I don’t mind alien invaders, as long as they’re good racers


F-Zero X (1998)

In the event of an alien invasion, one can only imagine that mankind would be pretty well buggered. After all, if some sort of species or collective entity out there has the ability to travel here in great numbers, they pretty much have the whole thing wrapped up. What are we gonna do to defend ourselves, nuke our own planet?

We don’t know where they’re coming from, we don’t know what they want, they have far superior firepower and technology and anyway our own world society is so badly fragmented and our world leaders don’t really measure up at the moment. And if it should happen that we get overrun by those frightful pod creatures from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, you can definitely forget all about it.

Maybe we could try some sort of peace treaty? I don’t know if we have negotiators good enough to get a result from fire-breathing space monkeys, but maybe we could make some sort of concession? Why, give them Africa’s landmass and its population to use as they see fit and we’ll kill two of humanity’s problems with one stone.

But even if the space monkeys accepted this deal, and our best negotiators were spared from suffering singed bums, our new neighbours are not going to be kept happy for long – humans would no longer be top of the food chain, and that’ll resign us to the same ranks as chickens and cattle. Did you ever see those harrowing images and footage of wee chicks and chickens getting ground up into fine paste by humongous steel deathtraps? Yeah, that’s us from now on.

Or perhaps mankind can break the habits of a lifetime and try to integrate the space monkeys, jelly monsters and Gonzos into our society? Give them what they want and we can all try to live together as one cosmic Earthly faction battling against the cataclysmic forces of the big, bad universe, that sort of thing?

Or maybe that’s a load of old rubbish, and the only thing we can be certain of is that tomorrow is uncertain. So on that fateful day, when the first stealth-camouflaged UFO pulls up just outside the White House, followed by a thousand more ships with enough lasers to melt even Donald Trump’s tan clean off, it’s time to say your prayers.

It makes me wonder how the universe of F-Zero can bring aliens and humans and God-knows-what-in-between together so harmoniously. I’m left at a loss by Nintendo. What, you’ve constructed a whole sci-fi universe with dozens of named characters and all kinds of different species of mongoloid aliens, and you’re not going to pit them all against each other in a futuristic fight to the finish? You’d rather leave that to Samus and Ridley?

Poppycock. Can you imagine a Nintendo-made Mass Effect clone with Captain Falcon as the plasma rifle-toting badass hero? No? It probably wouldn’t work so well anyway – not when there’s an alien species in the F-Zero series whose members do absolutely everything together, including going to the toilet. And I have the footage to prove that fact.

So my old friend Shigsy, or whichever LSD-infused madman of the week at Nintendo HQ it was, decided to make a load of aliens race each other for no good reason. And they ain’t racing go-karts or even spec racers either – this is the evolution of Formula One.

Your typical F-Zero racing machine can weigh as much as 2300 kilograms, which probably isn’t too far off a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Don’t worry too much about the power to weight ratio however, because the various engine manufacturers that supply the power units to F-Zero machines have managed to put together packages that are capable of accelerating from 0-600 KPH in 0.1 of a second.

Now hold on for a minute there, you crazy alien witchdoctors. Can you not be humane? Do you have no empathy? Do you really want to break all of your drivers’ necks? Because that’s what will happen. It’s little wonder that some of these machines are being driven by literal T-Rexes and hulking freaks with globes for pectorals.

The women drivers are almost as muscular as the men and chestwise they’re no less endowed – and you better believe that the Batman-esque Black Shadow definitely doesn’t skip leg day. Although when the 98-year-old pensioner shows up, having never won a race in his decades-long career, and starts slipping one up your inside (easy now), only then do you start to get a bit intimidated by the competition.

The fun doesn’t stop at 600 KPH. In F-Zero X, under the right circumstances and after just the right amount of liberties have been taken with conventional physics and laws of acceleration and motion, you can hurtle along at 3000 KPH – shortly before your brains are peeled off the walls. Just how huge are these racetracks anyway?

Say what you like about motorsport not being much of a spectator sport, but I couldn’t much understand the appeal of going to see an F-Zero race, could you? Imagine shelling out all the money required to travel not just to a different country but to a different chuffing planet, only to still end up with a seat in Row Z.

Then you take your seat and thirty blurs rush by at such an accelerated pace that your new baseball cap (costing 5,000 Space Credits and probably not even official gear) flies off into the abyss, all the girls have to hold onto their skirts and the Brylcreem gets blown clean out of all the old chappies’ short-backs-and-sides.

Whatever about all that – we are here to participate. F-Zero X is a racing game that features a jaw-dropping 60 frames per second. Yes, it really is a Nintendo 64 title. No, it doesn’t come without sacrifice – in this case, it’s almost all of the background graphics. You never saw fog and bits of track materialising into view the way F-Zero X does it. Still, with 30 vehicles on track at once all jostling for position, there’s no room for trimmings – it’s balls to the wall, pedal to the metal, death-defying glory and all of that glamorous stuff.

Choose from any one of the thirty vehicles, give it basic acceleration vs max speed tuning and pick a revolting colour for the chassis. Then go out and beat 29 other patsies – and if you’re not fast enough to catch them on track, then just kill them. No, I mean it. Side swipe your opponents Schumacher-on-Villeneuve style and leave them a smouldering wreck in the middle of the anti-gravity road. Go one better and take them out before the first turn like Senna, if you like. Do it on a section with no walls and you can even send them careening off into the abyss, where they die in a hellacious explosion and score not a single F-Zero Grand Prix point.

You don’t even have to feel guilty about doing this either, because both the pilot and his/her/its/their machine will be back at the next race, happy as Larry, and you escape any sort of punishment and bad press. They must have banned Twitter in the centuries between now and when F-Zero X takes place, I suppose. Thrillingly, there’s even a DEATH RACE mode where you can hone your mass murdering skills on track and take revenge against some of your more bloodthirsty competitors.

Special mention must go to the X Cup, still a wonderful novelty. Simply put, it’s six randomly generated courses every time you play it. A lot of them follow the same template and some are even flat out boring, but what a wonderful way to keep the old longevity up. And if you’re particularly lucky, and in keeping with our theme of intergalactic slaughter, you can even happen upon tracks that kill every competitor in one tricky corner, including yourself. If, for some doolally reason, F-Zero X is an accurate view of what the future is like, then I say bring on the gentlemen racer aliens.

02 January 2018

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