F-Zero was made for the Super Nintendo, a console with one of the best controller designs.Unsurprisingly, the way this game interacts with its intended input medium is phenomenal. However, it leaves a lot to be desired if trying to substitute the SNES controller for just about anything more modern. First, the controls are rather simple: B is the throttle or acceleration (hold this one down to go the big fast), X and Y are brakes, L and R shift the craft’s weight for sharper turns, and A allows you a boost only after the SSS on the bottom of the screen is colored in. The game is very tightly controlled on a controller with a decent Directional Pad, making the game’s speed feel natural and easy to get in the groove of. Unfortunately, halfway through my first session, my personal Super Nintendo controller decided to have a handful of senior moments leading me to have to play the game using a DualShock4. The D-Pad made the whole game noticeably more slippery and harder to play. And to be fair, F-Zero wasn’t intended to be played with anything other than the console for which it was developed, so this is more warning than criticism. One major thing missing from the game is the multiplayer, understandable because of the limitations of the time, but a shame, nonetheless.
Overall, the game is delightful; its intensity and high-pressure style of balancing risk and reward make this game easily of my recent favorites. It has a real quick learning curve just for being able to be picked up. However, it is a game that begs to be mastered in the same way games like Dark Souls do. Since the game is about speed and precision, this mastery seems to take a lot of time and practice. There are three difficulty modes, four vehicles that all handle differently, and three tournaments that get more complicated after each one–leaving a lot to master, and giving F-Zero a shocking amount of replayability. Its flow is excellent despite being an older racing game. Often, these games can be accused of jank or unfair rubber-banding, primarily due to the technical limitations of the time, but F-Zero excels in making each race feel as natural as the console could possibly produce. Because there is always so much going on and so much happening so quickly, computer opponents make mistakes, you constantly make mistakes, and it never feels like it’s out of your control.
Speed is an aspect of a game that requires a lot of careful planning. Too fast and you overwhelm the player, not fast enough, and the game is either boring, or its physics feels too weighty. “Fast games” (like Star Wars Episode 1 Racer, Halo 2, and SSX 3) have everything from good presentation to tight controls communicating an extreme sense of speed.
Despite being from about a decade before the oldest game mentioned above, F-Zero is what I would call a fast game. Everything from the visual and auditory feedback to the controls exudes a sense of speed only present in the best racing games. Since it is an arcade racer dedicated to an air of future-cool, it’s vital that the game’s design and mechanics pull off the speed correctly. Despite being made at the very start of the 16-bit era of console gaming, F-Zero seems to take this challenge on in strides.
Things like jumps, barriers, and other drivers on the track add to the sense of speed and risk. You’re constantly reminded that you could crash and ruin your run at literally every moment. In addition, randomized traffic on the track keeps each run from being a memorized set of button presses for the best time, requiring the player to think on their feet in this intense blur of color and sound.
The game keeps the pressure high by having two distinct loss states to worry about, both are oft in direct contradiction. In my opinion, the easiest way to lose is to “Crash Out”. You have an energy bar to worry about, essentially the vehicle’s health, and once it gets to 0, that’s it; your race is over. You deplete this bar in various ways: bumping into the side barriers, running over marked ground, and running into other vehicles. This system is in place to punish the player for not being careful. Going too fast into a turn or hitting other racers can cause you to get very quickly stuck into a bouncing loop, and it will invariably be your fault. Using the brake on sharp turns and precise movements are not just advantageous in this game; they are required to be able to even finish the race.
The other, and often painfully complimentary loss state is “Rank Out”. The player is given a “safe rank” each lap to stay in until the next lap. Failure to do so or even reaching too far outside this safe ranking will result in an immediate loss and an early end to your run. This punishes the player for being too careful and not taking enough calculated risks. Like precision in control to avoid a fatal crash, taking advantage of risky shortcuts, making turns as tight as possible, and keeping your speed up are all imperative to your success in the F-Zero Grand Prix.
In 1984 Alexey Pajitnov created in his free time at work one of the most prolific and influential puzzle games of all time: Tetris. Based on toys Alexey played with during his childhood, Tetris is a simple puzzle arcade game where descending blocks are required to line up to clear itself.
The player is to tackle two goals:
to not have the blocks tower to the very top by clearing lines,
get as many points as possible by clearing lines.
More points are awarded as more lines are cleared at once, the most being four, making a “Tetris”. To fight against the player the game gets faster as progress is made. Naturally, as the game continues to go on little mistakes will inevitably be made, thus adding a third objective to the game: fixing said mistakes.
Tetris as a game can become stressful and quickly overwhelming to the uninitiated, but with the right amount of focus, skill and in keeping calm the player can eventually overcome the game. In my opinion and from my experience, getting better at this game is just as rewarding as Dark souls can be. The skill progression is almost instant for any player, first one figures out how to clear lines, then they start trying to set up a Tetris, and then learn to fix the mistakes made in both processes, then repeat that learning loop on a faster game speed.
The Randomization however is what separates this game from your average puzzle or one of Tetris’ contemporaries such as The Rubik’s Cube; Every time Tetris is fired up its a different experience and I’m not just talking about the endless ports.
While you can know what the next piece will definitely be, you will never be able to predict what the starting piece will be or what other pieces are coming down the pipeline. Making each new run a whole new puzzle. Sometimes you may start with an L Piece,standing for “lucky you”, or other times your luck might dry up and you start with an s or a z, leaving you to figure out how to fill that seemingly blocked off hole on the bottom row. (Hint: there are ways) No one will ever be able to “memorize” Tetris and do it from memory making professional Tetris quite the interesting thing to watch, and making Tetris itself, an endlessly re-playable game.
Tetris as a puzzle game as all the right parts for a flawless masterpiece. The design encourages progress, and the use of randomization is perfect to make this game last forever for any player. It’s simple enough to be played on anything, by anyone, just complex enough to be as widely engaging. In 1985 Tetris was not just some puzzle game from Russia, it was a whole new breed of puzzle, the endless puzzle, Tetris.
If you asked me who my favorite Game Designer of all time was. I’d quickly tell you it was certainly Masahiro Sakurai. Since he is the mind behind my favorite childhood games, Kirby’s Dream Land and Kirby’s Adventure and the series that got me into game design and development, Super Smash Brothers. Sakurai developed both as a rising star at Nintendo, creating Kirby’s Dream Land at just 19 years of age. His primary teacher being the Neo Geo he kept at home for “Study”. Whether by sheer genius or through inspiration wrought on by arcade classics such as King of Fighters, Sakurai began to swear by his own Game Design Philosophy, that being Kirbyism. Kirbyism is the idea that a good game ought to be able to be enjoyed by both complete beginners and hardened veterans. This is achieved by designing the game in such a way that it is approachable and fun but still challenging . Simple enough for even a child to pick up, and challenging enough for a experienced player to master.
This is what inspired Kirby’s core design as a series. The ability to float above whole sections in Kirby’s Dream Land seems cheap until you realize that it allows the player to control their difficulty on the fly as they could just as easily choose to play via normal platforming, thus any player should find themselves at least enjoying this Gameboy classic. But more far reaching was the game Super Smash Brothers.
Inspired by games like final fight, Sakurai wanted to bring the excitement, strategy, and challenge of fighting games not only home, but also make it accessible to even the most inexperienced of players. Either by way of simplification of controls, or by changing what made a KO a KO, Kirbyism was forcefully combined with the fighting game genre to create one of the most popular party games, while also being one of the most popular competitive fighting games of all time.
These aren’t even all the examples of Kirbyism, arguably Splatoon, the kart racer genre, portal, the sonic series, the Pokémon trading card game, Minecraft, Action RPGs, Halo, modern adventure games, Civilization 4 5 6… and so on have all employed some aspect or all aspects of this simple and widespread design philosophy, which thus made a lot of the games enjoyable by everyone.
Why do I love Kirbyism?
I love Kirbyism because I think everyone should be able to enjoy the games they play, I hope this medium can help make anyone’s day a little better and their smile a little brighter. I want games to be about the Fun and the Challenge, and I think that’s what Kirbyism is all about.
Super Mario Brothers is a pretty pervasive game, it was the title that launched the NES and Famicom into the stratosphere of public opinion and sales and may be one of the few pieces of software to save the video game market after the games market crash in the early 1980s. Everyone knows Mario, everyone has memories of Mario and it started here. ( well it actually started with Donkey Kong but whatever. ) Super Mario Brothers taught millions of Children the language of Video Games through this simple first level. Nowadays you’ve got games that have tutorial levels and reminder dialogue and and holding to teach the complexities of the Game, which is fine… I guess.
But, way back in 1985 games didn’t have dialogue or a streamlined tutorial level. Most playthroughs of games started and ended with the console’s power button. Super Mario Brothers was no different in this regard. So the initial level had to be something players could learn quickly how to play the game from while also being a level returning players wouldn’t fell bored and patronized by. So here we have world 1-1, iconic music, iconic scenery and iconic design.The controls in Super Mario Brothers are probably the simplest of any NES title, you have left, right, down to crouch but no use for up. the only vertical movement in the game is achieved by pressing A for a jump, and it is A because you will be jumping most often in this game. These are all the basic things you figure out during the first few seconds of the game, just by experimentation alone. That is, without a manual handy. The next piece of this communicative level you encounter is a mystery box, some floating bricks and this little mushroom guy.
“Maybe you’re supposed to walk into, nope what does B do? Dash? lets try that nope For now I’ll just get out of his way and see him later I guess. “
The first thing about this level and the games design in general is it gives you two options to move forward, avoid enemies, or find a way to eliminate them. Sense the controls are so simple it doesn’t take long to find a way to dispatch these moving obstacles by jumping on them. The next piece of this brilliant level is the question mark block, the regular bricks are similar to the ground and in context is not much of interest compared to the bright yellow square with a big question mark in it, interestingly enough the Japanese cartridge actually shares this shade of yellow with the blocks. It just has to be something interactive… right?
You cant walk up to it an interact, there is no interact button as earlier we learned what B does. So again through the simplicity of it all you try everything until you figure that jumping under it would work. The game rewards you with a coin, a nice ringing sound and points to tell you that you’ve done something right. The other question mark blocks in this game’s opening also reward the player with power up silently teaching the player how power-ups work in the platforming title.
Why is this section of this level of this game so important? Because its a perfect example of the game itself speaking to the player without using any words. Allowing the player to learn the core of how to play the game through experimentation alone.
I hope to be able to emulate this same kind of design driven communication when making my own games, because its a hell of a lot better than Omochao.