F-Zero GX GameCube Review

When F-Zero was first released on the Super Nintendo, its slick, futuristic styling made it an instant hit, not only that, but it ushered in a new generation of racers. Of course, it spawned a few sequels, one appearing on the GBA and one appearing on the Nintendo 64. While the GBA version played like its SNES counterpart, the Nintendo 64 adaptation gave the series a slightly new twist, though the concept remained the same. F-Zero GX marks the first time that Nintendo has lent its futuristic racing series out to a third party. The people behind the Super Monkey Ball series, Amusement Vision (a division of Sega), have made F-Zero GX and it’s arcade equivalent F-Zero AX the fastest racing games yet, but does it still manage to keep that all important F-Zero feel?

Graphics

Running at a constant 60 frames per second, F-Zero is visually stunning and never misses a beat. Movement is totally stable and the tracks fly by with no break up of any kind. The designs are futuristic and original, with exceptional detail given to everything from the vehicles and tracks, as well as the background features.

The in-game cinematics are fantastic as well. It’s clear that a lot of time and energy went into the overall design, and it shows. Wholly impressive and crisp and detailed, the cut-scenes are fun to watch.

The tracks are also well thought out and designed. However, they go from “basic” to “advanced” to “how the heck am I supposed to race on this” in no time flat. Some tracks require you to just race, others require you to perform some outrageous exercises. In any case, the tracks are quite well-done.

Gameplay

The F-Zero Grand Prix is a sport that began in the 26th century. Acclaimed by audiences everywhere, the race features the newest racing technology on the market, allowing racers to use the most advanced racing machines created. One of the fastest and most extreme races in the known universe, the F-Zero Grand Prix is a race many will enter, as the sport is backed by some of the wealthy elite. The successful racer will reap untold fortunes, while the losers will suffer humiliation and even death. F-Zero is a high-tech, futuristic racing game, which places you behind the controls of a high speed hover machine. Using an anti-gravity system called the “G-Diffuser System”, racing machines hover just inches above the track. Each circuit features anti-gravitational guard rails and are set high above the planet’s surface. Machines can easily attain maximum speeds that can exceed the speed of sound, making each race fast and dangerous.

If you’ve not played an F-Zero game before, here’s a brief rundown – there are 30 competitors in each race, and your goal is to win at any cost – this means taking out your opponent with devious spin moves and ramming attacks (rather than weapons). In the second lap of each race, your car will have a turbo meter activated, which allows you to use some of your shield energy to gain a turbo boost. Shield energy can be replenished by running over energy fields. There are also various obstacles throughout the track such as rocks and ice, as well as things such as jump pads and turbo pads used to advantage the player. Tracks start off quite easy, but quickly become hard by producing things such as 90 degree turned, pipes, loop the loops, corkscrews and more. You will find that you need to practice on the earlier tracks to get the hang of things such as leaning and taking tight turns before you can really dig into the game’s later tracks.

F-Zero features several modes of gameplay, all of which are exciting and fun. Two main modes make up the bulk of the game’s single player experience. You have the Grand Prix mode, which places you against 29 other contestants, in a race for the top spot in the Grand Prix rankings. The other mode is the Story mode, which allows you to play as the main character, Captain Falcon, as he makes his way through mission after mission.

The Grand Prix mode has three different cups to play through. Choose one based on your experience level. Novices to the game will want to enter the Ruby Cup, Intermediate players will find the Sapphire cup to be their choice and Experts will certainly want to reign supreme by entering the Emerald cup, which is the most difficult cup to win. You can choose from four unique machines at the start, though you earn tickets based on your results on the circuit. By earning these tickets, you can go to the shop and purchase (unlock) new vehicles. The story mode follows the exploits of Captain Falcon. At first, you can only select the Prologue and Chapter one. Clearing missions successfully allows you to purchase the next mission from the shop. The story mode isn’t just racing. There are a plethora of missions that will test your skills as not only a racer, but a simple driver. It’s stimulating and highly addictive, though the game gets near impossible at times.

Other modes allow you to race a friend, by choosing versus mode, or run a time attack, as you race each course against a ghost car of your highest score. There is a practice mode, as well, which can be helpful, as it teaches you the ins and outs of racing. Customisation is big addition in F-Zero GX. You can design a car from scratch using custom parts you can purchase with tickets which you earn from your racing. After designing the shape, you can pick a driver and apply some emblems to the craft to make it a little more personal. When you’re happy with your design, you can save it onto your memory card, and take it over to a friends place, or even to an F-Zero AX machine, and use your custom built car there. You can also design your own emblems via the emblem editor.

The control scheme is very simplistic, though, like most games, takes time to master. The control stick steers your craft. The more you tilt the stick left or right, the sharper the respective turn. Pushing up increases speed, while holding down decreases it. To slide left, use the L or R button with the appropriate direction on the control stick, for a more drift-style turn, hold down both triggers and the L (or R) button. The differences in turn do make a difference, as drift turns tend to hug the rail a bit more. To use a spin attack, use the control pad and the Z button. Using the control stick and X does a side attack. If you need a little extra speed, hit the Y button to max out your booster. The A button accelerates and the B button brakes. It’s easy to pick up and play, though the game itself is a bit difficult.

When I say the game is difficult, I mean it. The AI starts out relatively competitive, but after a few races, they turn from competitive to just plain devastating.

Sound

The soundtrack is impressive, but not as much as the graphic content. While the music is really intense, feeding your need to race, the voice actors are a bit blah. That’s not to say they’re bad, but they simply seem melodramatic and odd at times. The music compensates for this, so it isn’t a terribly big deal.

Sound effects are a treat, as vehicles whiz by you, machines crash, and the hum of your G-Diffuser system blares through your speaker. They are impressive and help maintain the futuristic atmosphere of the game.

Lifespan

With over 20 pilots, unlockable vehicles and features and some of the most difficult races on the planet, F-Zero GX is a fantastic title that will definitely keep your interest. Some may be put off by the difficulty of the game, but F-Zero fans will eat the game up like candy. It takes a while to race like a professional, but in the end, it is a very satisfying reward.

Overall

F-Zero GX is a fantastic installment in the F-Zero franchise. I know many people felt a bit upset that Nintendo had turned one of its higher profile names to a one-time rival, but Sega did one heck of a job by creating the ultimate futuristic racer. Filled with some of the most fluid graphics I have ever seen, tons of hidden items, easy to get into controls and a lot of just plain fun, F-Zero’s only real fault lies in its difficulty. As I said, many will be put off by the complexity of racing, which is understandable. However, those gamers who stick with it will feel like they’ve triumphed in the end. It’s simply a fantastic game overall.

9 out of 10
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