Monday, August 4, 2014

Character Talk: Captain Falcon

Captain Falcon: Um... When am I ever gonna go racing again?

I briefly talked about this character in the article titled Gameplay Mechanics: Punch Button, and to be honest, it has become pretty sad that this character happens to be mainly known for quotes such as "FALCON PUNCH!" and not much else. In the world of video games, there was a time when Captain Falcon meant so much more than just as a Fighting Game character. To be fair, there isn't anything wrong with showcasing Captain Falcon in the Super Smash Bros. series as I definitely enjoy his appearances in these games. However, deep down inside, we all know what Captain Falcon's initial purpose was as a video game character.

Captain Falcon is actually the main protagonist of a Racing Game series called F-Zero, a series that was innovative for its time when it first appeared on store shelves. The original F-Zero game that made its debut on the Super Nintendo was the first game to use a technique that Nintendo called "Mode7 Scrolling". This was a process where the scanlines would allow the game to simulate 3D environments Scaling and positioning of the layer on a scanline-by-scanline basis certainly helped bring to life a Racing Game series that would leave a great impression on many gamers.

F-Zero was also known for introducing modes such as "Death Race Mode" and a random track generator called the "X Cup". In a death race, the player had to eliminate 29 other races as fast as he or she could in order to succeed. There is no doubt that the F-Zero certainly made gamers think and rethink the entire genre that is Racing Games and not much has happened to this series since October 2004.

We are now approaching late 2014 and we still haven't gotten anything new on the front of F-Zero. There has been no traces nor hints of this series coming back and Captain Falcon has been limited to just making appearances in Super Smash Bros. games. 10 long years have gone by without an actual F-Zero game being released on the market, and this would certainly give any fans of the series pause for concern. If anything, though, hardcore F-Zero fans have probably moved on by now seeing that the wait for this series to return will probably be endless considering Nintendo's lack of urgency to revive F-Zero.

In June of 2013, this is what Shigeru Miyamoto had to say about the future of the F-Zero series, and he was indeed honest with the potential that the series still has in his view:

"I certainly understand that people want a new F-Zero game. I think where I struggle is that I don't really have a good idea for what's new that we could bring to F-Zero that would really turn it into a great game again. Certainly I can see how people looking at Mario Kart 8 could see, through the anti-gravity, a connection to F-Zero. But I don't know, at this point, what direction we could go in with a new F-Zero."

What is Captain Falcon as a character himself? He is considered to be a hero in the setting of Formula One Racing meets futuristic trip of unpredictability Originally intended to be the flagship character to represent the release of the SNES, Captain Falcon has proven his valor time and time again on the racetrack, defeating the most intimidating foes and putting a stop to the corruption that plagues his home galaxy. Captain Falcon obviously isn't shy when it comes to developing rivalries with the meanest of folks and he competes in many Grand Prix tournaments to stake his claim as the best racer the racing commission can offer.

Captain Falcon has certainly had his fair share of run-ins with the likes of Black Shadow and Deathborn, but he has never been one to turn down a challenge. Whenever there is someone in desperate need of help, Captain Falcon will rise to the occasion and with the help of his Blue Falcon hovercraft, missions get completed and peace is restored if only for a little while.

So what went wrong with Captain Falcon?

The general premise of the Captain Falcon character was definitely solid and there were loads of potential for this character to develop in ways that could have taken the Video Game Industry by storm in the Racing Game department. Unfortunately, Nintendo has not deemed it a priority to make something more of Captain Falcon and his series F-Zero and have basically put the world of Captain Falcon on the shelves for who knows how long.

The problem is very easy to see here. We had a character who seemingly had a chance to develop around the time of the Nintendo Gamecube, but then the most obvious thing happened to any game developing company that would happen to any novel writer. Writer's Block. I mentioned Miyamoto's quote above for a reason, and that would be the fact that Nintendo ran out of ideas for F-Zero as a whole. The Racing Game craze continued to go strong with the continuous development of the Mario Kart series and Nintendo has surely benefited from such a move, but I do feel that it is a mistake for them to completely ignore what they could have built up in F-Zero. To go 10 whole years and not being able to figure out what else to do with F-Zero is, in a sense, quite baffling.

I have noticed that throughout the series, F-Zero has never really come across as a story-driven concept, a theater of interesting and unique events that take place almost on the fly, and it's usually the races that take center stage, as they should since it is the genre built for these events. Captain Falcon's personality is hard to miss when you make references to it and I find it unusual how Captain Falcon's personality couldn't be built around for a new installment of the series.

If the problem of F-Zero were the characters around Captain Falcon, then the answer is simple. It's appropriate to reboot a series like this one. Normally I am very hesitant and weary of the idea of a video game series receiving a reboot because I tend to believe that rebooting a series will only create more problems rather than actually solve the problems the series had before the reboot. However, for F-Zero, I would definitely make an exception. I am very much open to the idea of F-Zero receiving a pretty major overhaul of a reboot if it meant that Captain Falcon's character would be better off in the long run.

I don't suggest that Captain Falcon himself be changed in this rebooting process. His personality is just fine and good to go, in my opinion. The side characters of F-Zero were characters that I had a hard time developing a sense of caring for. Captain Falcon was above and beyond the quality of some of these side characters that it wasn't even funny. When you see Captain Falcon in a scene, you know business is about to pick up. When you see someone like... Blitz Wagner, you probably wouldn't even recognize him very well if he were in a crowd.

I believe this is one problem that needs to be addressed if F-Zero is ever brought back. The side characters need time to develop, at least some of them. Whether they be fellow heroes, anti-heroes or villains, it doesn't matter. Captain Falcon stands out the most in part because he received the most character development in the series, and in return, there wasn't much of a chance for anyone else to develop as a character. While Captain Falcon gets familiar with the Blue Falcon once again, it would be nice to let the player know that few of the side characters are receiving the sufficient treatment that would make the player want to emotionally invest in them.

In closing, Captain Falcon himself never really declined in quality as character. It's just that he never received the lift from a supporting cast of equally interesting side characters that he needed to keep his world of F-Zero going strong. I could tell with the way some of the side characters developed that there was something missing and glaringly baffling about them. I would make drastic changes to the scope of an F-Zero story, but I would make sure that it stayed true to what it was about.

In scenes between races, though, it would help if Captain Falcon actually had a voice actor to provide dialogue to further bring out the character. I'd like to know if Captain Falcon could smooth talk his way out of a sticky situation and I'd like to know if Captain Falcon's quick thinking could elevate him into a favorable position on the racetrack. I would like to know if Captain Falcon could verbally provide something noteworthy that would make gamers step back and say "Whoa! I wasn't expecting him to say that!"

Hopefully Nintendo will one day "show us their moves" and revive something that is sorely missed and reduced to a Beat 'Em Up Fighting Game.

No comments:

Post a Comment