Mr. Driller DrillLand is an excellent game in its own right, a Namco classic that deserved a much larger audience and may get it with its Nintendo Switch and PC remaster. Perhaps more importantly, though, it also provides a template for other beloved GameCube titles looking to make a comeback to a new audience.
When fans want a game from this era to return, there’s usually a lot that they don’t want touched. That’s especially true with the era’s aesthetics, which turned the corner on the tech side from the limited 3D of the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation but retained the signature Y2K-era coolness. Mr. Driller DrillLand nails this part, with its sharp, cool visuals and animations retained and brought into a modern resolution and aspect ratio.
And the GameCube may be the peak of this ethos. (Though, for sure, the Dreamcast remains in that conversation.) Other titles on the platform could benefit from the same approach. Like Super Smash Bros. Melee. Like the original Super Monkey Ball. Like Kirby Air Ride. And, most importantly, like F-Zero GX.
F-Zero fans have been struggling for some time to see their favorite franchise return. There have been glimmers of hope. “What is all this Mario Kart 8 DLC suggesting? Is that Star Fox Grand Prix game real? Maybe we can all buy FAST Racing as a signal to Nintendo!” Many in the community would be more than happy to see the return of what they feel is the series’ peak: F-Zero GX.
The game has style. It has visuals that are still impressive even without a remaster. It doesn’t need reworked controls. All the fundamentals are there, and some simple cleanup work would do just as well for it as a full-budget remake for a lot of people.
F-Zero GX had another defining trait, though: its difficulty. Simply put, the game’s aggressively punishing to new players, often stonewalling them to the first couple of races of the single-player campaign. And there’s another way that the game could benefit from the Mr. Driller DrillLand treatment. The one big change to the remaster was the addition of a “casual” difficulty, making the requirements less brutal and allowing more to enjoy what’s there. It didn’t replace the original balance, so purists and experts still can appreciate the challenge. It just opened the doors a bit to more potential fans.
It’s clear: F-Zero GX would benefit greatly from a DrillLand-style remaster. The opportunity’s there: whether it’s the Bandai Namco team behind this game, the Sega one remastering fellow Amusement Vision franchise Super Monkey Ball or a crew already working with Nintendo, the skill set to make it is available. It could be billed as an expanded edition with the F-Zero AX arcade content unlocked by default. And yeah, with ballooning development costs as hardware capabilities increase, it’s likely the only way we’ll get another F-Zero release. Mr. Driller shows exactly how it could be done well.