Review by CrazyDitto

"F-Zero GX blazes into the GC with style, but a bunch of faults keeps it from the checkered flag."

Just as a starter, I'm not an F-Zero hater. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have the SNES game and play it periodically, even if it's just to beat my time records (yeah. call me bored). So, when my brother carried home the GameCube racer in his plastic bag, I almost went wild with expectation. Within weeks (or was it months?) of giving my GC controller a sweat bath in the game, I came out of F-Zero GX's arena feeling as though this game has the potential to be awesome with several tweaks and fixes.

I offer you fellow GameFAQs readers this belated review because first, I was nursing dry eye, dehydration, and carpal tunnel syndrome due to the grueling conditions of my game testing (cough), and second, I seemed to have lost the review I wrote in a WordPad quite a while ago so I have to rewrite it from scratch.

That aside, being the patient reader that you are, here's the goody-goods:

(Quoting a report card: "Quite good, but can do better.")

The graphics are good for a GC game. Tracks are meticulously detailed, and the twists and turns in the N64 version are back, lean and mean as they were meant to be. (If you're racing Port Town, look for that oh-so-familiar robot in the background!) Obviously, the makers did spend time touching this up, and for that I give 'em a hurrah. Car details are fairly decent, although I did have a major bone to pick with breakdowns--upon explosion, the pile of debris I was hoping for was replaced by a shapeless mass of mottled grey...whatever. Needless to say, other than this disappointing setback and a few graphical shortcomings on some tracks, this section is good.

(Whether you like music or hated it, this is quite the bad apple.)

Erm, yeah...if you're a newcomer to the F-Zero group and only know the series through this game, you'll probably have fewer gripes than me ol' grouchy self. Machines roar to life with convincing vitality, something that I gave a forced nod on, but the cheers come to the track music. They suit the theme fairly well (check out the Casino one!) although I'm fairly disappointed that they didn't return the familiar songs of Mute City, Big Blue, etc. to the tracks, something that would have added a note of nostalgia to the mix. The only remotely familiar song that the people decided to recreate is Red Canyon, with emphasis on "remotely".

Pilot Profile-wise, though...

Ugh, don't ask me that again. It's just the anathema of this category. The soundtracks for the various characters are okay, but it seems that the makers emphasized the really good ones on the old crew members plus a few of the new ones--the rest are eternally looping, hideous ear-sores. Out of the entire shishkebob, the best music awards go to Captain Falcon. Trust me.

(Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.)

(Since this spot is going to be of mammoth proportions due to me being a detail freak, I'm bolding the summaries if you're too lazy to read. *Grumble* Kids these days...)

No arguments here. F-Zero GX is a racer, and it offers magnificently for its breed. At speeds cracking the 1200-1300 MPH limit, the race is as tense and gritty as a person who has never been to a realistic racetrack could imagine. At least the makers make the experience a little gentler with easy controls (green button to accelerate, red to brake, stick to steer, for basics), so you can get driving as soon as you hit the racetrack, but at such obscene velocities, you're often tempted to ease off the engine and take a mental breather, but then the other, vicious cars (especially in Expert mode) would pass you, leaving their plasma trail in your wake, so you'd just have to hold the green button, hug the control stick, and plough on, and on, and on, avoiding aggressive vehicles, twisting and careening, hoping that you won't crash into that sharply angled turn coming right ahead, or be the subject of one of the drivers' many dirty attacks...

Speaking of attacks, the game now shows off (to a moderate extent) the dirtiness of racing. If you're slow enough to witness events, you can see cars spinning, crashing into each other with the intent of breaking them down. Trust me, the view never gets old, but for the best action, I suggest playing the harder modes, when the drivers get extremely aggressive to the point of homicide (or is it racicide? Whatever suits). Of course, you can do these tricks, and the plus side, you get more power for enduring damage and turbo boosting.

Yeah, you heard me--turbo boosting uses your power. Gone are those weird "S" turbo marks on the bottom right corner of the screen, a la SNES' F-Zero. Now, your potential to boost is decided on your power, but obviously if you've been hogging that Y button and your power runs low on a regular basis, you're on the fast road to a breakdown. ("Fast road"...yeah, that was intended.) Despite the regenerative fields usually just after the race line, managing power and speed is a delicate balance. Should you boost to pass that stubborn car ahead of you or should you conserve so that if you do pass, you can endure some other car's assaults or even a head-on crash with you and a wall? Choice's yours.

The cheerful part of gameplay is the customising process, something that offers pleasantly, though hardly breakthrough. As you win trophies, races, or complete the various difficulties of the oh-so-original Story mode (sic), you earn Tickets which can be purchased at the F-Zero shop for paraphernalia, including car parts that you can mold to make a relatively original racing machine, plus custom colours and tattoos, preset or created. Too bad you can't name your new toy, but the names are okay and offset that slight itch...most of the time.

The makers did do something right on the F-Zero car status. Cars are ranked on categories, showing its durability to damage, speed, acceleration, and handling, as an oversimplification. However, just because you (somehow) made a car that basically ranks "A" in all the categories with the best weight to date doesn't mean that it would reign the racing arena. A light car with high speed and handling would skid on the slightest tip of the stick, making stability all but impossible, and a heavyweight, invulnerable monster could barely handle an easy turn, let alone a needlepoint. With this, your goal is set to make a car that suits your driving taste, one that may not be the best, generally, but sure is for you. However, one category about this that still makes me wince is the pilot profiles--it's basically bad to the point of lameness. Among the old cast and crew comes a pink, obese troll, a monkey, a skeleton ( the lure of racing that great?), a tinny robot, a beautiful lass, and a dinosaur. And that's to name a few.

As I'm wandering into the realm of personal characters, I would like to hereby announce that Captain Falcon's spotlight of a Story mode, in general, is plain nutty. Some missions are original enough to warrant a smile (such as a mission where you must speed through a semi-crowded street over 700 MPH if you don't want a fiery end), but it doesn't compensate for the awfulness. Some people complain that the mode is too easy; for me, it's so freakin' hard that at the very first mission I had to retry the thing at least--get this--20 times. Seriously. It turns the mission into a chore, not a relaxation figure. And what do you get for your hard work? Just for a few measly tickets and the unlocking of another miserable mission, and for the harder ones, car parts (which, I grudgingly admit, make the ordeal partly worth it). No wonder Captain Falcon looks like he's constantly sucking on a lemon--all those attempts at saving the world must have bitten on several nerves.

Gripes aside, how about...

(Worth the bargain-bin price.)

Pros: Great racing experience, customising mode, facelifted graphics, more tracks!

Cons: So-so music, lame character roster, mediocre Story mode.

Back in the heyday when F-Zero GX is expensive due to "fresh-release" prices, I would have recommended a renting as a safety measure, perhaps even grudgingly offered the "buy" option, but since many years have passed and prices have dropped, it's fairly worth the bill. Of course, it's my opinion, and you can either toss it or go and race.

But for now, the arguably better racing game, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, calls.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/30/05

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