On Friday, veteran Nintendo artist Takaya Inamura conducted an interview with IGN. Inamura made waves with his announcement this January that he’d be leaving the company he served for over 30 years, but the talk with IGN contained plenty of newsworthy nuggets in and of itself, particularly with regards to his comments on the F-Zero franchise.
Inamura spoke about how he worked with Toshihiro Nagoshi, who was the then-head of Amusement Vision before becoming the driving force behind the Yakuza series, and he called the fruit of their work together, F-Zero GX and AX, “the ultimate F-Zero”. When addressing the 18 year hiatus, Inamaru stated that the series isn’t dead just because he left, but he also made an interesting comment too: “Of course, I’ve thought about it many times, but without a grand new idea, it’s hard to bring [F-Zero] back.”
Not long after publishing, Twitter became awash with takes on how to bring the F-Zero series back, with one of the prevailing theories simply being remaster F-Zero GX with the AX content and port it to the Nintendo Switch. I might be biased because that’s the opinion I tweeted, but regardless, one opinion stood out above the rest:
I know this sounds like the rampant fever dreaming of somebody who’s just a big fan of both franchises, and while this article idea certainly started at that point, there’s something undeniably exciting about the premise of Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio taking on one of Nintendo’s greatest franchises and doing some new with it. Clearly, Nintendo themselves are open to experimentation with the likes of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and Hyrule Warriors; third-party takes on classic first party franchises that swap the gameplay completely.
Furthermore, on the development side of things at least, Nagoshi himself has said he’d love to return to the series as part of a collaboration between Nintendo and SEGA, stating in an interview with the French Red Bull website in 2021 that: “Putting aside the possibility of this happening, I must admit that I have a great deal of affection for F-Zero GX. If the opportunity presented itself, I wouldn’t be against it. And in this case, I would like to make a game with challenge. I’m assuming that if Nintendo just wants a ‘fun and accessible’ racing game, they already have Mario Kart for that.”
Granted, his comments might have been related to the idea of either bringing GX back or creating a new racing game, but still. A new F-Zero game in the form of Yakuza would allow Nagoshi to revisit a franchise that clearly means a lot to him while leveraging the experience gained from developing the Yakuza franchise to create something that could become greater than the sum of its parts.
Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio has also proved that the Yakuza formula isn’t just successful because of Yakuza though, as it’s been applied to another franchise entirely with Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise. That game proved that the core gameplay loop of Yakuza, which is fast paced combat, plenty of side quests and an intriguing storyline, can be universally fun, regardless of the world it occupies. It’s not just lightning in a bottle, but a compelling framework that could be explored in other mediums.
Despite that, F-Zero arguably lends itself better to a Yakuza format than a lot of other games. Its protagonist, Captain Falcon, could easily be cast as a Kazuma Kiryu-esque badass with a heart of gold. As a bounty hunter/race driver with a good set of morals, Falcon straddles the same line that Kiryu does of being someone who deals with crime on the regular, while pursuing other interests because Yakuza games need silly minigames. You could even throw F-Zero GX style racing into the mix to flesh out the game.
At the moment, Captain Falcon is just that dude in Smash Bros. who says “SHOW YOUR MOVES!” and punches people, but a game like this would fulfil the criteria of F-Zero needing a “grand new idea” in order to be worth revisiting, while fleshing out a world and series of characters that are just begging to be explored further. We know that Captain Falcon can Falcon Punch, but this idea could go a long way towards explaining why he does and what his character is like, especially for those who never got a chance to play F-Zero GX.
There’s a whole roster of characters in F-Zero who could just make for interesting, funny and memorable sub-stories, the Yakuza series staple for side quests. Falcon’s main rival, Samurai Goroh, would make for an interesting foil similar to Kiryu’s rivalry with Majima, though you could throw in Samurai Goroh’s son and F-Zero AX exclusive character Daigoroh in there for a sub story that’s both a chance for a wholesome moment and an F-Zero lore deep cut.
We’re barely scratching the surface here on what could be fleshed out. Between the superhero couple of Super Arrow and Mrs. Arrow, the time-travelling cop Phoenix, the skeletal reincarnation of a 200 year old driver and Mr. EAD, who looks like the Marshmallow Man meets Mario, there’s potential for RGGS to explore pretty much everything. There’s even room for them to throw in plenty of new characters and lore. Hell, it worked for Lost Paradise, which was a brilliant mix of established Fist of the North Star narrative beats, remixed with new content.
Even the world itself would be perfect for a Yakuza makeover. Some of the most iconic locations in F-Zero are bustling futuristic cities, such as Port Town, Mute City, Big Blue and more. Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio are at their best with tight-knit metropolitan areas, as their work with Yakuza’s Kamurocho has proved. If anything, a project like this would allow the team to really let their imagination run wild, as the futuristic setting would open up even more possibilities.
The more I consider it, the less silly an idea like this becomes. Nintendo fans have been clamouring for a Yakuza experience on the Switch, but Ryu Ga Gotoku have seemingly been against it. Yakuza series producer Daisuke Sato has gone on record to say that the Switch wouldn’t be a good fit for Yakuza games: “However, as far as Switch is concerned, I’m convinced that it isn’t the ideal platform on which to develop Yakuza games. Maybe people don’t expect this kind of game on Switch. Maybe they’re used to different games. It may not be the ideal platform.”
Nagoshi has also spoken about his opinions on Nintendo as a whole, believing them to be a company that caters more to children and teenagers rather than focusing on adult content, though one look at the visual novels on the Nintendo eShop would say otherwise. Drive-by aside, an F-Zero/Yakuza collab would allow everyone to have their cake and eat it too. RGGS could create a Yakuza-style game that isn’t necessarily as adult-oriented as the Yakuza series, while Nintendo could revive one of their beloved franchises with a “grand new idea”.
Honestly, it’s unlikely that we’d even see this become a reality, but the fact that enough people on the internet would immediately leap to this idea not long after the Inamura interview dropped suggests there has to be something to it. Nintendo, SEGA and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, if you ever read this (which is pretty bloody unlikely), just consider the idea.
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