F-Zero 99 is a free sci-fi behind-the-back racing game developed by Nintendo Software Technology Corporation and digitally released by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch on September 14, 2023. It requires a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to access.
The fourth game in the "99" series, F-Zero 99 is a re-imagining of the 1990 SNES game F-Zero built for large-scale multiplayer, with races that can have up to 99 players at once. Along with several elements from the original game (including its "rank out" disqualification system, giving it a bit of a "battle royale" vibe), it includes elements from later games (including its Power-based Boost system and Spin Attacks) as well as some new features (including the Super Boost system for catching up).
Most of the gameplay is identical to that from the original F-Zero, with some key differences:
- Races outside of Practice mode are played in online multiplayer, with up to 99 players at once. The Rank Out elimination system is updated so that each lap restricts the Rank Out amount by 5 racers.
- Tracks are wider and overall speed is adjusted to account for the large amount of racers. Additionally, races are four laps instead of five and, outside of Practice mode and Grand Prix finale races, all racers now start in a new area outside of the track, giving them all an equal footing as they converge onto the track.
- Players no longer earn per-lap "Super Jet" boosts, instead having unlimited boost power once they reach the starting line for the first time. Similar to that from F-Zero X, boosting drains a significant chunk of the Power Meter and should be done sparingly.
- Players now have a Spin Attack (ZL / ZR), similar to that from F-Zero X, that allows them to collide with other machines without taking damage and with additional force. This technique has a short cooldown, which is made shorter by launching on jump plates.
- The Mini-Map can be toggled (using the X button) from "Full View" into a new "Proximity View" that shows all racers nearby, allowing the player to adjust their position accordingly.
- Eliminating another player by colliding with them causes the player to fully restore their Power and increase their Power Meter. In Prix modes, the Meter buff lasts throughout the entire event. In Team Battle, all teammates gain the buff.
- Machines that are critically low in Power are in a "Power Down" state and have reduced speed. They are shown to other players by being smoking and volatile, making them prime targets for K.O.'s
- New to the series is the "Super Boost" system, a catch-up mechanic that allows players to go off-course above the track (on the "Skyway") to progress through the course faster. This is done by filling up a Super Boost gauge (by collecting "Super Sparks" dropped by machines colliding with each other) and then performing a boost (which does not drain the Power Meter). Machines landing back down from the Skyway, as well as exploding machines, also drop a bunch of Super Sparks, and special large Gold Bumper machines grant a large chunk of Super Sparks when collided with.
- Players start each race with four other players close to their current skill rating as their "Rivals", shown in the Mini-Map, and gain rank based on how many they win against. Losing against all four gives a significant loss in rank.
- Some players who are disqualified early can gain temporary control of a Bumper (shown as a blue "Lucky Bumper") for bonus points (1 point per hit with another machine). While they have limited movement, they can perform Spin Attacks (which give 5 points instead). In Team Battle, this control lasts throughout the race.
All four F-Zero machines from the original game return, each with their own strengths and weaknesses (including some new stats for the game).
- Blue Falcon - A versatile machine with no strengths or weaknesses. Max Speed: 457 km/h, with fast acceleration.
- Golden Fox - A lightweight machine that has the quickest acceleration for turn recovery and the strongest Power recovery for better boost usage. However, it is the least able to withstand collisions with walls and other racers, has the slowest overall top speed, is very slippery to turn with, and has the worst recovery from rough gravel. Max Speed: 437 km/h, with very fast acceleration.
- Wild Goose - An aggressive machine that is better able to withstand collisions with walls and other racers. However, it has very weak Power recovery that makes boosting more riskier. Max Speed: 462 km/h, with slow acceleration.
- Fire Stingray - A heavyweight machine that has the fastest overall top speed, the tightest handling for sharp turns, and the best recovery from rough gravel. However, its very slow acceleration can make it very difficult to recover from turns and collisions. Max Speed: 478 km/h, with very slow acceleration.
Players can now customize their machines with color palettes, decals, and boost colors earned through both playing the game and achieving certain goals (such as winning certain game modes). This was expanded on November 28, 2023 with the "Lucky Ranks" system, where players have a random chance of earning rewards by competing in five races (with their rank number and machine used determining how much they win).
Along with the standard F-Zero 99 and Practice modes, the game includes a bonus playlist that rotates between multiple modes on a timed basis (a Mini Prix or Grand Prix for 10 minutes, followed by a Special Event for 20 minutes).
Regularly, the bonus playlist includes a Grand Prix every two hours, with each off half-hour being a Mini Prix. On weekends, this is changed so that every half-hour is a Grand Prix. Players earn a limited amount of tickets per day, 1 normally and 3 on weekends.
- F-Zero 99 - The game's main mode, with players competing in a single race, in one of several standard tracks, with 98 others.
- Practice - A single-player time trial mode where players race to get their fastest time with no opposing machines to deal with. Each player has their own set of Ghost Racers for each track, one for each of the four Machines at their fastest time.
- Special Event: Team Battle - Players are split into two teams (Green and Pink) and compete in a single standard race to earn the most points (which are determined by lap position, K.O.'s, Lucky Bumper hits, and hits with Spin Attacks). Being knocked out always puts them in the Lucky Bumper mode.
- Special Event: Pro Tracks - Same as standard F-Zero 99, but on a random "Pro" track of harder difficulty. Completing this event earns bonus ticket points.
- Special Event: Classic - Added on November 28, 2023. A 20-player race in either standard or Pro tracks, with several adjustments to make it more like the original SNES version. These include classic track sizes and car physics, the return of the Super Jet system, no K.O. buffs, no Spin Attack or Super Boost systems, no Lucky Bumpers, and classic-style Bumpers.
- Mini Prix - Players compete in a series of three races on a random assortment of tracks (two standard tracks, followed by one Pro track). Costs 1 ticket to enter.
- Grand Prix - Players compete in a series of five races in one of the game's three Leagues. The fifth race is unique for not including the Rank Out mechanic and for using the traditional starting grid. Costs 3 tickets to enter.
The game includes 15 tracks, split into three Leagues.
- Mute City I (standard)
- Big Blue (standard)
- Sand Ocean (standard)
- Death Wind I (standard)
- Silence (Grand Prix only)
- Mute City II (standard) - Added on September 28, 2023.
- Port Town I (standard) - Added on September 28, 2023.
- Red Canyon I (standard) - Added on September 28, 2023.
- White Land I (Pro)
- White Land II (Grand Prix only) - Added on September 28, 2023.
- Mute City III (standard) - Added on October 18, 2023.
- Death Wind II (Pro) - Added on September 28, 2023.
- Port Town II (Pro)
- Red Canyon II (Pro) - Added on October 18, 2023.
- Fire Field (Grand Prix only) - Added on October 18, 2023.