Inspiration can come from all sorts of places, and that's certainly the case for part of F-Zero X. Former associate producer at Nintendo of America, Jim Wornell, has revealed the inspiration for the game's announcer's voice. And it came from certain other popular racing game from the '90s — Ridge Racer.
In an interview on the Kiwi Talkz podcast, Wornell talks about his time working as an associate producer on the high-speed N64 racing game. He was approached by Nintendo of Japan, who was after some voices for the game's announcer — a pretty crucial role for a racing game. Wornell was contacted specifically as he had overseen voice work on Star Fox 64.
Reusing the same Seattle studio he had used for Star Fox 64, Wornell and two other employees recorded their lines for Mr. Zero (that's the announcer's name), and Wornell's was picked, who admits "I kind of wanted the gig, so I made sure I nailed it."
When host Reece Reilly asks about Wornell's preparation, his approach was a little bit unconventional:
"I also played a lot of Ridge Racer, and I kind of patterned my voice after the announcer from Ridge Racer because I thought, you know, he's got that great inflection. And I know that when you record stuff, you've always got to punch your volume, your emotion, up a little bit more because otherwise, it sounds flat."
Well, there's really no better inspiration for a loud, excitable, and intense announcer than the guy from Ridge Racer, really — just go an have a listen! Of course, we all know the iconic Riiiiidge Raceeerrrrr — it's one of the most evocative voice clips from the '90s — but there's a real energy to that voice throughout all of Mr. Zero's announcements.
We think Wornell did a pretty good job, too! We all remember "Too bad! you lost your machine!" and that creepy laughing, right? Obviously, there's a bit of futuristic distortion in there, but that Ridge Racer inspiration is apparent.
Wornell didn't just do voice work on F-Zero X, either. He had learned some lessons from doing work on a different game on the oft-ridiculed Virtual Boy:
"I did the voiceover work for Galactic Pinball for Virtual Boy, and I remember thinking when I did it, I thought I sounded cool, but when I go back and play the game, I sound really flat, so if I'm gonna keep doing this, I've gotta get better at it. So I made sure that when I recorded the voiceover work for F-Zero, I was on my game."
Those are the only two games Wornell did voice work for at Nintendo, but he did get bitten by the bug as a result. And while he doesn't have any major credits to his name, he says it's "a lot of fun" although admits it's a "tough business".
Reilly's interview with Wornell is a fascinating listen, uncovering the secrets and stresses of graphic design at Nintendo over the N64 and GameCube years, including crunch on Zelda: Ocarina of Time and the numerous logo iterations for Metroid Prime.
Give the whole episode a listen down below, and let us know what your favourite F-Zero X announcer lines are in the comments!