With the release of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition in late September 2017, Nintendo also released a number of new interviews with developers of the system’s earliest games to shine a little light on how things came to be at the dawn of their entry into the 16-bit market. One such interview is with the developers of the futuristic racing game F-Zero, Game Director Kazunobu Shimizu, Main Programmer Yasunari Nishida, and Designer Takaya Imamura.
Perhaps the most surprising reveal of all comes from the latter, as Imamura reveals that the mascot character for the system would not have been Mario, but none other than the master of the Falcon Punch, Captain Falcon himself — a fact that apparently most people at Nintendo didn’t even know prior to this interview. When you take into account how prominent Mario was as the face of the original NES and the launch lineup of Game Boy titles (to say nothing of generally being the mascot for the company itself), it would seem that Nintendo was initially willing to shake things up a bit
Perhaps this would have been their bid to better gain ground in other regions against their then-rival SEGA and their Genesis/Mega Drive platform. After all, as Shimizu revealed, it was the North American branch of Nintendo dumping on his original presentation of a Famicom Grand Prix: F-1 Race sequel combined with the popularity of Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman that sparked what would become F-Zero.
As Imamura would go on to explain, “When development of F-ZERO was almost complete, I was doing a bunch of illustrations and someone expressed a desire to make a mascot character for Super NES, with a name like Captain Something.” He continues, “So I started thinking about a character who would match the colors of the Super Famicom controller, with some red and blue and yellow.”
Sharp-eyed fans may notice something odd there, however. While Captain Falcon does indeed contain red, blue, and yellow, he’s missing one key color from the symbol for the Super Famicom: Green. However, despite its absence, it appears that the developers managed to tie the game in to the system’s logo in another way:
Unlike future installments in the series, the original F-Zero had only four racers, and though the interview makes no mention of whether or not this was deliberate, each one corresponds nicely with one of the four colors seen in the Super Famicom logo (which was mirrored by the four face buttons of the controller in Japan and Europe): Captain Falcon’s Blue Falcon, Pico’s green Wild Goose, Dr. Stewart’s Golden Fox (which appears yellow in most art you’ll find), and Samurai Goroh’s Fire Stingray, which admittedly skews more on the magenta side of red.
Between these elements and its mind-blowing (for the time) Mode 7 effects, there were clearly high hopes for F-Zero, but it would turn out that Mario would ultimately settle back into his place as mascot for the system once again. Nintendo ultimately took the flag against their rivals in the 16-bit chapter of the console wars, but one can only wonder how things might have been — and if it would have helped shed their “kiddy” image sooner — had the company proceeded to back F-Zero and Captain Falcon as the new face of their games.