It’s a funny thing, anime – it’ll sneak up behind you and Falcon Punch you out of nowhere


F-Zero: GP Legend (2004)

You won’t want to know this, but there’s bundles of things they do in Japan that not many of us know anything about. We all wondered whether sexbots could actually be feasible, and they went and did it. Their toilets have a dedicated button to powerhose what the Americans call fanny and what the Americans don’t call fanny. There’s bunches of the most hardcore hentai available at eye-level in pretty well every shop there is.

That brings us to anime adaptations, where the list is long. We know about the Pokémon anime, and who can forget Sonic X? But there were also adaptations for game series that could never, ever be viable. Kirby, for one. I recently found out about a Parappa the Goddam Rapper anime, for God’s sake. And of course, there was an anime for that old not-so-golden egg, F-Zero.

They kept it a secret from me, but considering the last scene of the series is an unmasked Captain Falcon leaping out of his F-Zero machine to deliver a Falcon Punch of the gods directly into the main villain’s face, it was only a matter of time before it came to my attention. Falcon’s last-ditch attack on Black Shadow, a mid-air leap mind you, burns the villain into oblivion while the J-Rock theme blares in the background. I’ve just spoiled the entire denouement of the 51 episode anime, I know, but why else would you watch it?

It’s not for the racing, because God, this is low budget. Whenever the characters actually stop flapping their gums and get onto the track, the racing sequences are these weird 3D sequences, very 2003. It reminded me a bit of those 3D sequences in Bots Master, and I never thought I’d make a reference like that, but at least here you won’t need 3D glasses.

I may heavily criticise Nintendo for leaving F-Zero dormant like this, but I can’t deny that with F-Zero GX, the latter two GBA games and an anime series (albeit sparse in budget), Nintendo properly gave the series a wrestling-style push. I hate to say it, but F-Zero wasn’t even doomed to be a jobber, even after all that. It wasn’t even doomed to be X-Pac. All it could do is fade into obscurity, while its die-hard fans mourned.

It’s just a pity that one of the two Game Boy Advance games that spawned from the anime, F-Zero GP Legend, simply didn’t inspire. Don’t get me wrong, obviously a fanboy of the series like me would’ve eaten up anything, even back then. These days? Never mind 3DS or Switch, I’d accept a new F-Zero game in Turd Sandwich format now. God, we were spoiled for choice back when in the early noughties – three GBA F-Zero titles, if you could source games from Japan. And given my proclivity for pirating GBA games back in the day, I had some of them before they even hit the shelves. Then a GameCube game, and if you were really tremendously lucky, an arcade machine variant as well.

Having all this backed by an anime seemed a bit excessive… and it was. Everything about both the anime and this game is perfunctory, although the game manages to be a lot less hardcore. It’s interesting to note that 4Kids began dubbing a few episodes of the anime, until it became clear that almost nobody cared. I imagine that the dozens of us who did care were sufficiently weeb enough to demand only the Japanese original, and subtitles were barely needed anyway.

You’ll remember 4Kids and the infamous censorship they used to impose on the likes of Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh, well they certainly would have neutered the famous Falcon Punch somehow. I can just picture some ridiculous references to the Shadow Realm, or to jelly doughnuts, so it was best that they didn’t sink their claws too much into it. F-Zero GP Legend seems to be a 4Kids approved game, that is, for wetties. It’s not difficult at all, and very curiously it even lacks a Master Mode.

I’m sorry, but F-Zero should snap you in two and piledrive you into the ground, especially on the harder difficulties. The opposition machines in F-Zero SNES and Maximum Velocity could be cruel. The F-Zero GX Story Mode was famously heartbreaking at almost all times. That’s the way it should be, so when you go into this game with even a little bit of expertise with racing games, or F-Zero, then you’ll quickly find that five laps for each track is far too many because you have it all sewn up and the track mostly learnt by Lap 2.

I don’t know if it’s just me being a bit absentminded but I sometimes find I can go “into the zone” playing racing games if they’re too easy – I’m barely even watching the screen, and still I’m doing all the right moves. F-Zero GP Legend is essentially that 10% effort, stretched out to a full game. I suppose that’s another thing it has in common with the anime, how even the brain-afflicted can follow along.

It’s not all just Grands Prix and boring Time Trials though, you do have link cable multiplayer, though I hardly think many will have tried that. More interesting is the Story Mode – it won’t tear welts and calluses into your hands like F-Zero GX’s story, although it isn’t very fulfilling either. You’ve simply got eight different characters with their vignettes and different races or goals to complete, alongside some whack story between each chapter. It’s a bit like the story in Advance Wars, if that makes any sense – a load of talking in between the action, and it’s pretty much narrative garbage.

There’s also a fun Mission Mode, where you need to haul ass around sections of the game’s tracks with pre-selected machines for Bronze, Silver or Gold Cups. That’s where the replay value lies, once you’ve breezed through the main Grand Prix mode. The tracks themselves, by the way, are just OK. You’ve also got some of the old SNES ones in there, some all-time classic circuits which will make you smile for a few minutes.

Even the music can be a bit dull, and that’s heinous for a series like this – I know any GBA soundtrack gets crippled by the system’s lack of grunt in the sound department, but the other two GBA F-Zero games offer so much more, and the composers and sound designers for this game could have made a far better hash at the squealing pig guitars from F-Zero X than they did. But it’s still just so beige, so uneventful, so passé, that I’m forced to conclude that F-Zero GP Legend may just be the greatest game of an anime of a game of all time.

10 August 2021

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