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Round Table: Let's Talk About the F-Zero Franchise

Posted by Thomas Whitehead


With SNES classic F-Zero coming to the end of its spell as the 30 cent/30 pence Famicom Anniversary promotion on the Wii U eShop, some of us in the Nintendo Life team thought that it was the perfect time to talk about the franchise. With just four main releases — include the GBA title but discounting the arcade unit — it's not been particularly prolific, and has now been in the wilderness for a number of years.

So, joining features editor Tom Whitehead for this friendly chat are editor-at-large Jon Wahlgren, US reviewer Ron DelVillano, as well as contributors Ken Barnes and Martin Watts. We chew the fat over the series to date, as well as our faint dreams of what could be yet to come.

Tom Whitehead: First of all, please introduce yourselves to the readers.

Jon Wahlgren: I'm Jon, editor at large and pilot of the Blood Hawk.

Ron DelVillano: I'm Ron, US based reviewer and I recently trimmed my beautiful beard.

Ken Barnes: I'm Ken, editor of, and I have ridiculous dyed red hair.

Martin Watts: I'm Martin, lowly contributor by day, driver of the Wild Goose by night.

Jon: Which, incidentally, runs on Grey Goose.

Tom: And I'm Tom, features editor and probably in need of a beard trim. First up, what was your first experience of F-Zero on SNES?

Ken: After being a Mega Drive kid for many years, I finally took the plunge and bough a SNES with F-Zero. I'd never seen anything like it - the speed was just insane.

Ron: The first time I ever played F-Zero on the SNES was with my older cousin. This was many years ago, but I'm pretty sure I ended up stealing his copy of the game that day and bringing it back to my house.

Martin: I've actually never owned the original F-Zero, but I did manage to play it around the time it released at a friend's house, and was amazed with the impressive visuals. Although I seemed to be a bit of a wall magnet when it came to the gameplay side of things...

Tom: This may get me run out of Nintendo Life forever, but as a Mega Drive kid of limited means I didn't own it until the Wii Virtual Console. I was struck by how well the gameplay held up by modern standards, to be honest.

Jon: I was a Genesis/Mega Drive kid but a few friends of mine had SNESes, so all my 16-bit bases were covered. I remember thinking how inferior their games were, with the exception of F-Zero. The speed and twirly Mode 7 graphics left a huge impression, and I remember being really wow'ed by the shredding soundtrack and colourful tracks. They weren't really that colourful, but prettier than RC Pro Am.

Show of hands, how many of us owned a SNES in its prime?

Ken: I did.

Martin: Me too

Ron: Aye.

Tom: I'm the odd one out, yay for an inferiority complex.

You rich kids...

Jon: I had a Genesis, so you and me both.

Tom: Awesome, so I’m not on my own!

So it was impressive at the time, I think we're all agreed, yet it had no multiplayer. Looking back, was that something that you actually noticed?

Ken: Not in the slightest - I was too busy trying to get through single player to even worry about that.

Ron: Really? For some reason I'm remembering split-screen action. Maybe we were just trading the controller off though...

Jon: Yes and no. We'd take turns on the tracks so everyone got to play, but we were more interested in other games for multiplayer, like Mario Kart, or tricking each other into controlling Tails.

Martin: I was quite young at the time, so it never really crossed my mind. Again, I was swapping the pad with a friend while playing, but it was no different from playing multiplayer in Super Mario World.

Ron: I guess I'm with Martin on this one!

Jon: Yeah, multiplayer or a lack thereof was never really something that bothered me. I also played Doom with two people, one controlling movement and the other in charge of shooting and actions. You've not played coop until you have to coordinate to strafe.

Tom: What made it truly stand out, if you have to pick just one thing? Graphics, music, sense of speed, gnarly vehicles?

Ron: As far as gameplay goes, it was the speed for me. But to this day that soundtrack is what resonates the most.

Jon: At the time it was the sense of speed, definitely. As the games got faster and prettier, though, that soundtrack has stuck with me.

Ken: The speed was the only thing, for me. I could live without the soundtrack as I didn't think it was that special.

Jon: Shun! Shun!

Martin: For me, it had to be the visuals - I just loved the pseudo-3D effect. It was quite unreal at the time.. .or at least I thought it was.

Tom: As a European, having the Wii U release at 60Hz made me very happy; I finally enjoyed the full speed. How many of you have picked it up on Wii U, and does it stand up well?

Jon: Apart from the cheap drone cars on the track, I think it's just as fun as it was back then.

Ken: I've picked it up on the Wii U, and it stands up very well, I feel. The series has been bettered by Wipeout HD for my money, but the Wii U VC release is really good fun. At 30p, it was an absolute steal.

Ron: For 30 cents? I'd be a fool not to buy it! And it's still a great game, but way more difficult than I remember it being. My reflexes aren't quite what they were in my salad days.

Martin: I'm ashamed to admit I haven't got it yet. I'll get my coat...

Tom: Dear me!

Ken: I found it easier than I did back in the day - which is strange.

Tom: So let's move onto the brave world of polygons, with F-Zero X (the first one I owned) on Nintendo 64 — when you first played that one, what was your reaction compared to the feeling of the SNES original?

Martin: I rented F-Zero X the week it came out and it just utterly blew me away. The sense of speed was overwhelming (even in the PAL version!).

Jon: Obsessive. It was the first one I owned all to myself and I was so thrilled with the sense of speed (even for PAL), the complexity of the tracks and the quantity of vehicles on the track.

I really loved the spin attack too, added a little more depth to it.

Martin: Funnily enough, I got a Japanese version of the game the other day - it's amazing how much of a difference it makes to the overall sense of speed!

Ron: I never got too invested in X, but I remember being overwhelmed by it in a good way. I also competed in a tournament at a local game shop and I placed 2nd. I won nothing.

Tom: 2nd is nowhere, Ron.

Ken: I thought it was good, but it didn't have the initial "wow" factor or me, mainly because I'd been playing Wipeout for three years by the time F-Zero X was launched.

In comparison, FZX was weak.

Jon: I remember being super excited about and then disappointed over how, as a non-import player, I'd never be able to use the 64DD track editor.

Tom: It was my second console — well, my brother's — after the Mega Drive (cue violins), so I thought it was outstanding. It was also one game that I feel flourished with a 3D engine; some of the track design was outrageously good.

Jon: I've never liked the way WipEout handled so I was far more excited about F-Zero X.

Martin: Ken, I'm intrigued - did you not find the speed of F-Zero X impressive in comparison to Wipeout?

Ken: I did, but I just felt that Wipeout was a vastly more complex game, with many more tactical nuances. FZX's speed was amazing - of course it was - but it just felt a little...I don't know...basic, maybe.

The tracks were massively impressive, though!

Tom: And it had multiplayer.

Ken: Well yeah, and that.

Jon: I always felt like WipEout was too fiddly. Granted I didn't have a PSX at the time but since then I've sunk hours into WipEout 64 (yeah, yeah) and HD + Fury and never really felt comfortable.

Tom: We should probably mention F-Zero Maximum Velocity, the only handheld entry to date.

Ken: Didn't play that one...

Tom: Good start!

Jon: Aww I really like that one. It was a great return to SNES form and an awesome way to show off the GBA.

I was super excited about it and it did not disappoint. I think it's held up pretty well too in the Ambassador program. It would kick your ass and it did not care if you cried.

Tom: I feel it was off a little in the controls, myself. Whereas I immediately got into F-Zero X and F-Zero on Wii, I didn't get on with this one, and couldn't really be bothered to go back...

Martin: My only experience with the game is through the 3DS ambassador program – very reminiscent of the original. I didn't like that they replaced the characters though...

I've gotta agree with Tom with regards to the controls - they seem a tad funky.

Jon: You're all nuts.

Ron: I was actually excited to see Maximum Velocity as part of the 3DS ambassador program. I know it's not really a fan-favourite, but it's still a pretty fun racer, and different from everything else being released as part of the promotion.

Tom: Martin's funky description is spot on. Or maybe I didn't give it enough of a chance.

Jon: What was so funky about it? I've never understood the hate.

Martin: The turning just doesn't seem as tight as it should be.

Tom: I remember feeling like I was on ice, which is impressive for a hovering vehicle.

Martin: Plus, the walls are super bouncy - F-Zero Pinball anyone?

Jon: That's what the shoulder buttons are for, and pumping the gas. If you keep holding down the gas you won't be able to turn properly.

Tom: Yes, I know Jon! I just didn't feel it worked instinctively, that's all. I didn't invest a huge amount of time in it.

Jon: I still believe it added some nuance to F-Zero.

Tom: I will give it a fairer shake one day.

Jon: I will passionately defend Maximum Velocity until the day I die!

Martin: I should probably adopt the techniques you describe, Jon - truth be told I always struggled with Diddy Kong Racing until the other day when I realised you could use the brake to turn...

Ron: I tend to agree with Jon on this one. The GBA controls were a little lose, but it felt natural. Also, shoulder buttons and brakes, guys. Shoulder buttons and brakes.

Tom: A nice split down the middle then...

On the next page we chat about F-Zero GX on the GameCube, and speculate wildly (with little actual hope) about the future of the series.

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User Comments (73)



LordJumpMad said:

Nintendo did one thing right, and that was F-Zero.
I don't understand why Nintendo won't even bring it back from the dead, it had alot going for it. I guess is one of those things we will never know.
It even had the best music in video games to date.
No not really, I just wanted to post this



Lyndexer said:

We need a new F-Zero on 3DS and Wii U.
This is the best futuristic racing game by far.



Mk_II said:

No F-Zero at this E3 seems very likely, Mario Kart and the 3D Mario game have top priority now and rightly so. But who knows... Wii U is still young



Megumi said:

Wait I can't remember, is the GBA version on the 3DS? (I didn't download all of the Ambassador games, lol)



Emaan said:

I loved the original F-Zero, so glad the 30 cent deal gave me more incentive to finally get it. The high-speed action, along with the adrenaline-rush soundtrack is awesome. I see no reason why the series can't exist alongside Mario Kart. They're different enough. I hope we see some revival on the Wii U.



emayer said:

You forgot about GP Legend! That was a fantastic GBA game. There was also Climax, but I don't think that one made it out of Japan.



Megumi said:

checks eShop Hah! Yup, its on here. x3
Need to try and get back into this series.



Osc-Sync said:

I feel obliged to say that there was another GBA game, called GP Legend, although that was based on the anime and can't remember if Nintendo developed it.

Anyway...GX for me is the pinnacle of racing games. There has and never will be a better racing game. The speed was phenomenal and the music was top notch. Plus, if anyone ever says the Gamecube couldn't do graphics, just show them GX, they'll be speechless! Really hope Retro is working on a new one, 3DS or Wii U, I don't mind.



rogue_agent said:

Yeah, I used to have GP Legend and it was really, really good! Also, after that, there was a Japanese-only entry called Climax that also had a track editor. These were both GBA releases.



Randomname19 said:

Nintendo should at least make an HD port of F-zero GX(same graphics with HD textures) playable on the gamepad and with online mutliplayer.Eves as a downlodable game



erv said:

Write all you want. GX was the best racer this world has ever known.

I want something like that on my wii u in high definition. Preferably not a port, but a full game, in that same vein, with at least thesame intensity.

I'd buy it for a hundred if they'd ask me.



SamiCetinSMK said:

I liked the GBA versions and F-Zero X, but the original SNES classic was the best for me. Playing F-Zero alongside Super Mario Kart as they both went well together on the Mode 7 Graphics. Most of my time was probably spent time trialing Mute City 1 until i got a PAL 2'38"22 record. Definitely want to pick this up again and keen to see if Nintendo are producing any more new ones in future



Jazzer94 said:

You guys completely neglected F-ZERO GP LEGEND which is superior to MAXIMUM VELOCITY in every way, oh and the Japan only one.



PopeReal said:

Sorry but whoever thinks Wipeout is superior to F-Zero X is nuts. FZX had 30 cars on the track at the same time, more tracks, and way more depth. Wipeout was fun for a night or two rental, F-Zero X is a game to own.



Melkaticox said:

@NintendoMaster How about no? The Wii U needs games much more than the 3DS. There's a reason why I'm worried about SSB4's "dual versions"...if people can just get a 3DS to play the game, why would they get a Wii U just to play the same game with pretteir graphics?



retro_player_22 said:

I had played every other F-Zero games on Nintendo systems including F-Zero AX at the arcade but never got to play F-Zero 2.



WesCash said:

A new F-Zero would convince me to buy a WiiU. Along with Pikmin 3 of course.



DePapier said:

"Jon Wahlgren: I'm Jon, editor at large and pilot of the Blood Hawk."

Somebody in here HAS to love Blood Falcon's F-ZERO GX theme.



seronja said:

the same f-zero to play on both wii u and the 3ds! just like monster hunter ultimate, they should make that feature for f-zero too, i would be more then happy to buy them both on the same day! and my favourite f-zero is the original for the SNES, nostalgia and soundtrack is the reason why i prefer it to other entries =)



IAmNotWill said:

Love me some F-Zero. This inspired me to give Maxium Velocity another shot, and I think I get it. Probably will be playing this for a few days lol

And F-Zero GX was freaking hard.



Silvervisiona said:

As long as they make a full fledged HD F-Zero (with wifi!) for Wii U, my F-Zero life will be fulfilled. An F-Zero rendition would be nice. A port of F-Zero could definitely suffice.



DePapier said:

I have thought long and hard on a F-Zero for the Wii U:

That being said, in the meantime, they should port F-Zero GX to the 3DS and allow for StreetPass and an online multiplayer of the like of MK7 with as many players racing together as they can. (Can they even reach 30?!) That would calm down the fans, revive the almighty GX, and give them time for THE real F-Zero Wii U.



Zodiak13 said:

GX for me. Although I am admittedly terrible at racing games, I still enjoy them. The Speed was insane, and kept me racing to last place anyway.



Stark_Nebula said:

I don't think X or GX is better than each other. While I love my 'Cube dearly, when I get playing X or GX heavily, I sway in that direction. I think both plateau at amazing. I've been playing the original for 3 days, having bought a sealed copy for my now-functioning SNES I got a while ago. I'll see just how well it stacks up soon enough. While I can't say anything for FZ:MV, GP Legend is probably the weakest F-Zero entry. I bought it for 2.50$ at EB Games! That's basically "Here, we don't want it!". I could go on about it, but this isn't the place for that.

As long websites like this make a buzz about F-Zero, I'm sure Nintendo will pick up the message one day, if they haven't already. I doubt (but hope!) that Retro is working on F-Zero. (I'd say their making a Starfox entry.) I hope it's a Wii U game; they could do so much more for the franchise on the Wii U. Also, here's a little brim of hope: F-Zero's (Japanese) 25th is in 2015. #HYPE

Oh, and for the staff here: Stay up to date with the F-Zero AX code, as Ralf has been on it's case as of late. It's up to version 3 (and 3.1 for Pilot Points screen) as of today. Version 3 added the F-Zero AX logo on startup. It's crazy fun stuff!



Wildfire said:

I just want to say that to me F-ZERO GX is the best! And I love it's soundtrack especially Dr.Stewart's theme, the pilot of Golden Fox!



Geonjaha said:

F-Zero has always seemed mediocre at best to me. I've played the SNES and GBA ones and honestly they're just racing games stripped down to the core with some annoying design choices.



Shiryu said:

I did not buy a Megadrive and waited for the SNES, picked it up day one when it was released over here with Super Mario World and "F-Zero". I would only go to complete "Super Mario World" after I finished everything in "F-Zero". I bought the n64 when F-Zero X came out, and even if I had a PSX and loved Wipeout, "F-Zero X" once again came out on top, played it to completion (well, you can't really finish X Cup, right?). Finally on January 2004, even if I did own a PS2, I bought a GameCube with "F-Zero GX". I spent an entire month unlocking everything (yes, I did finish story mode!) and I still play it nowadays, my Wii remains assembled next to my Wii U because of it ( also "Rogue Leader"). I have stated here many times and I will say it again: "F-Zero GX" is my all time #1 favourite game, counting everything I've played in my life, from ZX Spectrum to the Wii U. I have been very sad at Nintendo for not puting at least a new entry on their latest consoles (DS, Wii, 3DS). I just bought a Game Boy Micro last week and am currently replaying "F-Zero GP Legend". I hope one day to import the third GBA F-Zero that only came out in Japan (the one with the track editor!) but more then anything, I hope Nintendo realises that we hunger, we need something, we want to know how is it possible to surpass "F-Zero GX"! Ninty, what are you waiting for?



Shiryu said:

@Rod64 there are in fact 3:
F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (2001)
F-Zero: GP Legend (2003)
F-Zero Climax (2004)

We should also mention "BS F-Zero" for SNES, it's a neat update on the original with new tracks and 4 new vehicles... and insanely hard.



SparkOfSpirit said:

F-Zero GX bombed hard, it's no wonder there hasn't been a new one. If they were to make one I agree with the reboot idea to give it more exposure. Also I hope they make story mode less ridiculously unbalanced in difficulty.

Also to the above 3DS Smash Bros. and Wii U Smash Bros. are completely separate games. I fail to see a negative there in having two new games.



DerpSandwich said:

I'm almost certain they'll return to it. What's the point of keeping it alive and treating it like an important IP in Smash Bros. and Nintendo Land if they're not going to give us another one?



luminalace said:

Considering F-Zero skipped Wii, I am hoping it returns on Wii U. If it came on 3DS, I would pick it up as well.



Mickey said:

I remember renting F-Zero GX and that's about it really... I'd love to return to the series with F-Zero U/3DS!



AtomicToaster said:

Wipeout is alright but it's no fzero! I find it too slow. I think the fzero inclusion in Nintendo land is promising as is the rerelease on vc but especially ninty land because the entire point of that game is to refamiliarize people to their franchises.



moo99 said:

Not at this rate. I'd be happy enough with non-ambassador GBA games like Aria of Sorrow



retro_player_22 said:

They are meant to be futuristic racing game and the crash feature in the game is part of the series charm. F-Zero is more about survival than racing, even if you rank low on the first two courses, you could still rank higher later on as long as you know your trials and errors and master the way of the tracks.



Stark_Nebula said:

@Geonjaha Don't ever base your opinion of F-Zero on the GBA games, nor should you think the SNES classic has aged very well. Your perspective is different now than it would of been then. Not to mention F-Zero is a show of a console's might - outdated hardware does no justice. Go pick up GX to know what F-Zero is about. This is coming from someone who's initial experience with F-Zero came from GP Legend. You won't regret it.

@Spark_Of_Spirit It "bombed"? Is that so? Software-to-Hardware tie ratios say otherwise: F-Zero X to N64 - 1:29, F-Zero GX to Gamecube 1:33. Probably not as profitable, but by no means a failure.

Fun Fact: GP Legend's S/H ratio is 1:509. Ouch.



RantingThespian said:

"Jon: I haven't been so excited about hidden content since I learned that GoldenEye had controller inputs for its cheat codes."

Wait, what!?!?



Dpullam said:

I can't say that I ever got into this series. A new F-Zero game on Wii U would be nice though.



Senate_Guard said:

I want the next F-Zero to have a story mode for every racer. Most of them have pretty interesting backgrounds. GP Legend kinda did it but the "stories" were all very short and mostly uninteresting.



kurtasbestos said:

I don't really like racing games and I didn't really like the original F-Zero, but man oh jeez, F-Zero GX is easily in my top-5 favorite games of all time. It probably didn't hurt that I got to play AX in arcades in Japan while it was still brand new.



ChameleonBros said:

There was something that really just felt off about the Gamecube F-Zero compared to its great predecessors on the Super Nintendo and N64. That being said, it's been what, a good 10 years since the last F-Zero game?

I miss when Nintendo used to have their small series (like Star Fox, F-Zero, Pilotwings, Wave Race, 1080 Snowboarding, their own MLB games) shine right alongside their big ones



rastamadeus said:

I've never understood why GX is praised so highly over X and as the pinnacle of the series. Yes it's (still) beautiful and yes it's blisteringly fast but it lacks the feel of the original and N64 classic. It's too loose in control, the music unmemorable (compared to the first two) and the tracks just a little - whisper it - boring. Don't get me wrong it's a good game but its nothing compared to X which is still the best racing game ever made. If the series comes back I hope they look at the N64 as a starting point and not the Cube. Plus we need Death Race back! And a version of the next Mario Kart's Rainbow Road! And the track and vehicle editor!

Oh and how anyone could favour wipEout I do not know. Good games but they get real boring if you play longer than an hour whereas the three console F-Zero titles you can play endlessly.



Mayhem said:

I won't mention the handheld comment as enough people have already done so...
In relation to the home console releases, in my eyes they've gotten better with every iteration. F-Zero GX is one of the greatest racers of all time, and in relation to why there hasn't been another version since, as someone also commented, I'm not quite sure how they could make it better. Sega's AV team blew the barrier sky high with their attention to detail and brilliance. Sure, the story mode is a little impossible at times, but this isn't a game for wimps and whiners heh.



RevolverLink said:

F-Zero is just one of those series I've never been able to get into, no matter how much I've tried. I respect the craftsmanship, the visual aesthetics and the love fans have for it, but the speed is just too much for me. GX actually gave me motion sickness on more than one occasion.



Mario-Man-Child said:

F Zero X is my favorite. @ Ken; I cannot believe anyone would think Wipeout better than F Zero, that's a new one for me.
Does anyone wish Nintendo would do a new Stunt-race FX or it that just me? Answers on a postcard =D



Newt said:

F-Zero X is my favourite, and I love the snes title. Strangely, I never got on with GX, everyone seems to love that one. A great technical achievement, but it paled in comparison to X, for me anyway. I'm thinking I should give it another try.

I liked GP Legend as well. I don't think many people are interested in that one!



Luffymcduck said:

You forgot to mention F-Zero GP Legend and Climax. GP Legend is my favourite after GX which is easily the best one in the series.

Also, if there´s ever going to be a new F-Zero game on WiiU I would be perfectly happy if they called it F-Zero UX.



gojiguy said:

Haven't finished reading but already some HUGE factual errors... There are 6 main series entries, not four. (we could say 8 if we include AX and BSFFZ2).

Also the statement "We should probably mention F-Zero Maximum Velocity, the only handheld entry to date."

Is entirely false... There are 3 handheld entries... Max Velocity, GP Legend, and Climax...



gojiguy said:

Anyways, I think F-Zero needs to come back. The series was a regular million seller for Nintendo back in its prime. The audience is there if they keep a razor-sharp focus on futuristic high speed racing.

But I do agree it will be tough to top GX. Maybe its best to do an HD remake with 30 player online...

But I think there is much room for new ideas: squad-based team-racing, battle racing, one-lap races, in-depth story modes, etc.

I mean, if Nintendo can churn out a new Mario Kart every console gen, surely they can make a new F-Zero?

Also for those commenting on the GX soundtrack... iirc it was the largest soundtrack in a Nintendo game until Brawl showed up. The depth and brevity to it is absolutely insane. Just listen to the Pilot Profile tracks alone and you'd think they were all from completely different games.



Volmun said:

i loved F-Zero GX and X but GX hold me longer for the customisabel ship's id love to see custom charicters or mabe Mii's being added. So if ther was to be Online you can be different from the other 29 players lol.



TroyAikman said:

GX is such a fantastic game. I'll never tire of landing a side attack just right and sending a CPU to his or her doom.

30 player online would be such great carnage. You wouldn't necessarily need to fill all slots with players either, if it was a problem logistically speaking. Some slots could be filled with AI opponents; perhaps their difficulty could be determined by some sort of algorithm that takes the skill levels of the individual players into account. I'm reaching here, but I think if it were advertised well, a new entry in the series could sell enough to make it worth their while.

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