"Gather yee, gather yee, for a tale of generations past. Know that on this date January the 4th of 2004, Shiryu woke up and decided against all common sense to pick up a Game Cube. A life changing event that even he dare not dream by also be picking up his favourite game of all time."
Ah yes, 2004. You will find my 25 year old self in college. Games wise and like most people around here, a Playstation 2 sat on my table along with the usual suspects ("Devil May Cry", "GTA III", "WipEout Fusion", Ace Combat 4 Electrosphere", Soulcalibur 2", "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty", etc). But for the past months I had an itch I could not scratch. Shall we call it "The Nintendo Difference"? Whatever it was, it was not unprecedented, since the exact same thing had happened in the previous generation (had a PSX and was happy with it, but had to pick up a N64) and because of the exact same game. Allow me to kill off the suspense and name the game that is still up to this day my overall favourite game of all time: F-Zero GX
Let us step back to 2003. Toshihiro Nagoshi had a regular monthly column on EDGE magazine. "AV Out" as it was very appropriately named described the various stages and difficulties of developing the game and collaborating for the first time ever with Nintendo after decades of rivalry. It quickly became my favourite part of the magazine, filled with amazing insights into an industry I had learned to cherish over the many years as a console gamer.
The final nail in the coffin that ultimately sealed the deal was the E3 presentation trailer of the game. I could not but smile at it because it was everything I ever wanted from the very first time I played the original Super Nintendo F-Zero. The combination of SEGA's arcade ventures and Nintendo's well know attention to polish and detail merged into something simply astonishing. A combination of colours, sounds and spot on gameplay that is often cited for being "too hard" by many reviewers at the time, but that I must consider that one of the finest points on the whole package. Oh yes, it's hard, brutally so even! But never unfair. In F-Zero GX, you lose because you weren't good enough or because you made a mistake. Anyone who played the game knows that no single race is decided from the start, a single tiny mistake can cost you a 30th place on the 3rd lap after having a comfortable lead. Let's not even get started on the "Story Mode".
When the game finally arrived at the local retailers, I bought it on the spot. I didn't even had a Game Cube, but took it to a friend who did and left it there. We used to spend our lazy Sunday afternoons playing lots of Game Cube games like "NHL Hitz" and "SoulCalibur 2" so even before I bought my own, I knew exactly what I was getting into (I still play nowadays both "F-Zero GX" and "Rogue Leader" with somewhat scary regularity). Funny thing, when I did buy my GC, I had to buy his memory card because we found out F-Zero GX save was protected and could not be copied or moved from one memory card to another.
Even with college exams, my entire month of January 2004 was spent playing F-Zero GX. Don't worry, I aced all exams but much more rewarding than that, I did everything in the game! All cups unlocked and won in all difficulties, Story mode beaten in all difficulties, every machine part unlocked and ready to use in the garage. Oh, I did not beat any of the staff ghosts. I never "snaked" in my life either, too much love for my game pads and thumbs.
I decided to mark this occasion with a video clip. This is me playing the game a few days ago, set to the sound of one of my arrangements "Mute City 2013 Redux":
Onwards to 2014! Times have changed, quite a lot and not at all to my liking. You see, "F-Zero" was my first "Super Nintendo" game, "F-Zero X" was my first Nintendo 64 game, "F-Zero Maximum Velocity" was my first Game Boy Advance game and of course, "F-Zero GX" was my first Game Cube game. Yet F-Zero was nowhere to be found on my DS, on my Wii and has yet to make an appearance on my 3DS and Wii U (no, "Captain Falcon's Twisted Race" does not count but it's an important step in reviving the series). I do understand times have changed, the audience has changed, Nintendo has changed and it still maintains it's unique difference that I much appreciate but not unlike "Star Fox", it's about time to use the current hardware to push the series forward. Much like in the past decade, I will keep paying attention to the news in hope to heard the name "F-Zero" being called out once more. Surely I can not be alone in the wait for this call. But will Nintendo listen?
Having said that, I'm quite the patient guy. I've waited 28 years for a sequel to TRON and it was (IMO) well worth the wait. Thank you for taking yout time in reading this, if you will excuse me, I am now going to build the worst possible custom machine on F-Zero GX and try to beat any Grand Prix with it. Complete and utter chaos is but one mistake away, as it should be at 4000 kmph! GO FAST!