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F-Zero: Falcon's Story

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F-Zero: Falcon's Story
Developer(s) StarHominid Studios
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platform(s) Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
Genre(s) Action-Adventure
Release Date(s)
December 17, 2020
Mode(s)
1-Player
Age Rating(s)
US: ESRB T, EU: PEGI 16, DE: USK 16, JP: CERO C, AU: PG
Media Included Wii U Optical Disc, Nintendo 3DS Cartridge
Storage Needed 50 GB

F-Zero: Falcon’s Story is an action-adventure videogame developed by StarHominid Studios and published by Nintendo for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Set 1 year after the F-Zero X Grand Prix when the Federal Congress redesigned the laws for F-Zero Grand Prix, equipping every car with a Speed of Light boost, the game’s main storyline follows Captain Falcon as he confronts Black Shadow, who has launched an attack on Port Town, causing a city-wide evacuation. Black Shadow, with the help of the mysterious Bonedigger, is also able to unite Captain Falcon’s greatest foes in an attempt to finally destroy Captain Falcon.

The game is presented from a third-person perspective, with a primary focus on Captain Falcon’s melee combat, stealth abilities, detective skills, and gadgets. The Blue Falcon is a playable vehicle which can be used for transportation or combat. The game offers an open world structure allowing the player to complete side missions away from the primary storyline.

F-Zero: Falcon’s Story received acclaim from reviewers, particularly for its narrative, visuals, gameplay, combat, and world designs, with most criticism given to the emphasis on the Blue Falcon.

Gameplay

F-Zero: Falcon’s Story is set within Port Town, which is open to the player from the beginning of the game, allowing them to travel freely anywhere within its boundaries without any loading transitions. The player can fly Captain Falcon throughout the city using the Dive Meter. Captain Falcon can use some gadgets while gliding.

The game's combat system allows for basic attacks including strikes, counters, and dodging which can be combined to keep Captain Falcon attacking while moving between enemies and avoiding being attacked himself. Basic enemies include enemies armed with shields and shock batons, while others are armed with guns which significantly damage Captain Falcon. These enemies can perform a charge and tackle attack, precision timed dodging, and a Falcorang can instantly defeat some charging enemies. The system adds the ability to combine attacks on prone enemies without interrupting a combo streak. Captain Falcon can counter enemy attacks and throw them into other enemies for increased damage. Captain Falcon is also capable of disarming enemies wielding items like baseball bats and using the acquired weapon on several foes before it breaks. Falcon’s Story has a setting called “Dual Play,” in which players can seamlessly switch control of Captain Falcon to one of his allies: Jody, Rick, or Dr. Clash while in Free Flow Combat, which the player enters when they have accumulated an uninterrupted combat streak. Each successful, uninterrupted attack adds to the player's combat score, which carries over between each controlled character and unlocks double-team takedowns on opponents at higher scores.

Enemy medics shield enemies in electrified fields and revive unconscious ones, sword-wielding enemies, and brutes that are resistant to damage and must be stunned before they can be attacked. Brutes wielding guns, tasers, and blades require additional steps to defeat. Enemies are capable of employing tactics to counter Captain Falcon’s various skills, including deploying landmines, controlling hovering drones, disabling vents if Captain Falcon is found using them, and detecting his location if Captain Falcon uses Detective Vision for too long.

Throughout the city, Captain Falcon encounters enemy watchtowers, guard posts, aerial drones, and explosive mines embedded in the city streets. Some drones can be hacked and turned against their allies by using the Remote Hacking Device. Fear Takedown allows Captain Falcon to subdue up to five enemies simultaneously as long as he remains undetected; time is slowed after each take down, allowing the player to target the next enemy. Hazardous items such as power generators can be used in combat for environmental attacks. Combat is rewarded with experience points which are used to unlock gadget abilities, combat moves, and health upgrades. Captain Falcon can access grates from afar, allowing him to roll forward and immediately get under the grate if in range instead of having to be right on top of them, while also initiating multiple takedowns from within them. Some enemies carry devices capable of blocking Captain Falcon's Detective Vision.

Falcon’s Story features side missions, which can be attempted at any time and feature prominent characters from the F-Zero universes. One such character, Antonio Guster, provides 486 optional “Guster Challenges” to solve. These challenges consist of collecting trophies hidden in the city through the use of gadgets and the Blue Falcon to disable traps and barriers, and completing timed races. The player can mark Guster trophies on the in-game map once found if they do not initially have the necessary equipment to complete the puzzle, and learn of additional locations for collectables by interrogating Antonio Guster’s henchmen. Captain Falcon can investigate crimes such as murders, using his Detective Vision to reconstruct the crimes to locate clues and identify the perpetrators, or use his Tissue Scanner to investigate a victim's skin, muscle, and bones for clues. Completing the story mode unlocks New Game Plus mode, enabling the player to replay the game with all of the gadgets, experience, abilities, and Guster collectables the have obtained. The completion of some tasks is reflected in the Port Town Police Department with thugs and villains becoming incarcerated and criminal memorabilia from missions and previous games being collected in the evidence room.

Blue Falcon

The game uses the Blue Falcon as a drivable vehicle. The bulletproof Blue Falcon can be summoned to the player's location while on foot or, if the player is airborne, sent to meet Captain Falcon as he lands. The vehicle features the ability to perform jumps; speed boosts, and rotates on the spot, smash through objects like barricades and trees, and fire missiles that can immobilize enemy vehicles. Captain Falcon can eject from the Blue Falcon and immediately begin gliding around Port Town.

Some enemies will run away at the sight of the vehicle, eliminating the need for Captain Falcon to fight them, and enemies attacking the car can be subdued by its automated taser defenses. Like Captain Falcon, the Blue Falcon can be upgraded with new abilities. Guster challenges also feature objectives requiring the Blue Falcon, such as timed races in tunnels beneath Port Town, where the environmental obstacles change during each lap, and invisible question marks that must be revealed using the Blue Falcon's scanner.

The Blue Falcon has two modes, which can be switched at any time: Pursuit and Battle. Pursuit is for moving from area to area and completing specific driving challenges. In Battle mode, the Blue Falcon becomes more tank than car, allowing a full 360-degree range of movement, including strafing in any direction, while revealing the multiple weapon systems on board, including a chain gun for quick damage, a 60mm hypervelocity cannon for fire support, anti-tank guided missiles for wide-ranging damage against multiple targets, and a non-lethal riot suppressor. Additional upgrades to the vehicle include an EMP device, which releases an electric pulse used to temporarily stun enemy drones; and the "drone virus", which allows the player to override the weapon systems of enemy vehicles and cause them to attack each other. The Blue Falcon can also be controlled remotely, driven in indoor locations, and used in solving the game's puzzles, such as lowering an inaccessible elevator with its attached winch or obtaining a Guster trophy. The Falcon Flyer is used in conjunction with the Blue Falcon to deliver upgrades.

Synopsis

Characters

Falcon’s Story features a large ensemble cast of characters from the history of F-Zero games. The main character is Captain Falcon (Eric Kelso)—a superhero trained to the peak of human physical and mental perfection and an expert in martial arts. He is supported by his allies, Jody (Bianca Allen, replacing Julia Yermakov), Rick (Greg Abbey), Dr. Clash (Marc Diraison), Dr. Stewart (Dan Green), and Jack Levin (Marc Thompson)— who assists Captain Falcon covertly as the hacker Jackie L, and James McCloud (Mike West).  Luna Ryder and Mighty Gazelle (Wayne Grayson) provide Captain Falcon with tactical support. Kat&Ana (Sara Rades and Leslie Swan) aim to replace Captain Falcon as Port Town’s protectors.

Throughout the city, Captain Falcon is faced with several villains he must overcome Black Shadow’s (Jack Merluzzi) plot to threaten Port Town, dismantle Crazy Hand’s (Xander Mobus) weapon dealing operation, put an end to Dai Goroh’s (also voiced by Merluzzi) bank heists, conquer Antonio Guster’s (Also voiced by Diraison) challenges, capture the life and death controlling Deathborn (Eric Stuart) and subdue Don Genie (also voiced by Stuart), who wants revenge against Captain Falcon for the death of the Blood Falcon, Captain Falcon’s evil clone.

The game introduces the Bonedigger (Also voiced by Merluzzi). Little is known about his past, but what is known is that when he was a child, his parents left him. Then a pack of street dogs found him and taught him to be a dog. Other villains include the barrel-throwing Donkey Kong, the hero (more like villain) of Hyrule Link, the assassin mercenary Lisa Brilliant, the Aura-using Lucario, the serial killer Michael Chain, R.O.B., who impersonates Captain Falcon, and the swordfighting fanatic, Samurai Goroh.

Falcon’s Story also features appearances to various characters drawn from the history of Nintendo including, but not limited to: Barbara the Bat, Captain Olimar, Devil, Hammer Bro, Isaac, Jill, Knuckle Joe, Lakitu, Little Mac, and Lucas. The game also makes references to other Nintendo characters.

Setting

One year after the F-Zero X Grand Prix and the death of the Blood Falcon (2569), Captain Falcon is struggling to come to terms with the absence of his evil clone and the uncomfortable feeling that the pair shared a bond deeper than either could admit. Without the Blood Falcon’s presence, Port Town’s citizens have never felt safer, and crime in the city has dramatically declined. However, this gives Captain Falcon's enemies, including Crazy Hand, Dai Goroh, and Don Genie, a chance to unite with the singular goal of killing Captain Falcon.

On Halloween night, Black Shadow threatens the city with his newly created strain of bombs planted throughout Port Town, forcing the evacuation of the city's twelve million civilians. Only criminals remain in the city, leaving Mario and the Port Town Police Department outnumbered. Anticipating a new threat, Captain Falcon continues to develop crime-fighting technology and maintains a vigil over the city. The game takes place in the center of the city, with various districts such as the neon-tinged Chinatown, and the industrial shipping yard. Jackie L has set up his communications headquarters in the Port Town clock tower, which also houses Captain Falcon.

Plot

On Halloween, Black Shadow forces the civilian evacuation of Port Town after threatening to unleash his potent new bombs. Captain Falcon tracks Black Shadow to a hideout where he rescues the imprisoned Deathborn, who had refused to join Captain Falcon's other rogues in Black Shadow's plot. Captain Falcon meets with Jackie L, who identifies an unknown source of Black Shadow's bombs. Captain Falcon investigates the facility but encounters the Bonedigger and his heavily-armed militia. Captain Falcon overcomes the forces and locates Black Shadow, who has implanted bombs around the entire building. Black Shadow reveals that he has kidnapped Jackie L, and exposes Captain Falcon to the bomb before escaping. Captain Falcon inhibits the bomb's blast radius before he is confronted by Blood Falcon.

A flashback reveals that before Blood Falcon died, his blood was used in blood transfusions infecting five people including Captain Falcon; Captain Falcon, concealing that fact from others, imprisoned the four other recipients who were physically and mentally transforming into Blood Falcon. Blood Falcon, now existing as a mental projection produced by the blood, frequently appears to taunt Captain Falcon, and manipulate his perception of the world around him. After Captain Falcon escapes the exploding unknown source, he tells Mario that Jackie L has been captured. Mario angrily leaves to find Black Shadow.

Captain Falcon learns that Black Shadow recruited Tabuu to build a mass dispersal device for bombs. Captain Falcon interrogates Tabuu and then confronts Black Shadow aboard Tabuu's airship, and bombs allow Blood Falcon to temporarily assume control of Captain Falcon's body while the Bonedigger extracts the device. Recovering, Captain Falcon locates Jackie L in Black Shadow's hideout, but when he arrives Jackie L is exposed to the bombs, and in terror he commits suicide. Don Genie seizes Captain Falcon's base in the Movie Studio to rescue the Blood Falcon-ized patients. Captain Falcon and Jody Summers capture Don and the infected, but one of the patients kills the others, before committing suicide, believing that Captain Falcon will become the perfect Blood Falcon. Realizing that Captain Falcon is infected, Jody Summers attempts to imprison him before the Blood Falcon takes control, but Captain Falcon traps Jody Summers in a cell, refusing to stop until Black Shadow is caught.

The Bonedigger activates the device, flooding the city with fear. Captain Falcon destroys the device and convinces Deathborn to give life to an ancient tree that can neutralize the city; he succeeds and saves Port Town, but the strain kills him, while Captain Falcon's exposure to the bombs strengthens Blood Falcon's control. Captain pursues the Bonedigger to a construction site to rescue Mario. The Bonedigger reveals himself as Captain Olimar, who was seemingly murdered by Blood Falcon, and has been left traumatized by torture at Blood Falcon’s hands. Olimar blames Captain Falcon for abandoning him, and although Captain Falcon offers to help Olimar recover, he escapes. Captain Falcon and Mario confront Black Shadow on the building’s roof, where Jackie L is revealed to be alive, and his suicide a result of a hallucination. Captain Falcon rescues Jackie L and returns him to the Port Town Police Department (PTPD), but Black Shadow escapes with Mario. Using the remaining militia, Black Shadow assaults the PTPD to eliminate Captain Falcon’s allies. Captain Falcon and Jackie L neutralize the militia, but Black Shadow uses the distraction to kidnap Jody.

To save Jody and Mario, Captain Falcon surrenders to Black Shadow and is taken to the ruins of Aero Dive. Black Shadow reveals Captain Falcon’s identity to the world on television, before repeatedly implanting bombs around Captain Falcon to break him before the public. Inside his mind, Captain Falcon and Blood Falcon battle for control; Blood Falcon attempts to weaken Captain Falcon by recounting the number of people who have suffered and died because of Captain Falcon’s crusade; Captain Falcon triumphs and locks the pleading Blood Falcon away in his mind forever to be forgotten—Blood Falcon’s only fear. Olimar arrives and frees Captain Falcon, who subdues Black Shadow with his own bombs.

After Captain Falcon ensures that Port Town is safe, Mario dispatches the police to reclaim the streets, and Captain Falcon activates the “Bonefall” protocol to protect his loved ones. Surrounded by reporters, Captain Falcon returns home where he is greeted by Luna Ryder. As the pair enters the manor, it explodes, seemingly killing them both. The game ends with a monologue from Mario, now Port Town’s mayor, preparing to attend Jackie L and Jody’s wedding. Elsewhere, two criminals attack a family in an alley but are confronted by a nightmarish silhouette resembling Captain Falcon.

Development

In July 2014, Shigeru Miyamoto said he would not be involved in writing a new F-Zero game. He also said that Nintendo and StarHominid suggested he accept other work if offered. StarHominid opted to use its own team of writers, headed by game director Summanus Leurgans and designer Patrício Oseas, with script elements by Kermit Maloley; Patxi Mankiw served as a consultant on the plot.

Falcon’s Story was announced in June 2018, following leaked marketing material at the end of April, with creators StarHominid Studios developing the game. Eric Kelso returns as the voice of Captain Falcon, having done so in F-Zero GX, after stating at the 2016 Tokyo Game Show that he was working on “the next Super Smash Bros”. This statement led to speculation that he would reprise his role as Captain Falcon in the next Super Smash Bros, which had not been in development at the time, which was not the case.

StarHominid decided early on in development to make Falcon’s Story for both home console and handheld, which was considered to allow them to focus on using the system resources to their fullest. Falcon’s Story uses the Apex physics simulation engine to have items like cloth, such as Captain Falcon’s clothes react realistically to movement or wind. Nintendo supported StarHominid’s concept for the game but both parties felt that seventeen years was too long to wait between games.

While wished for, the game does not feature a multiplayer component. Maloley explained that the development team knew the single-player game would take the team's full effort, with their "focus on making the best single-player experience we can. We did not feel that it needed a multiplayer element. Nintendo backed that up right from the start.”

Design

The Blue Falcon was designed to integrate with Captain Falcon's on-foot traversal without being a burden; Maloley stated, "We didn't want it to be like, 'Okay, the Blue Falcon is so good I'll just stay in that all the time.' or 'Captain Falcon is so powerful diving around I won't be using the Blue Falcon.' There's a definite need to use both of those."The world's challenges were set out on the vertical and horizontal plane of the map to discourage players from using only one form of movement, with the Blue Falcon providing a faster method for moving large distances over gliding. Buildings hit by the vehicle suffer cosmetic damage without slowing the car, as it was considered that being impeded by a collision while turning a corner would diminish the power fantasy of driving the Blue Falcon.

Port Town was designed with wide streets to allow space for the Blue Falcon and other street traffic to drive without colliding into walls, and buildings were made tall to accommodate the vehicle's ejection ability. Alongside minor elements like neon lights, billboard advertising, and futuristic-style cars, the team developed ideas for shops that could be found in the city, while retaining a grimy, dystopian but futuristic theme. Describing the design, Bartoš said: "every kind of element we've added in there ... makes the entire experience feel a little out of time. You couldn't pinpoint whether it's twenty years before hand, when it’s supposed to take place or ten years after F-Zero X." The designers valued making an open world that was "rich, vibrant, dense...and full of interesting things to do" over it just being large.

In writing for Captain Falcon, Maloley considered that a fundamental aspect of the character was how he interacts with his villains, allies, and the city around him. Maloley said: "You know, what it means to be Captain Falcon. ...How does it affect Captain Falcon when things happen to him? What is his psychological make up? Those are the influences behind the game... you actually delve into the psyche of what makes him what he is, which is where I think so much of the interest in Captain Falcon is." Captain Falcon's armor was redesigned to match that of the Blue Falcon to make them appear visually similar—featuring the same shapes and material textures—and appear functionally compatible with the high-speed methods in which the character enters and exits the vehicle. The design also added armor over Captain Falcon's shoulders, to make it appear more feasible that it could hold Captain Falcon's weight without failing during diving. For other returning characters, art director Trevelyan Bartoš  said that the designs were conceived to keep them interesting after players had seen them several times before in previous games, while the game's autumnal setting also necessitated a change in character clothing. Crazy Hand was made to look dirtier, showing signs of sweat and food stains. For Dai Goroh, the designers felt the character did not require changing significantly and instead emphasized existing character traits, particularly having disfigured flesh, using references of burnt flesh as inspiration. Similarly, they wanted to retain the typical Antonio Guster’s characterizations like his helmet, but instead had the character design evolve throughout the game, modifying his own costume in response to the events of the plot.

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