Review by Mariner

"It's no Mario Kart or Gran Turismo, that's for sure..."

...It's better!

Playing Mario Kart 64 for the first time, I was quite disappointed. I was expecting a major improvement over the SNES version, but it just wasn’t there. That was an example of how not to create a 3d sequel. So, after playing FZero on the SNES awhile, I wondered if it fell into the same trap. Reviews seemed to say it was great, so I borrowed a friend’s copy. Now, most games I can find fault with. This is an exception.

Genre - Racing (futuristic)

Story - 6 - It’s the future and all. Hovercraft (or whatever they’re called) racing is the major sport of the era, and huge floating tracks were built to service these races. 30 different racers, including the one and only Captain Falcon, are entering to be the best. Like tournament fighters, each one has their own backstory. Samurai Goroh, for instance, is trying to kill Falcon. They’re very simplistic, but no one cares, as it gets the job done. What need is there for a storyline in a racing game?

Graphics - 7.5 - Most people consider the graphics to be a setback for this game. I don’t. This game epitomizes graphics over gameplay. The cars are low poly and the backgrounds are almost nonexistant. But... it runs at 60 frames per second. And when you are looking for a fast game, that is all that matters. Except there’s more. There can be 30 cars on screen at one time, which makes the game look more impressive. The cars themselves, despite being low poly and single textured, still look aesthetically pleasing (or at least most of them do). They look futuristic, so who cares how low poly they are? The tracks themselves are tiled and vary, which help create the illusion of speed. The only problem, of course, is the backgrounds. They are few and far between. I can understand that they couldn’t put them in without sacrificing framerate, but it’s a pity nonetheless.

Sound - 8 - The music is fast, furious, and everything a fast racer should be. The songs fit the levels well, and it doesn’t stand out as being annoying. The opening theme is pretty cool too. The sound effects are well done as well. The roaring of the engines after you boost is spot on, as well as any explosions. There’s even a futuristic like sound while choosing options from the menu. The announcer sounded over enthusiastic and all, but it fit in pretty well. Unfortunately, it’s hard to understand him at times.

Gameplay - 10 - Absolutely fantastic. This is the most fun racing game I have ever played. The sense of speed is incredible and immediately noticeable. The game never slips below 60 fps, completing the illusion of speed. There are 30 cars on the track, and all of them act independently. Sure beats Mario Kart’s 8, right? Of course, you can go around them, through them, or destroy them. It’s your choice. The tracks are neither too long nor too short, and there are only 3 laps, so they do not get repetitive. There are 24 tracks in total, more than most games, along with the random X track. The track design is practically perfect, with each one being unique and providing a wide array of cool locations. Multiplayer is there and almost as fun as single player mode. Unlocking extra tracks and cars is simple, but that’s ok. You can choose between all 30 cars (after you unlock them of course), with a total of four different properties each (the three shown and weight). You can also customize whether you want to focus on speed or acceleration. And I should mention the speed again because this is the fastest racer ever.

Challenge - 10 - Absolutely perfect. Why? Because the 4 levels of difficulty are regularly spaced. Easy is easy, moderate can be difficult, Expert is challenging but doable, and Master is literally for masters of the game. It will take you a long time to truly master this game. And if that's not enough, there are time trials with ridiculously high times entered in. Beating the ghost times require a lot of tricks not used by novices and intermediates. And if you’re still not convinced, you can always do the Death Race, which, while easy, is very difficult to get a good time (try getting under three minutes). This game is guaranteed to be a challenge for anyone, no matter how talented you are. And that is most definitely a good thing.

Replay - 10 - High. Very high. There are four main points of replay. First of all, it's a fun game to pick up and play at any time. It takes about 15 minutes to complete a cup, and even less to try the Death Race. Second, multiplayer is very fun as well, although not as fun as Mario Kart admittedly. Third is the X Cup. The tracks are completely random here, so you will never play it the same way twice. And finally, and most importantly, is the challenge. Finishing the game with all trophies is going to take you a while. The aforementioned challenge is so good yet so fair that you will keep on playing this game, getting slightly better each time, until you win them all. And then you’ll play it some more. It's great fun.

Overall - 9.7 - An absolute must have. This game vastly improves on the original in every way possible, unlike Nintendo’s other racing game. It does what it sets out to do, remains a fast paced fun racing game. The challenge is spot on, easy to pick up but extremely difficult to master. Good luck defeating Master level - I only beat three of the five cups despite pouring countless hours into this game. The graphics may not be overly spiffy, but they convey a futuristic feel. And with 30 different cars, there’s one for everyone. And the best part is, you can pick this game up used for a pretty cheap price. Why is it the truly great games never sell as much as they should?

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/09/01, Updated 12/09/01

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