Review by Relle
"Godlike speed. Satanic challenge. Prepare to surrender your soul."
F-Zero is an age-old franchise, first coming together on the SNES. Years later, F-Zero transferred to the N64, and while it provided a great racing experience, it was rather plain graphically. F-Zero GX combines rich graphics with an amazing racing sequence to form something of a phenomenon: a truly great game.
Crisp. Clean. Incredible. Amusement Vision truly outdid themselves with this title. The game plays at a full 60 frames per second, even with 29 other racers on the screen, even with amazing light effects and particles being splashed every which way, even with the track zooming past at 2000KPH, even in four-player splitscreen. No slowdown, no lag. Add to this the progressive scan mode, as well as wide-screen capability, and it brings a tear to your eye to see just what our little cube can do.
I can't tell you how good it is to hear the Mute City song again, remixed for today's modern high-speed futuristic racer (which is sort of a temporal paradox, but ignore that). The music in general is very impressive, but the sound effects seem sort of muted. As sort of a plus/minus, the voiceovers for the FMV cutscenes are in English, which as you might expect is a mixed bag. Mostly it's pseudo-corny, but not too grating on your ears.
If you've played any of the three past iterations of F-Zero, including the one GBA title, you should know what to expect in terms of general gameplay. A button accelerates, B brakes, and the shoulder buttons serve as air brakes for improved cornering. The Y button is your boost, and X allows you to 'bump' fellow racers, hopefully off the track. The Z button actually spins your craft 360 degrees, which, oddly enough, is helpful for both attacking fellow racers and cornering better through tight turns.
Now, on to the tracks. Hold on to your space trunks, folks, it's going to be a fast ride. From the nostalgic Mute City to the absolutely evil Cosmo Terminal, there's a wide variety of courses for you to tear across on your 2000KPH super-machine. Many of the later courses are just plain villainous, and will provide a challenge even to the most seasoned racing fan. For novices, this game quite literally might be too much of a challenge. It's that hard. However, it never gets to the point where it becomes cheap or frustrating, rather it's that sort of difficult gameplay that draws you in, daring you to try one more time, get a little bit closer to first place.
In addition to the standard Grand Prix, GX has the new Story Mode, which consists of both back story and insight into our hero, Captain Falcon, and provides even more insane challenges for you. Missions in Story Mode must be purchased with credits, which can be earned in the Grand Prix. Actually, they have to be earned. One can't be completed without the other, and the stuff you earn in Story Mode can help you win the Prix.
A note on unlockables. You start with four selectable racers (the same guys from the SNES version) and can unlock a huge number of other pilots and their vehicles. You know that '29 other racers' thing? Well, you can unlock and play as each of those total 30 racers. In addition, you can purchase vehicle parts and build your own racing machine, which can be further customized with parts from the arcade version of F-Zero. Basically, there's a damn lot to do.
As you might expect, the Grand Prix provides the real meat of the series. You start out with your standard Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald cups, then eventually unlock the devilish Diamond mode. There's also a global difficulty setting, making things even more challenging (as if it weren't enough already...) In case you haven't gotten the message yet, this is the Ikaruga of racing games. Challenging, but very rewarding.
As a final note, anyone who's been following the respective game board here (or anywhere) has heard about the 'snake technique.' Basically, you press the control stick left while hitting the L button simultaneously, then hit right and R simultaneously, then repeat ad nauseam. A lot of people were worried this would destroy the game, as it lets you gain an unbelievable amount of speed, far more than you could through normal means. The problem is, you need a long straightaway and a wide track to do this trick, as well as a lot of practice. It's not something you can do right off the bat. In addition, you'd be wise not to do it in the later tracks, as they're both curvy as hell and not a good medium for this trick. Basically, if you're worried this snake trick will ruin the game, don't be. It's not a big deal.
Tons to unlock. New ships, pilots, custom parts, decals, Story Mode tracks, multiple difficulty levels and the evil Diamond Cup. You'll have to put some real effort into this game just to rank in the later tracks, not to mention grab first place in the harder difficulty levels. This is a solid racer when all's said and done, and one I'd recommend buying for racing fans. The only reason this title doesn't get a 10 from me is the sometimes insane difficulty that might turn away novice or casual racing fans. Other than that, there's very few, if any, flaws that hamper this excellent game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/28/03
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