Review by Jerom88

"The biggest challenge the Nintendo GameCube has to offer."

The sense of euphoria I experienced when I finally beat F-Zero GX was unlike anything else the GameCube ever offered me. Those final couple of Staff Ghosts had bugged me for so long, and now I had finally beaten them. I did a little dance in the living room, then ran over to my cousin's place to share my achievement. My cousin, a fanatical GX player himself, has always offered me solid competition and a reference point for my achievements. As a result, he is one of the few people who understand how hard to master F-Zero GX is. I've seen many people give up after a few hours of playing, declaring the game too difficult. For those who persevere, however, F-Zero GX offers a gratifying gaming experience like no other. Speaking for myself, GX ‘cost' me many, many hours of practice spanning several years (with long intervals between playing sessions, that is) and the life of one of my controllers due to frustration. But it has given me more satisfaction than I have ever gotten from any other game and an achievement to be proud of to boot. F-Zero GX is not just a game, it's an experience.

Allow me to give a quick explanation of what F-Zero is about for those unfamiliar with the franchise. The F-Zero games are a series of futuristic racing games developed by Nintendo. They have been around since the early nineties, with games released for the SNES, N64, GBA, NGC and, upcoming, the Wii. Tracks take on the shape of city- or outer space racing through tunnels and half-pipes and across tubes, with long drops, icy sections and many branches that lead to your goal. Speed, reflexes and perfection are the keywords when playing F-Zero. The games give you fantastic sensation of speed, and with machines reaching speeds in excess of 1000kph, every mistake, no matter how small, can cost you dearly. Good reflexes and reaction time are a must if you wish to become successful in F-Zero GX. Also, perfection is your goal. Just as in the way you cannot expect perfection when you play an instrument for the first time, you cannot expect perfection when you play F-Zero GX for the first time. It takes many hours of practice to get the hang of the basics, and then many hours more to discover and learn the advanced techniques. Practice makes perfect, in every sense of the word. And perfection is what you'll need if you want to get the most out of your game.

As in previous F-Zero games, Grand Prix mode makes up the core of the game. GX features five cups, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond and AX, available on four difficulty levels: Novice, Standard, Expert and Master. Beating the Ruby Cup on a certain difficulty level unlocks the Sapphire Cup, beating the Sapphire Cup on a certain difficulty level unlocks the Emerald Cup, and so forth. Winning cups yields tickets, which you can use to purchase new machines, new machine parts (more on that later), Staff Ghosts and other useful things. The game's a real unlock-it-all. You start out with the bare basics only (Captain Falcon, the hero of the game, and a few other racers and parts), and unlock all the rest as you go along. All 40 machines in the game have different qualities and handling, which means unlocking a machine that fits your style can greatly enhance your performance.

A new addition is the Story Mode, which is split into chapters connected by cutscenes. As always, Black Shadow is out on causing trouble, which prompts Captain Falcon to try and stop him. Story Mode offers a challenge that is totally different from the Grand Prix mode. Other than just racing against 29 competitors, Story Mode features races against the clock, head-to-head duels and a chapter that can adequately be named a ‘destruction derby'. Story Mode chapters come in difficulty levels Normal, Hard and Very Hard, with Very Hard offering some great rewards for the players who manage to come all the way.

Last but not least, there's the good old Time Trial mode. GX contains 26 tracks with sharp Staff Ghost times, offering a challenge second only to Story Mode.

Another novelty is the Garage, where you can create custom machines using the parts you have unlocked in Grand Prix and Story modes. Superb machines can be built this way, which will prove an asset in your attempt to win all the Grands Prix and beat the Staff Ghosts. Unfortunately, custom machines cannot be used in Story Mode, where you are restricted to the use of our hero, Captain Falcon. The Garage also features the Editor, allowing you to paint your custom machines in any colour you like, add the pilot of your choice and design emblems to personalize your machine even further. Though this painting and designing is all well and good, it makes up only a minor part of the game. Improving your skills is what it's all about, and it's awesome when you feel yourself improve. To take the music instrument analogy further, once in a while you have these skills boosts, when all of a sudden, for a reason unknown to you, your mastery of the instrument greatly increases. Suddenly you're able to grab that F-chord which you couldn't grab before, or able to play accurately at a faster pace than before. F-Zero GX offers the same kind of experience. All of a sudden you discover a new cornering technique which takes seconds off your lap times, or find the correct boosting path on that hard track you had never been able to master.

All of this is supported by a fantastic soundtrack. The electro, hard rock and metal tracks fit the game perfectly. It's pure awesomeness, as Screwattack's Handsome Tom would say. And as a bonus, the game contains remakes of two original SNES F-Zero themes: Big Blue and Mute City.

Multiplayer mode is the reason I have not rated GX with a perfect 10. The option that everybody wanted to see, a full two player Grand Prix-mode, is not available. You can only race head-to-head with 4players max, and split screen is awfully awkward when you are used to racing in full-screen mode (it honestly makes a big difference, try playing a shooter on one-fourth of your TV- screen). The absence of a two player Grand Prix-mode is a major letdown, and we can only hope that it will be available in the upcoming F-Zero Wii title.

Finally I should say that, ranking-wise, GX contains everything you'd expect from a proper racing game. There's the option to save ghosts and replays, the option to check your 10 fastest times on each track as well as the 10 fastest lap times the 10 highest speeds you have reached. With some difficulty you can even upload your times to the official global F-Zero GX ranking.

Well, I think that pretty much covers the major parts of the game. GX takes a lot of effort and perseverance to get into, but it will pay you back tenfold. It is a game unlike any other, and by far the biggest challenge the Nintendo GameCube has to offer.

Written 05/25/2009.
© 2009 Jeroen Geurtsen (Jerom88).

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/26/09

Game Release: F-Zero GX (EU, 10/31/03)

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