Hello and welcome to your weekly dose of potential SEGA Sequel Awesomeness (yeah I did just say that). Before I get started on Episode 14, though, I’d like to give a shout out to another pretty amazing sequel that has nothing to do with SEGA. As anyone who has been following my Twitter likely knows by now, I’ve been seriously loving the new Mortal Kombat game. If you’ve ever been a fan of the Mortal Kombat series, especially games 1-4, I’d definitely recommend checking MK9 out on your HD system of choice, really a lot of fun.
Anyway, without further ado…this is one I’ve been wanting to write since last week, when IGN’s Martin Robinson did an article celebrating the Amusement Vision-developed F-Zero GX. After reading his piece, what I had always thought in the back of my head was brought completely to the surface: I don’t think a new F-Zero game could be as good as GX was without SEGA’s Amusement Vision back at the helm.
F-Zero GX was that rare Nintendo game to actually revel in its hardcore challenge. It was not an easy game, not by a long shot, but the gameplay itself, which was of course inspired by the previous Nintendo-developed F-Zero titles, was easy enough to figure out. You chose at the start of the race whether your car would have a higher max speed or better acceleration, and then you raced at incredible velocities around futuristic racetracks, complete with loops, corkscrews, jumps, and all that great stuff. All throughout there were charging areas you sped through which filled up your boost/health gauge. Once you entered lap 2, you were given the ability to boost, and it’s here that the F-Zero games became not only about racing, but about knowing when and when not to boost, and, when boosting, how to desperately cling to the track to avoid a wipeout at all costs.
What I loved so much about F-Zero GX was that it felt like a perfect mix of the charms of both Nintendo and SEGA. Undeniably a Nintendo property and featuring the same accessible and fun (and challenging) Nintendo gameplay and characters that made F-Zero such a hit to start with, GX also overloaded itself with touches more common in SEGA games, like an entertainingly B-movie storyline and an incredibe guitar-heavy soundtrack (one of F-Zero GX’s composers would later go on to work on the music for the Yakuza series) not to mention razor-sharp visuals. This game looked amazing, still does today, and the fact that the framerate held up despite such detailed environments, 30 racers on the track, and the mind-numbing speeds, was nothing less than a technical achievement.
What I loved so much about F-Zero GX was that though the Grand Prix mode was extremely challenging, it was not a challenge that was impossible to overcome, and there was nothing more satisfying than destroying the competition and really feeling that you’d accomplished something. The game’s Grand Prix mode was difficult in the sense that it demanded and rewarded skill, not difficult in the sense that it felt cheap. There was no rubber-banding in F-Zero, unlike something like Mario Kart, which always tilts the race in the favor of the people in last place.
The cups and the tracks were all incredibly varied and gorgeous; from the colorful Mute City to the translucent Mobius Ring, there was hardly a bad one in the bunch. The Grand Prix mode was amazing enough that it alone could have won me over, but there was much more to F-Zero GX than that. The game was brilliantly designed so that you’d have to play the Grand Prix mode to get the currency that allowed you to buy the next chapter of the Story mode, an entirely separate series of levels and challenges. Not only did this force you to experience the amazing GP mode to progress the story, but it allowed you to get more practice with the game, enabling you to be good enough to tackle the very challenging Story Mode missions.
In Story Mode, you’d go from one mission to the other, each beginning with an FMV sequence to advance the plot, and rather than me talking about it, just watch one of them. This is one of my favorites: be sure to listen to the music, savor the atmosphere, and enjoy the little touches of detail:
Now, maybe I’m being a bit unfair here, as this game was co-produced by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto along with SEGA’s Toshihiro Nagoshi, but I just don’t think we would have had that in there if Nintendo had developed the game themselves. It just doesn’t seem like the type of thing they’d think to do, and it’s these touches that gave F-Zero GX such personality. SEGA was the perfect fit to take F-Zero to the next level, and whoever came up with this collaboration was a genius. It’s a collaboration that I’d like to see happen once again, and with the recent rumors about the new HD Nintendo console, I think the time’s never been better.
As far as what I think a new F-Zero game could use, the biggest one would have to be online play, which was sorely missing from F-Zero GX. And online mode would really expand the multiplayer to something much better than GX’s somewhat limited 4-player splitscreen allowed, and it would offer gamers the opportunity for even more practice and the ability to hone their skills.
Another thing I’d fix involves the Story Mode. GX had a slightly unintuitive design that may have confused a lot of players. Essentially, when you began the Story Mode, you got the first mission for free. Once you beat it, you were then able to try it again on Hard mode, which was….well, extremely challenging. Mission 2 was still not unlocked, since you had to then buy it in the shop. The game’s failure to make this clear, though, made it seem like you had to beat the 1st mission on Hard mode to progress the story, which wasn’t the case, but it seemed that way, and I think some gamers may have quit the game right there because of that, which is unfortunate. I think maybe a slightly more intuitive menu system, especially for car customization, would help make navigating through these feature-loaded menus a bit less daunting.
Aside from those minor complaints and maybe the addition of another cup or two, there’s not a whole lot that I think would need to be improved upon for another F-Zero game. F-Zero GX was probably the best racer I’ve ever played, and I’ve been waiting years to see another sequel. With the reported efforts of Nintendo’s upcoming next gen system to re-capture the “hardcore gamer,” I can’t think of a better statement to make than to have an F-Zero title right at launch…and the ideal F-Zero title would have Amusement Vision back in the driver’s seat. Due to solid but unremarkable sales of F-Zero GX, and this quote from series supervisor Takaya Imamura:
Of course, since I have worked on the F-Zero series, and seeing the results of the collaboration with Sega, I found myself at something of a loss as to how we can take the franchise further past F-Zero GX and AX.
…it’s pretty clear that nobody’s been rushing to make another F-Zero game. Here’s hoping someone becomes inspired to do another one, both inside Nintendo and SEGA, and makes it happen.
Thoughts? Comments? Leave ’em below. Or enjoy another awesome story sequence:Ad: