F-Zero is one of the oldest franchises created by Nintendo. Starting life as a game that was made to show the power of the Super Nintendo, nowadays the series is mostly known for Captain Falcon, its protagonist, showing up as a fighter in the Super Smash Bros. games.
Just like the case with other franchises like Star Fox and Metroid, F-Zero is in a slumber, having its last game released in 2004, which makes for an 18-year period of no news for its fans. But, while many other franchises got a chance to shine once again, the futuristic racing game kept being ignored.
Some of the reasons for this treatment for the F-Zero IP is, perhaps, Nintendo not knowing what to do with the franchise. In many interviews in the past, Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of legendary series such as Mario and Zelda, mentioned how a new F-Zero game won’t happen because there are no new ideas that would evolve the series.
Miyamoto, who worked as a producer in some of the F-Zero games, is famous for always trying to implement new ideas in titles that he supervised. For Star Fox Zero, for example, the Japanese developer insisted on utilizing the Wii U gamepad as a way to control the spaceship, a decision that made many reviewers and players dislike the game.
While F-Zero was never a hit franchise, the highest selling game was the SNES original with 2.68 million copies sold, the series was still popular enough in Japan to get side material, like manga and anime. And the show might be the one that has the answers that Nintendo is looking for about how to make a new game in this series.
F-Zero but with Shonen elements
F-Zero: Falcon Densetsu (F-Zero: GP Legend in North America), is an anime based on the franchise. Running for 51 episodes, the show ran from 2003 till 2004. It followed the story of Ryu Suzaku (Rick Wheeler), a police detective from the year 2051, that after a life-threatening incident, is revived 150 years later in the future and becomes a member of the Mobile Task Force, with the mission to win F-Zero races and stop the evil plans of the organization Dark Million.
The anime follows new lore while utilizing the characters and mechanics from the games as a basis for its narrative. The show is fondly remembered by its music, fun interactions between characters, Norio Wakamoto performance as the main villain Black Shadow, and its finale where Captain Falcon saves the galaxy using a Falcon Punch while sacrificing himself.
While there were games based on the show, mainly the two last titles in the series, F-Zero: GP Legends and F-Zero Climax, both were still mostly normal games without too many innovations. Meanwhile, the anime had some interesting ideas that could be used for new mechanics in the franchise, but eventually never came to life. Some of these could also get new fans to enjoy one of the most ignored Nintendo series of the last decade.
A complex story mode
For a show based on a racing game that had a minimal story, F-Zero: Falcon Densetsu helped expand the lore and universe of the series. While games such as F-Zero GX and GP Legends had a story mode, both were more akin to a mission mode that could be finished in a few hours.
Nintendo could use the lore created by the anime as a basis for a true story mode. Make use of the many organizations available such as the Galaxy Police and the evil Black Million to separate the racers into groups. Following the success of the Fire Emblem games, a form of interaction between the racers could be made, utilizing VN elements to tell the narrative and let players make a multitude of choices to advance and even unlock new characters.
Another element that could be borrowed from the Fire Emblem games would be the My Avatar option. Nintendo could allow players to create and customize their own racer and vehicle and let them interact with the whole world of F-Zero. Following this, the company could also allow players to go on Bounty or complete some side mission between races to get money for upgrades and other items. The customized character could then be imported into other game modes and even an online multiplayer component.
In the manual for the original F-Zero game on the SNES, it was mentioned that the competition was based on the Formula 1 races from the 21th century. Unlike the real sport, however, the races in F-Zero happen between independent racers who enter to get money.
In the anime, however, the characters usually get into a race as a team, trying to help each other to win or just to stop the evil organization. A simple idea that never managed to get into the games. Considering that F-Zero is a fast-paced game with aggressive AI, a team race mode could be a good way to spice things up. Have players work with their teammates to win championships. Online options could put groups of players in teams of 2 or 4 together and have them race each other.
Mixing with the aforementioned Story Mode, Nintendo could mix both options into one mechanic. Have the characters in Story mode work together during races, and the player interaction with them changes who they will help. As another mechanic as well, the player could press a button to ask for help during some tense moments in the race. In the anime, racers could boost each other, a mechanic that could be brought to the game to help during a pinch or just to increase the options of maneuver.
New ways to increase the danger on the tracks
F-Zero is a radical race game, with tracks full of traps and other kinds of dangers that will make even the most skilled of players have trouble sometimes. While the series has its fair share of difficulties, one thing Falcon Densetsu shows is that the danger can always suddenly increase.
Many of the tracks on the F-Zero series are localized in planets with terrible weather conditions, such as the hot fields full of lava of the Fire Field, or literal outer space with Cosmo Terminal. While in the games the side effects of the weather condition don’t affect the gameplay or the races, in the anime, things get out of hand sometimes when the evil organization, Black Million, decide to sabotage the competitions.
This brings us to this: new obstacles caused by the weather. It may sound a little hard at the start (trying to bring even more adversity to the players), but Nintendo could seriously try to add interactive traps and other elements on the tracks. We see something similar to adaptive danger in the Mario Kart series, with tracks such as Bowser Castle having balls of fires and other sudden dangers.
In conclusion: Nintendo, just give F-Zero a new chance
The F-Zero franchise is already 30 years old, and while it was never the big hit Mario and Zelda were, it had its fair share of fans. Since the Wii days, we had many asking Nintendo for a new game in the series or just a re-release of F-Zero GX with online multiplayer. It's true that while the company itself doesn’t have many ideas or interest in reviving the series, especially with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe being a huge success and already fulfilling the race quota, other developers could really breathe a new life into the series.
Even if Nintendo wants to make a new F-Zero game by themselves, they don’t have to look too far to get ideas for new mechanics. The F-Zero anime is a good source of ideas that they could use. If not else, just give us GX in HD and let a new generation of players know that Captain Falcon is much more than just another fighter in Super Smash Bros.
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