Man after being spoiled with access to a Japanese F-Zero AX
machine I must say I was a tad worried about how GX would turn out. First there were those rumors going around about how the US GX and AX versions would not be compatible. I’m here to say that is a rumor and nothing more, seeing as how the link IS available in GX. So all you folks lucky enough to have an arcade that will invest in the machine you’re in luck. My other worry was how the tracks would turn out. I mean the tracks on AX are amazing with only one stinker in the bunch and that’s just the base oval track for beginners. Overall this game is a must buy for any GameCube owner, although non-racing fans may want to give this one a rental first in order to get used to the learning curve.
First off, the game manages to keep up with the arcade visuals. In short this game looks fantastic, the little electric effect that is given off as you boost is such a wonderful sight. And the course designs and locales are incredibly detailed; save for the nooks and crannies you might see if you crash off course. The vehicles themselves also look very good, when you get up close you can see some of the wear and tear these machines might have suffered over the years. And the story mode FMV, while not as humanly detailed as say, Final Fantasy X
is still surprisingly good looking. Grainy FMV be gone!
F-Zero GX has some of the lushest environments ever to appear in a racing title.
The music also holds up very well in this game, rock techno is the order of the day for most tracks and it works out surprisingly well, especially in the Aeropolis, and Green Plant tracks. The sound effects themselves are varied as well, depending on certain aspects of your car, you may have a different sound effect when you boost with a C boost ranking as opposed to an E ranking. Small details like this that make F-Zero a standout from the rest of today’s games. The sound outside of the gameplay is cheesy yet catchy at the same time; you’ll know what I mean when you start watching the FMV segments of story mode.
Wow a story mode in a racing game; you don’t see this too often, not since Ridge Racer Type 4
has the story actually been interesting in a racing game. It centers around the exploits of the great hero and bounty hunter who we all know and love, Captain Falcon. We watch as he attempts to battle the evil Black Shadow, although sadly his trademark, “FALCONE PUUUNCH!” from Super Smash Brothers Melee
is not present, oh the comedic gold that could have been if that line was used. The only major flaw to story mode though would have to be the insane difficulty of the tracks. The last game that made me angry enough to chuck the controller into the wall was Midnight Club 2
. It may not be AS bad, but it certainly will turn off players who just want to see the story.
Getting in to actual gameplay, it’s a simple circuit race, three laps per race, five courses per circuit, the first circuit is an easy romp that will get you acquainted with the world of F-Zero, while the last circuit will test every racing fiber in your body with it’s tricky courses that are without walls to keep you from going off the course. There are the standard twenty courses, five of which are unlocked, and if Nintendo did what I’m hoping, six more can be unlocked via arcade link. Although this remains to be seen as there aren’t really any US AX machines readily accessible in my area. The courses are varied and provide plenty of a challenge especially with 29 other racers on the track. As you play through Grand Prix mode you are awarded points based on your placement per race. Simply finish with the most points and win. The game will also let you know when you’ve got someone right on your tail in the standings as they will be tagged “Rival” through the race. You can actually keep your opponents from getting anywhere near you by destroying them in the race by using the spin dash attack that will knock them out of the current race. With enough skill you could even wipe out the entire field if you wanted to. This will keep you sane, as the game tends to pull out some ridiculous wins when you get to the later levels. Senseless destruction in a racing game is always a good time.
As you race you earn tickets, these lead to being able to unlock parts to build your own custom car. This has to be one of the most fun things in the game, finding the car that fits your play style perfectly. The trick is to find the perfect balance between acceleration, body weight, max speed, and cornering. As it works out you’ll want a car that’s not too heavy but one that can take a few hits. Or if you’re a crazy Japanese player, you can go for the Dark Condor, which is considered to be the best car in the game. With it you can reach speeds in excess of 3500kph, of course being able to reach that speed is no easy task and requires precision driving. But it’s something to shoot for if you want to make times like 1:28 on 8 laps of Mute City in the arcade.
The only flaw to this masterpiece? The insane difficulty. Even on normal difficulty the story mode is ridiculously hard. And playing Circuit races on expert mode is just that, for experts, the computer will easily snatch wins away from you, which will require their destruction in the next race. It’s nice to know that there is some balance there. Even on Standard difficulty the Diamond Course is going to be a trying experience, and Master mode? Let’s not even get in to that… I’ll just say it ended with a controller needing replacement. Another thing that bugged me was my inability to transfer my data to another memory card. Oh sure I could move my Garage Data just fine, but my game data wouldn’t budge. This meant that if I wanted to have a data on a separate card I would need to start over. Needless to say that after 8 chapters of story mode I wasn’t about to quit yet. Also there is a small exploit with Garage Data being transferred, you can have your ship, but when you start a new data all the part you’ve earned won’t be present, yet you will keep your car. An interesting paradox.
The GameCube finally has an exclusive racing game worth owning. And with an Arcade Link being available for extras, this game just keeps getting better and better. I just hope you’ve got some patience, because you’re going to need it when you fly off the track after a harrowing S turn. But the deep car customization, excellent sound and graphics, and fun multiplayer gameplay make this game a must own, go out and get a copy today, and a spare memory card for some arcade data. I’ll see you at the arcades and on Internet Ranking.