Launched yesterday alongside the Nintendo Direct showcase, F-Zero 99 is a brand new way to play the series. 99 players racing around a track, avoiding collisions and attempting to boost into the skies for a tactical advantage. It’s a fantastic experience; one that apes the frantic gameplay of Tetris 99. However, while it’s a new way to play F-Zero, it’s not a new game.

In F-Zero 99, players line up with 98 other racers and attempt to get ahead of the pack in a new take on the original Super NES game. As you’re racing, you must keep an eye on your Power Meter. Boost and bash your way to the front, however all the while that Power Meter will be dropping. It’s a risk-reward mechanic that players of the original will be familiar with, but taken to the extreme due to the cluttered courses. You can defend yourself with a Spin Attack, and in a new addition collecting enough Super Sparks will allow you to breeze past the competition on the elevated Skyway.

It’s a thrilling and welcome new F-Zero experience. But in typical Nintendo fashion, it proves they’re only half-listening to their fans.

F-Zero X keyart

F-Zero: A Brief History

As mentioned above, the F-Zero series began on the Super NES. It launched alongside the console (1990/1991) as a showcase of the Mode 7 (scrolling and rotating of 2D sprites) that the system could produce. It wouldn’t be until 1998 that western gamers got another taste of F-Zero, with F-Zero X on the Nintendo 64.

F-Zero X amped things up considerably. With the emergence of the WipEout series on PlayStation consoles (and oddly, a Sony published Nintendo 64 release), Nintendo needed to reclaim the mantle. And that they did, as F-Zero X parred back on the visuals – textures and backdrops – to create an insanely fast game. It was years ahead of its time, and gave us a racing game that was unparalleled in the marriage of high speeds and tight controls.

That was until 2003. 2001’s F-Zero: Maximum Velocity for the Game Boy Advance was a great mobile edition, but it was the dual release of F-Zero AX and F-Zero GX that really cemented the series’ place as leader of the pack. The GameCube’s F-Zero GX was developed by SEGA’s Amusement Vision team, and took the speed/control mechanics of F-Zero X to its limit. But it also added stunning visuals to the game. Dramatic skylines and water effects complimented the brutal sense of speed. And then, compatibility with the ‘deluxe’ edition of the F-Zero AX arcade cabinet – which could only be described as an imitation of a theme park ride – allowed players on either format to unlock new goodies via a GameCube Memory Card.

Since then, we received two more handheld titles – F-Zero GP Legend and the Japan-only F-Zero Climax – in the early 2000’s. This means that F-Zero 99 is the first release in the series in western territories in over 20 years.

F-Zero GX screenshot

‘New’ Means ‘New’

Over the decades, Nintendo fans have been screaming for more from the series. While stalwarts like Super Mario, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros. and The Legend of Zelda have seen numerous iterations across all Nintendo consoles, F-Zero has consistently failed to make an appearance. Relegated to gust starring roles in the Super Smash Bros. series, and lessened even to the likes of Star Fox. Fans have always retained hope, hanging on every word of every rumour. However, there’s been little sign of any interest in reviving the series.

F-Zero 99 is a shot in the dark. It’s a hugely enjoyable way to revisit the original F-Zero, even if that’s not what fans have been asking for. However, it’s not been unheard of for publishers to re-release old titles as a gauge of interest for new editions. If you’re an F-Zero fan, play F-Zero 99. Play it a lot. And keep the hope that, one day, Nintendo might listen.

Categories: Games