F-Zero GX Review (NGC)
Those of you that have been around gaming for quite some time will already be familiar with the premise behind F-Zero GX. The Super Nintendo version of F-Zero was and still is a very popular title from that era. To this day people talk about how good F-Zero was and that it could still compete with some of the titles coming out now. I was one of the few that really didn’t get into the F-Zero then and wasn’t even sure if I would be able to get into it now. Fortunately I purchased this game, otherwise I would’ve missed out on one of the must see titles for the Gamecube.
MODES OF PLAY
Those of you who had no clue what I was even talking about in the intro let me break down what you are looking to deal with in F-Zero GX. This new racer for the Gamecube is out to try and break all speed records known to mankind. This game is billed as fast paced, non-stop action racing. It is you against up to 29 other racers on the track at any given time in a futuristic racing machine. These tracks are definitely wild to look at and race on. They have numerous twists, turns, loops, and many other various concoctions that could be possibly used in a track that eventually meets itself again for a single lap of racing.
There are numerous ways to race in F-Zero GX. First off you can Practice on any of the tracks you will be racing on either alone or against the CPU racers. Next there is a Time Attack mode where you try and beat the best time for a lap, the total time for multiple laps, or set a new highest speed record. At the end of the Time Attack run you have the chance to enter your initials and save the records you just placed on the leaderboard. Nice thing about this is that the default times are rather easy to beat, so being able to set your own records straight from the get go will eventually also show you how much you improve as time goes on as you keep improving the previous records you had set at one time. Next mode is Vs. Battle where it is you against up to three other humans in a split screen mode race. If you have a large television four players racing against one another is an extremely fun mode with a group of people. Two players is also fun, just not as dramatic as it can be with four people in the same room. There is only a maximum of four racers on the track during Vs. Battle mode with your choice of filling the empty spots with a AI racer or limiting it to just the number of human players you have playing.
The last two modes are the more time consuming modes. These are Grand Prix and Story Mode. Grand Prix has you picking one of the three available events that have you trying to finish first overall at the end of each one. Of course each one has a different level of difficulty associated with it. The Ruby Cup is the beginner level, but don’t let beginner fool you into thinking that it is easy. It is a challenge to finish in first in all the tracks in this cup, which there are five of. The first two tracks lull you into thinking that this is gravy, but think again. When you get the last two tracks in this cup you will start wondering that, if this is the easy cup what are the others going to hold in store for you later. If you are successful in finishing first in the events you will get the maximum amount of tickets to use for unlocking items for use from the F-Zero Shop. These include new F-Zero machines to use while racing, additional parts that change the complexion of you machine, as well as other items that you can use to change how your machine looks. In addition to the Shop, you can customize the look of your F-Zero machine at any time by changing the color or putting a new emblem on your machine, which can also be editing to create any emblem your artistic talents desire, of course this depends on how artistic you may be. Downside to Grand Prix mode is you must complete all the races in the particular cup you choose or you don’t get any tickets, which can be very frustrating especially since while racing if you crash off of the track or blow up due to damage your race is over, and the only choice is to re-start the level again. This can really frustrate you since advancement to the next track cannot happen unless you complete the track you are on by actually crossing the finish line to end the race. There is also a limited number of continues depending on the difficulty level you choose.
Story mode is the last and final racing mode in this game. This consists of you taking on the role of Captain Falcon and going mission to mission to progress your way through the story line. This will consist of individual challenges of one on one or goal oriented races for a pre-determined distance. Once you have completed one ‘chapter’ of the story you then need to go to the F-Zero shop to purchase the next ‘chapter’. The first chapter has you collecting items during three laps of racing, and the second has you racing for titles against an AI opponent while large boulders try and smash both vehicles. Each chapter has two levels of difficulty; only Normal difficulty is needed to get enough credits to advance to the next chapter, but to unlock everything you will need to complete the Expert difficulty as well. Don’t make the same mistake I made in starting the story, finish the chapter, leave to go to the shop to buy items then not have enough tickets left to buy the next chapter. Otherwise you will need to do a lot more racing to get enough tickets to unlock the next chapter, or be forced to attempt to pass the Expert mode of the chapter to get the additional tickets you need. The cut scenes that show during the story not only look amazing, but are interesting to watch as well; straight from the opening sequence you will wonder what is going to happen next.
Amazing! This game is simply amazing looking. As I said with story mode the cinematics look so good that the story takes on its own life with drawing you in. The tracks are simply amazing with the number of twists and turns they have in them, and the backgrounds are drawn with such detail you will catch yourself at times watching the backgrounds instead of the track, which with these speeds is not a good idea. The racers machines are detailed very well also, and when you are around another one for a few seconds you can make out the smaller details with ease. When racing, the game itself moves at a very fast pace with absolutely no hint of slow down. Even with a ton of machines in the same area moving with the twists and turns there isn’t even the slightest hint of slowdown. This is how a racing game should be, fast and no hiccups, a very impressive feat to say the least. Another nice thing is that because you are always moving so fast it is hard to keep up with the racers you need to beat. To cure this you have six circles on the left side of the screen showing the top six racers of the race. They constantly change also, using the picture of the racer in the circle. After a couple times of playing you will recognize the pictures from the standings screen. This becomes helpful later on when the AI drivers start to be a royal pain to get around and you need to make sure you are in front of a certain driver when the race finishes so to keep your place in the standings intact. As I stated at the beginning of this segment the only thing you really can say about the graphics is, amazing, simply amazing!
This is probably the most debatable category to talk about with this game. It is all about preference. If you enjoy the old school music from games of the past (mainly from the F-Zero series) you will be happy with the choices here. There is also some newer music, a rock techno type, intermixed in here as well that in my eyes fits with the rest of the game. Each character in the game has its own ‘theme’ music, and they fit with the character very well. The sounds of the machines I enjoyed especially because you could tell the difference between a machine with a B level boost to that of one with a D level boost. The other sounds while racing are what you would expect to hear from the thuds as you bounce off the walls to the zipping build up sounds as you run over the energy strips. There are some interesting choices here and there in the commentary and how it is done and shown but it isn’t so bad that it takes anything positive away from the game. For the record this is the first game I have played in ages where I have yet to mute the background music. I have not even checked to see if it is even an option. You can take this two ways. Either the music fits that well or I am concentrated too hard on the racing to even care what is playing in the background.
If you are looking for action, action, and more action look no further. F-Zero GX lives up to all the hype that has been made about it since it was released. This is one of the most intense racers I have played, period. The races are not overly long, consisting of three or five laps, depending on what you choose. Before the race begins you pick your vehicle from those that are currently available and then from there you set up whether you want your vehicle to have better acceleration or a higher top speed, or somewhere in between. This becomes important later in the tracks that have a lot of twists and turns when acceleration is more important then speed. Once to the race itself it is a dogfight, even in something that looks as simple as the first and second tracks of the game. You start your race normally from last place, so you have 29 other racers to pass (in Grand Prix if you finish last you will start first, finish first and you will start last in the next race, finish tenth start twentieth, and so on). This is not an easy task the first lap either, as during the first lap you do not have any boost available. It does however kick in once the second lap begins. Now the kicker with this is that using your boost reduces the energy for your craft. If it runs out and you hit anything you explode. This is a big deal as I said earlier while in Grand Prix mode since you have to restart the race to move on if you explode or run off the track.
When racing the AI you will find that certain racers are easy to pass and others are a total pain in the rear to get around or even keep up with. There is definitely separation between the best and the worst during the race, but not enough that if you make few mistakes you will be back in the rear of the pack. The nice thing I saw is that not all racers finish the race. Yes these guys blow up, crash, and do other human like mistakes, even the better AI racers. Eventually you will start seeing that you have a rival during your races too. Just because it is your rival doesn’t mean they are the one to beat. They also falter just like the others; the only downside is if they blow up they still get to continue to the next track.
While racing you have numerous zones you can pass over, from ones that change how your car ‘sticks’ to the track if it is blue, basically similar to driving on ice, to the brown patches that slow your vehicle down. There are also speed up arrows that give you a quick boost of speed and of course the energy replenishment zones that are placed in different areas of the track (not always noticeable the first few times around though), to help fix your damage and give you more boost power to use at a later time.
The controls you use while racing are implemented perfectly. The reaction time is spot on and they do what they intend to do if used correctly. A press of the L or R button will help you make that turn a little sharper and a press of both of them at the same time will actually turn your whole craft to try and make the really sharp turns much easier. The X button lets you try and knock the other riders off their course by knocking them into the wall, or even off the track in certain situations. This needs to be used wisely though as it reduces your speed when you use it. Slow down too much and it no longer is even available. The Y button is your speed boost, and of course you have A as your accelerator, and B as a quick brake (which really never needs to be used unless you get off your intended course and need help in changing directions quickly).
With all the good I have talked about the only thing I can find to really complain about isn’t a minor thing. This could be the make or break point for the game for some people and that is this game is one hard game. If you are a previous F-Zero player you will be ahead of the learning curve, especially if you were really good at it before. Those who haven’t played F-Zero before are in for a large learning curve that really shows its face in the second cup series, and even sooner in Story mode. I understand that the developers wanted to make this a challenging game, but some people are going to go completely insane with the difficulty.
F-Zero GX is by far one of the best looking games for the Gamecube, one of the best playing, and a heck of a lot of fun. There really is not anything to complain about with this game other than the difficulty. If it wasn’t for the difficulty factor, F-Zero GX would be a must buy for anyone who owns a Gamecube, instead it needs to definitely be a game every Gamecube owner at least checks out and rents at the very least, and a must buy for any fan of the F-Zero series.