Review by LastStand

Reviewed: 03/03/04

I could kill myself for lending this to my friend and letting him lose it. Grr…

F-Zero X, the long-awaited follow-up to the SNES launch title F-Zero, follows in the footsteps of its predecessor. This game certainly is one of the greatest and one of the longest-lasting racing games ever, period. If I had only not lent it to my friend, I’d still be able to bask in its pure, unadulterated greatness. Sigh…

Graphics: 6/10
F-Zero sure got a great graphical overhaul from the original F-Zero, but that of course is welcome and almost required, considering that the original came out six or seven years earlier. The world of F-Zero is now in 3D, allowing for much more complicated tracks. The tracks are rather well-designed, but kind of lackluster in appearance. Even more lackluster is the backgrounds, which are, well, extremely bland. They consist of a ground, which is just a textured, repeated pattern with no 3D look to it, and the sky with maybe something on the skyline. Very rarely will you ever see anything along the sides of the track, with the exception of the Big Blue tracks and the Sector tracks, which occasionally will have a building alongside the track every once in a while. Although the actual crafts are nice, everything else is pretty nondescript, so this score is not very high. But every real gamer knows that graphics don’t make the game, right?

Story: N/A
The instruction booklet talks of some sort of a story, like it is in the future and this F-Zero circuit is a great way to get wealth and fame, so lots of people build fast machines and race them in it, but the story is never really mentioned in the game itself, so I can’t really give this a score.

Sound/Music: 7/10
This game has some great sound, but more so in the music than in the sound effects. In fact, the sound effects are not really that great at all. The few sounds that exist come from the droning of the engines (which are not that realistic and sound more like a tiny vacuum cleaner than anything else), the boost noise, the sound of a craft hitting a wall, and the explosion of a craft. None of the sounds are exceptional, though.
The music, however, is beautifully orchestrated. Some music tracks from the original, such as the Mute City and Big Blue tracks, have been revamped and sound awesome. Mute City and Big Blue were great in the first place musically, and now they sound even better. A great accomplishment. Other tracks that exist are not really that exceptional, and some, like Devil’s Forest, just plain suck. Despite that, though, the remade music tracks from Mute City and Big Blue are enough to bring this score up to respectability.

Gameplay: 10/10
Yes, please. Game play. I wish I could…
Anywho, for all you ignoramuses out there who have no clue what F-Zero is, the premise of the game is that of a basic racing game: race around the track in 3 laps and try to finish in first place, gaining points ranging from 0-100 depending on where you finished. However, unlike many other racing games and the original F-Zero, these tracks are just plain awesome. The crafts supposedly have a magnetic grip to the track, yet are still hovering above them slightly, allowing them to go through all kinds of inversions without having to worry about falling down to their deaths. The tracks somehow (in the same kind of mysterious way that the ? blocks in Mario Bros do) hover high above the landscape without any supports. Strange, if you ask me. The tracks twist in loops, corkscrews, banks, and any other inversion or twist that you can imagine. The original idea is still there, but there are a few twists thrown in. For one, you are now racing against 29 racers, all of which have their own identity and craft stats, which is a great difference from the original F-Zero, which featured only 4 crafts and numerous other nameless crafts that never finished above 4th place. The original 4 are there, but many, many others are also there.
F-Zero pioneered the energy bar idea in racing, and when your energy bar is depleted, whether it be from hitting too many walls or crafts or getting attacked, your craft explodes into a chunk of smoldering twisted metal that is only slightly reminiscent of its former self. When this happens, you lose a life. If you lose all your lives, the game is over. There are pit zones scattered about the track, which you merely drive into and your craft’s energy bar is slowly refilled. What is new to F-Zero X, among other things, is the idea of boosting. Once you have completed the first lap, you get boost power, which gives you a small speed boost when you press the B button. However, every time you use the boost, your energy bar goes down a little. This adds an extra element of strategy to your races, and this pretty much becomes the determinant to victory. The racer who manages his boost best has a high chance of winning the race.
Another new feature is the attack feature. Unlike in the original F-Zero, you can now tap the R or Z button twice to perform a ramming move, which jerks your craft to the side and allows you to ram other racers into the wall. You get a star for every racer you kill, and if you get 5 stars in a race, you get an extra life. Any computer racer who dies in a race earns zero points for the race, which allows a player to make a great comeback late in a cup. During the race, the racer in first place in points (or in second if you are in first) has a “RIVAL” marker above his craft. There is even a battle mode where you drive around a continuous loop track trying to kill 29 crafts in the fastest time. The crafts’ energy bars in this mode are considerably shorter, but it is still one of the most fun features of the game.
As for the tracks, many old locations—like Mute City, Big Blue, Fire Field, Sand Ocean, and Silence (which is an awesome race, by the way)—have returned; others—like Death Wind and White Land—have not returned, while others—like Sector and Devil’s Forest—are new. Some races are driven on straightforward track, but some are driven on “racing anomalies,” like on the outside of cylinders or on the inside of pipes. The tracks are unique and quite challenging.
Multiplayer does not serve up much, though. You cannot play Grand Prix mode in multiplayer (probably because of conflict between deaths and points) but you can play single race, only against each other or up to 2 other computers, though. The most fun in multiplayer is if you die, you can play a slot machine game in order to sabotage your friends’ chances of winning. For example, 3 skulls in a row depletes the players’ health bars down to the minimum, so a single touch of anything will result in death. Fun.
The best is saved for last, however. If you If you beat all 4 cups in expert mode, you earn the secret X cup, the greatest inception in the history of racing games. This cup is actually a random track generator. You play a cup of completely random tracks, all of which serve up a significant challenge, but very, very rarely will you ever find a glitch in one of the tracks (once I came across a pipe track where the computers couldn’t figure out how to exit the pipe correctly so I was the only one who didn’t die :) ). Also, after playing about 100 tracks from the X cup, never once did I come across a track I’ve seen before. This adds almost an infinite amount of replay value to this game. There is only one question: WHY WAS THIS ELIMINATED IN F-ZERO GX?!

Challenge: Above Average
It may not seem hard at first, but once you play the expert mode, you will realize how hard it gets. And don’t get me started on the master mode, which is unlocked with the X cup. That is a beast.

Replay Value: 10/10
Although multiplayer is not much to speak of, the X cup will keep you playing, and playing, and playing.

Good Points:
-Grand Prix mode is great fun with a great point system
-Blow up your opponents, heh heh, which is even more fun in battle mode
-Almost infinite replay value
-30 racers overall
-X cup rules
-It’s F-Zero! What’s not to like?

Bad Points:
-Bland backgrounds
-Music (other than Mute City and Big Blue) and sound effects pretty much suck
-Multiplayer leaves something to be desired

The Bottom Line:
This is the greatest installment in the F-Zero series, and better than GX, which doesn’t have the X cup. Even people who don’t really like racing games that much (like myself) will have a blast. Buy it now!

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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