BS F-Zero Grand Prix 2
Platform(s): Super Famicom (via Satellaview)
Release Date: 1997 (Japan exclusive)
Considering that only last week we were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of the original F-Zero, I felt there was never a better time to take a little look at an F-Zero game you’ve probably never played. Nintendo’s futuristic high-speed racing series is no stranger to Japan-only releases, such as the Game Boy Advance title F-Zero Climax, which tied into the TV Tokyo anime airing at the time. However, this particular Super Famicom release, which bears many a similarity to the original game, was not available due to simple region differences, but as a result of its distribution method, the Satellaview.
BS F-Zero Grand Prix 2 is in fact the second in a short series of downloadable ‘expansions’ on the original F-Zero, which bring new vehicles and tracks to the fray. The original BS F-Zero Grand Prix mostly consisted of re-used courses from the original game, but made use of the Satellaview’s unique ‘SoundLink’ service, which broadcasted voice recordings that served as commentary as you raced across 19 tracks (divided into four five-race leagues broadcast on consecutive weeks). The normal game soundtrack was replaced via SoundLink with arranged tracks, including some from the official jazz arrange album, with a handful of Japanese celebrities providing the talk as you competed for glory (actor Bucky Koba, who provided a voice over for both BS F-Zero titles, was hardly afraid of putting some of his more ‘strongly worded’ English phrases to use in his commentary, which you can hear for yourself here.).
However, the second in this short-lived series of F-Zero ‘reinventions’ on the Super Famicom is notable for the inclusion of a wide selection of brand new courses and it’s safe to say that said courses were designed with the players who mastered the original game in mind. Sharp turns, tougher obstacles and seemingly more persistent opponents up the ante when it comes to challenge, so having a good grasp on both the handling and operation of your machine (one of the four brand new ones introduced in the first BS F-Zero Grand Prix) and the five courses available a week (which includes brand new locations that made their first and only appearances in this title) absolutely crucial. What it does retain from the original is the insane speed, so if you don’t have your skills sharpened and your wits about you, you can expect the scene pictured above to become a common sight.
Right from the get-go, this new difficulty is flung right in your face; Mute City IV, a brand new incarnation of the original game’s first track, opens with a death defying leap at almost 1000 km/h that’ll easily catch the inattentive player off-guard and send them hurtling to their death. Luckily, a practice broadcast was supposedly distributed prior to the two airing weeks used for the real game, giving players a chance to test themselves against a set of brand new courses, as well as watch a pre-recorded practice lap performed by the computer. People tend to say the best way to learn is through doing, but in this case, maybe it is better to leave it to the professional.
Whilst several assets are re-used from the original game (understandable, considering this is more of a new take on the first title), this luckily isn’t too unfavourable, as the game’s gorgeous graphics and Mode-7 effects make a triumphant return. The new vehicles are even more detailed than the original four, even approaching those of the GBA F-Zero titles in terms of quality; whilst their designs are less memorable and iconic than the likes of the Blue Falcon or Fire Stingray, it shows considerable technical improvement over the Super Famicom original, even though they use the same hardware.
I’d honestly have to say that the biggest letdown BS F-Zero Grand Prix 2 presents is a lack of new music tracks. Whilst the SoundLink version made use of the arranged soundtrack, this version of the game has unfortunately been lost to time, considering St.GIGA suspended Satellaview broadcasts in 2000. Recordings still exist of the game in its pure format, but regrettably it is unplayable today. The non-SoundLink version, which is now usable through emulation, simply re-uses the music tracks from the first game, even on the new courses; these songs are iconic, of course, but perhaps my desire for more F-Zero music has got the better of me in this aspect; my appetite for more tunes in that distinct SNES style will forever go un-sated, it seems!
BS F-Zero Grand Prix 2 reminds me why I hold some contempt towards Nintendo’s Virtual Console service; the retro game program offers the ideal opportunity to re-release unplayable games such as Satellaview titles in their truly intended form, preserving them for all to play. However, this doesn’t appear to be on the agenda any time soon, meaning this is yet another title that, without the use of emulation, could simply be lost to time – a real waste, if you ask me.