It’s been too long since F-Zero fans got a full-fledged new entry in the series (sorry F-Zero 99, you don’t count). And while the latest F-Zero news isn’t of that long-awaited next game, it might be even more fascinating for fans of the franchise. Thanks to the work of the F-Zero community, two lost games in the series are now easily accessible. Those games, which you may have never heard of, are BS F-Zero Grand Prix I and II.
What makes the BS F-Zero Grand Prix games so forgotten is the lack of a cartridge release for either. These games came out in the 90’s, so it isn’t like digital games stores were prolific at the time. So where did these games release? The answer is its own fascinating piece of tech history. The BS-X Satellaview was a Super Famicom attachment released in Japan in 1995 that allowed users to download games and other content through a satellite connection. Many games were released this way by having players tune into certain television channels to get exclusive content through broadcasts. The BS Grand Prix games were two such pieces of Satellaview content, with a series of broadcasts from 1997-1998 releasing ten new tracks and four new machines. Due to the nature of the BS-X system, which required broadcast content to be stored on a special cartridge and dumped to play new content, the BS F-Zero Grand Prix games are incredibly rare.
However in 2018, recordings of every F-Zero Satellaview broadcast were uploaded to YouTube, which was the key to bringing these forgotten games to new audiences. You see, there are no actual ROMs in existence (that we know of) of either BS F-Zero Grand Prix game, but thanks to the footage of each broadcast, ROMhacker GuyPerfect was able to lead a project that revived the lost games. The method behind the recreation is an impressive feat all its own. There is a tool called Graphite from YouTuber FlibidyDibidy that essentially looks at footage of Super Mario Bros. being played and is able to determine the exact position on the screen of Mario as well as the exact frame perfect button input being done at any given time. Using the principles of Graphite, GuyPerfect was able to create a similar tool for F-Zero that was then applied to the uploaded recordings of BS F-Zero Grand Prix on YouTube. By tracking the exact position and button inputs of the recorded footage, GuyPerfect was able to use the tool (and hours of work checking and cleaning up the tool’s work) to recreate the exact pixel layout of the exclusive Satellaview courses using assets from the original F-Zero. With the added help of artists Porthor and PowerPanda to recreate the exclusive environment art, a faithful recreation of BS F-Zero Grand Prix I and II was created.
That recreation is now available for free to fans of F-Zero on the internet. And while it offers a faithful representation of the original game, the team behind the project is still after a physical copy of the broadcast software, even offering a $5,000 bounty for carts and ROMs. Maybe one day in the future we will be able to check just how accurate the new recreation is against the real thing.