing that makes the game incredibly frustrating. the extreme bounciness of your vehicle is problematic when running into walls just due to careless driving, even when using the heavier machines, but when that’s coupled with the aggressive CPU drivers at the higher levels who will purposely drive into you the entire game becomes annoying. on top of that the slow drivers who just get in the way also drive more erratically at these levels of difficulty and will suddenly swerve into your path so that avoiding them becomes more a matter of luck than skill. ugh. the higher levels also emphasize having to pass rival cars more, which again just leads to random messy pileups more often than not. the key feature that GX includes (and that apparently originated in its predecessor, f-zero X) is the ability to attack other vehicles so that you actually have protection against the other drivers instead of solely having to react to their jostling and hope for the best.
on the plus side, the game, like GX, does give a great sense of speed and the framerate is silky smooth. it features some hazards that GX didn’t have, and the track layouts in general are pretty interesting and have a good amount of variety. the visuals, made possible by the much-touted mode 7 effects, are quite good for the SNES era, and extremely impressive considering it was a launch title, although some of the sound effects, including the acceleration sound, are rather grating. it’s also quite an impressive debut for a series that, although it hasn’t seen a lot of action recently, i’ll be continuing to work my way through. that definitely won’t be for a while, though; even though f-zero X is much more like GX than the original, i’m definitely going to have to take a long break before climbing back into the blue falcon’s driver’s seat.
zoomin’ past some f-zero links:
– review at nintendolife.com
– some maps at vgmaps.com
– PDF of the manual at replacementdocs.com
– entry at wikipedia
– coincidentally, f-zero is also currently an entry in the ongoing series of polls i’m running to highlight some of the greatest games of all time. check it out here.