It’s been 10 long years since Captain Falcon had a drive. Since then he’s been lurking in people’s homes, starting fights in different universes, and meeting people with strange haircuts. He’s kept himself busy but all these activities pale in comparison to the thrill of racing at 1200kph. He just hasn’t been himself lately, never truly comfortable when he’s out of the cockpit. Now in 2015 we’ve been given the chance to experience the last F-Zero game released outside Japan, as F-Zero: GP Legend debuts on Wii U’s Virtual Console. Still fresh from 2004, when nobody bought it and the franchise died in plain sight on retail shelves. Captain Falcon remains stuck there in the form of an Amiibo, but at least now we can pick up his machine and rediscover the thrill ourselves.
This is my first GBA game on Wii U so I was surprised by the giant pixels at first glance, even though it’s quite sharp and the image quality is good… it’s just very big. I changed the setting from full screen to “original resolution” and it added these borders you see in the screenshots I’ve taken. It’s definitely easier on the eyes and looks just as good as the SNES VC games. From the very first race I discovered it was much more, as doubt washed off my face at 60fps. The game looks amazing in motion and feels great to play.
The handling is satisfying and fast. Exactly what you would expect from an F-Zero game, but maybe not from a GBA game that is based on an anime. Who knew what to expect? I can confirm GP Legend is a genuine F-Zero game, and proudly so. Rather than being a clunky mess of pixels, it’s noticeably more refined than both the SNES game and Maximum Velocity; the first GBA F-Zero released in 2001 at the system’s launch. In the 3 years since then it’s obvious the team learned a lot about GBA hardware and racing mechanics in general. Inputs feel faster, the craft feels more stable and it feels like you have more control during turns. The nervous feeling when you tap the accelerator through tight corners is a little more exciting and less stressful than it used to be.
Unique to this game is a Story mode based on the F-Zero: GP Legend anime, which had 51 episodes in Japan and sounds ridiculously epic. Captain Falcon is apparently 3 different people (including god) and the universe hangs in the balance. Anyway, the story in this game is organised neatly with 8 different characters having their own perspective of the events. Events have unique goals and track layouts which is nice but it’s over very quickly. It takes about 20 minutes to hear the glorious staff credits music after all 5 events are done with a character. The writing is very basic but oddly engaging, as you find out some lore about track locations and characters. Rick Wheeler is a cop who’s been revived 150 years after his death to track a criminal, also revived by Blood Falcon just because he felt like being a dick. Jody Summer investigates the death of her brother and races people to find clues. Jack Levin races Dr Stewart to see if he can metaphysically get over his depression on the circuit and rediscover his will to race. I wont spoil any of the outcomes, you’ll just have to play the game. Dialogue can go from a cheesy joke to a serious existential moment in about 5 seconds, then suddenly you’re racing. It’s the perfect representation of F-Zero and videogames in general. Story Mode is a nice addition in this format, but I would not want the cutscenes to go any longer in a racing game.
There’s another mode called Zero Test which has 48 unique challenges. It’s so difficult that it pretty much forces you to learn how to get a proper start boost, and take particular corner combinations perfectly. It’s a really fun way to get good at the game, and there’s Bronze, Silver and Gold medals for people who want to spend hours there. It really highlights how different the crafts are too, when I’m bouncing off the walls in an unfamiliar setup. Time Trial is there, and of course the classic Grand Prix mode which takes place over 5 races and has 3 difficulties and cups. It features some quality voice acting from a very emotional announcer who must have had an interesting day recording this. He sounds depressed when he says “3 laps to go =\” then sounds ANGRY on the “final LAP!“, before collapsing on the floor belting out “GOOOAAAALLL!!“.
F-Zero: GP Legend is the best 2D F-Zero I’ve played, and that’s all of them except Climax. It excels in handling, track design, content, structure, and it’s great in every way it could be. The genre of 2.5D track-scrolling futuristic racer is not for everyone, as its core nature is very twitchy and difficult to adjust to, with some extremely hard challenges. For F-Zero fans though, we’re used to a challenge and this game is fantastic and worth experiencing. Hopefully if enough people show interest in this, Nintendo will bring the Japanese exclusive F-Zero Climax over next. I am very keen to try the track editor and dive deeper into F-Zero’s complex lore after this enlightening experience. Until then, GP Legend has very good replay value so I’ll hopefully see more than 3 people in the Miiverse community throughout the year. Buy this game, save Captain Falcon from unemployment. Save videogames. Save the world. FALCON RECOMMEND!