Review by Dorkmaster Flek
"If I was Sega, I'd lock Amusement Vision in their lab and put a sign on the door that says Do Not Disturb until their next masterpiece is finished."
Ladies and gentlemen! Start your engines! Welcome aboard the fastest race cars in the galaxy. This is F-Zero, and we play fast and hard. Born on the SNES, the original F-Zero was ahead of its time. The Mode 7 graphics were amazing, and the speed was unparalleled. Fast forward to the N64 generation, and F-Zero X was released. A little graphically bland, but every bit as fast as its predecessor, F-Zero X was hailed as more proof that Nintendo knows how to take its franchises into the 3D realm. Some wild and crazy tracks were augmented in an extremely rare 64DD add-on disk, the F-Zero X Expansion Kit, with two new cups of expert level courses and a phenomenal track editor. You can check out my review of both the game and the add-on disk here on GameFAQs. Fast forward again and we're in the GameCube generation. Nintendo partners with Sega in an unheard of deal, and Amusement Vision develops the next F-Zero game, an arcade version (AX) and a GC version (GX). This is where we stand today.
First off, let's get this out of the way. This game is fast and hard. Very hard. Most people probably won't have any trouble clearing the novice difficulty grand prix, and the standard difficulty should provide a good challenge for most. The expert difficulty will challenge even the most seasoned F-Zero pilots, and the master difficulty was probably intended for the game designers to train on. Unfortunately, if you own the US version, beating the grand prix cups on Master is the only way to unlock the arcade tracks and the AX cup, since there is no memory card slot in the US arcade machine (if you can find one in the first place). So you have two options: get really good, or cheat. Don't feel bad, the AI seems to have unlimited boost so it's already cheating.
One thing's for sure, this game looks fantastic. The tracks are huge and immensely detailed, the cars are reflective and you can even see the pilots inside the cockpit, and the environments are sprawling city skylines, thundering waterfalls, lush green forests, and even space itself. Hit a boost pad, or set off your own, and sparks fly from your engine as you rocket past the competition. One of the reasons this game seems so fast seems to be because, unlike the barren environments of F-Zero X, the GC has the power available to render complex environments and still keep the framerate at a blistering 60 FPS with not a slowdown in sight, even with 30 cars screaming along in a GP race. Having environments fly past you at 1000+ kph increases the sense of speed, and with the crazy tracks in this game, it feels like you're sitting in front of a fan on full blast.
If there is any area I have any complaints about, it would definitely be the sound department. The effects sound great, and they're spot on. The only issue I have is with the music. It's quite good for the most part, but some of the tracks seem a little generic. Though it is an interesting mix of techno and rock fused together, and the Casino Palace music is pretty catchy, very jazzy. The Green Plant music reminds me of Sonic, which is probably no coincidence with the guys at Amusement Vision. I do miss the great rock tunes of F-Zero X though, but as a nice bonus, if you finish all the cups on Master difficulty, you unlock a wicked Big Blue remix for purchase in the shop that you can play when you race any of the Big Blue courses.
Of course, any complaints there are minor at best compared with how stunning the rest of the game is. The cars control very similarly to their N64 predecessors. In fact, the cars are the same 30 from the N64 version, in addition to the 10 arcade vehicles and 2 secret cars to unlock. The states have been slightly altered for some of them, but most remain the same. The controls are spot on, and having the Z button as a shortcut for the spin attack is very useful, as is having the X button as the single button for a side dash, depending on which direction you're turning, instead of double tapping L or R. The drifting skill remains almost as essential as it was in the N64 incarnation. I say almost because there are a few cars, notably the White Cat, which hug the track better than anything out there. I haven't been able to reproduce that ability with any custom parts yet, and until I do, the White Cat is my car of choice. You get 3 cups to start of with, and you unlock another when you clear the first 3 on standard or expert. At 5 courses per cup, that's 20 GX tracks. You can also unlock the 6 AX tracks and the AX cup, bringing the grand total to 42 vehicles and 26 tracks. That's huge by any racing game's count. Add to that the garage mode where you can build your own custom machines with parts you unlock and buy by playing GP and story mode, and you've got tons of replay value right there. But we're still not done. There's your standard practice and time trial modes, where you can unlock the staff ghosts if you're fast enough (and I mean fast!), in addition to the standard 4-player versus mode. There's also the all new Story mode, where you play through 10 special 'missions' as Captain Falcon. These basically amount to races in special tracks with specific objectives just for the story mode. These races are hard. And that's when they're on normal. Each story mission also has a hard and very hard setting. I don't even want to think about how difficult those are. Unfortunately for US owners, beating story mode on hard and very hard is the only way to unlock the AX vehicles and the custom AX parts from the arcade version. Better start practicing! The tracks are quite varied and provide a good deal of fun as well as challenge. Some of the tracks are less than spectacular, but are still fun to race. Most of them are very good, and some of them are just insane. They look like Hot Wheels designed by a mad scientist on acid. It was nice of Sega to give us a star difficulty rating for each track. At least you won't jump head first into a 6-star course without knowing. I will say this: the best way to beat the computer at a course is to practice the course a lot. It basically amounts to memorizing where all the boost pads are to get ahead on the first lap, and knowing the layout of the course so you don't get caught off guard.
With everything from the arcade machine and all the exclusive home content crammed onto that disc, there's tons of fun to be had with this game. F-Zero GX takes the potential shown in the N64 version, makes it look better than it ever has before and gives it a big honking injection of liquid lightspeed. If I was Sega, I'd lock Amusement Vision in their development lab and put a sign on the door that says Do Not Disturb until their next masterpiece is finished.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/02/03
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