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F-Zero GX (GameCube) artwork

F-Zero GX (GameCube) review

"Skip the cheesy lyrics to the late 80s power electric guitars in the background, as I’m taking you on a journey to the future! Not a future that exists in a cyber world where crime is around the bend of every corner, or a future where we live in floating homes that resemble bubbles, but a future where all of the music sounds like the them song to Gem, and all of the vehicles hover in the air! F-Zero GX, developed by the same team at Sega that is responsible for the critical successes in the Supe..."

Skip the cheesy lyrics to the late 80s power electric guitars in the background, as I’m taking you on a journey to the future! Not a future that exists in a cyber world where crime is around the bend of every corner, or a future where we live in floating homes that resemble bubbles, but a future where all of the music sounds like the them song to Gem, and all of the vehicles hover in the air! F-Zero GX, developed by the same team at Sega that is responsible for the critical successes in the Super Monkey Ball franchise, have picked up the ball where it was dribbled long ago on the Nintendo 64. To quickly sum it up: if you loved F-Zero X, then the sequel is definitely your type of game.

The plot is simple: Captain Falcon, the pilot of the Blue Falcon, has decided to take out the bad guys in the race. For whatever reason, every single super hero and super villain throughout the entire galaxy is an F-Zero pilot. It beats me, I guess “butcher” and “waitress” occupations were taken. Anyway, Captain Falcon and his cheesy theme song must save the galaxy from the evil hands of Black Shadow and Deathborn, in that specific order. To do this, Captain Falcon must win races. It’s all Greek to me, as well, but try to follow me... And with the mystical power of winning races, Captain Falcon will save the universe from immediate danger! How? I haven’t a clue, as it doesn’t elaborate itself any further.

The genius thing regarding F-Zero GX that nearly everyone except those for the weak of patience can enjoy is the fact that it is challenging, no two ways about it. The game will have you biting your fingernails until the very last second of every lap, much less the last few seconds of the race, overall. There are five tracks to a cup, which will create stress on the harder difficulties due to lack of retries. Just as it was in F-Zero X, you must place within the ranking system, and points will be awarded to you based on your placing. Further strategies will be required, and they will be extremely risky, such as risking a life to eliminate your rival, who will be inducted as you progress throughout the five courses. In order to win, you must survive, and in order to survive, you must hunt down those in your path. But it’s your job, and you do not want those bad guys to win a race. Just think, if Captain Falcon can save the known universe on a mere race, just imagine what the bad guys can do with that victory.

Containing the pure speed and adrenaline that is appreciated throughout the F-Zero series, as well as the Sony counterpart in Wipeout, F-Zero GX is one of the fastest games known to man, and all for the better. The tracks are cleverly designed so that the speed will not hamper the sharp turns that the layout presents to you, and given on your specific vehicles statistics, you shouldn’t have much of a problem with most course hazards and the speeds that build them in the first place. As most gamers complain, and as stated, the learning curve is entirely too steep, which will definitely turn off those that are not dedicated fans of the series.

As you carry along your merry way, you will collect “tickets,” which are used as currency in the crazy galaxy where races can save lives. You can use these tickets to purchase odds and ends, but more importantly, you can use the tickets to purchase all new vehicles. All 30 of the vehicles from the original F-Zero X are in the game, and most are slightly tweaked for better (or worse) performance. If you dislike all of the given options, you can purchase parts to build yourself another vehicle, and add decals, numbers, and change the colors of the vehicles. Complete freedom is a nice bonus to the series, no?

The Story Mode is where most of the rewards can be obtained, but at no easy cost. While the Story Mode adds an incredible amount of depth to the game, it is also the game’s biggest drawback, as only the most dedicated of gamers will actually stick with the nine missions that you must complete on all three difficulties (Normal, Hard, and Very Hard). Albeit the goals are obtainable, but they can take up to months of practice to perform, and the slightest, microscopic mistake can affect the entire outcome of the mission. Everything must be accomplished in an absolutely perfect fashion, or else you will easily fail. Sadly, not a lot of people have the patience to stick with a given title for longer than two weeks, much less one mission out of nine within a month’s time.

Of course, the rewards are only worth it if you’re a die-hard fan of the series, as well. But just as a rare piece is to a collector, the unlockables are to the fans of the series. Starting out with mere custom ship parts, and working up to the 10 vehicles that are in the arcade counterpart, F-Zero AX, that can be found scarcely throughout the United States (although mostly in California), unlocking these vehicles through the Very Hard difficulty in Story Mode may be the only chance for the majority of the gamers out there to even witness the vehicles, much less unlock them.

Which brings us to the next wonderful interactive invention that will actually get your lazy butt off of the futon and out to the arcades: if you take your memory card to an F-Zero AX arcade machine, you can unlock the ten AX-exclusive vehicles without all of that stress in the Story Mode by merely choosing them. Of course, good luck in even finding an AX arcade cabinet, as under 30 of them have been spotted throughout the U.S. to date. What could have brought the arcades back to life is instead the biggest disappointment of 2003 in gaming, as Nintendo completely dropped the ball on what could have been a gigantic cash cow.

With all of these excellent features, the gameplay is the showcase of everything regarding the hype. With every single vehicle controlling differently, as weight will vary from machine to machine, it is possible for a group of thirty people to have thirty different favorites... and it goes beyond the usual “grip” and “speed” preferences: the vehicles themselves feel different. Throw this in with the ability to toggle your motor preference between acceleration and speed, and you have a futuristic racer’s dream title.

Sadly, there are no randomly generated tracks to ride along this time around, which is beyond me due to the fact that they made the genre innovative in itself in F-Zero X, and the programming was (seemingly) hardly vast enough to throw in as an extra. Thankfully, the 20 GX tracks and the five unlockable AX tracks are enough to hold you over for a few months, as barely any resemble one another, and each one of them has a unique, deep feel. Every track will have an impact on you, and every track will have at least one section that you will anticipate every time you go around a lap.

The multiplayer does not have the staying power that F-Zero X had, mostly in part due to the dismissal of the randomly generated “X” cup tracks that provided so much replay value without stop during the Nintendo 64 run. Whilst in multiplayer mode, however, most of the large props in the background have been removed to keep the frame rate at a steady pace; so do not expect to breeze through a course with beautiful scenery in the background. One of the more cumbersome problems with the multiplayer is when an object that actually affects the gameplay throughout the course has been removed due to the frame rate issue. This is when the removal of such things starts to take away from the game itself.

Even so, the complaints regarding F-Zero GX can be kept to a minimum. It’s the best racing game of this generation, even more so than the Gran Turismo series due to the fictional cities that loom in the background, and the depth in the game itself. Sure, the graphics aren’t as flashy, but this game is the type of title that you will devote yourself to for up to several years before accomplishing everything perfectly, to your heart’s desire. I have yet to find a game like this throughout all of my years of gaming, and that, my friends, is something that both Sega and Nintendo should be proud of.

Sound: 8.0
The soundtrack is filled with techno items that could have easily been misplaced in the editing room, and the nostalgia in the soundtrack is kept at an all-time low. The voice acting is terribly cheesy, and the theme songs are just screaming to be mocked. This is easily the worst “vital” category within the game, and it’s something that can be overlooked. After all, most of us do have a “Mute” button on the remote control.

Graphics: 9.0
While some of the objects in the background contain jaggies, it can be overlooked with have smooth the courses themselves look. The majority of the game runs smoothly without much frame drop, if any at all. The game is extremely fast-paced, so something like this is very vital to the success of the gameplay. The vehicles look more ridged and detailed with scuff marks along the outer hardware compared to the pristine glare from F-Zero X, which is give or take. Personally, I prefer it the old way, as it gave more of a fantasy feel. Regardless, it’s petty, and will likely go unnoticed by the majority of gamers.

Gameplay: 10
Everything is perfectly set up, with the right amount of challenge for the obsessing freaks, and an alternative option for those that wish to collect everything without going through the agony of completing the Story Mode at 100% by going to the arcades. The steep learning curve will leave you breathless, but you slowly adapt to the game as you make progress as a player in general. The only other comparison in the learning curve would be an obscure shot in the dark with Dance Dance Revolution or even Pac-Man. But if you’re dedicated, or you simply like the game that much, you will become an excellent player. If only all gaming experiences were this rewarding nowadays.

Enjoyment: 10
As such is with the gameplay, you actually feel as if you’ve accomplished one of the hardest goals in the entire industry when you have completed one of the Very Hard chapters of Story Mode to unlock your brand new racer. It’s like going into the toy store as a child, and finding the action figure to complete your set that you’ve been searching for, and then having the cash to buy it. If you can get over the difficulty and you have the free time, it’s unlike any experience that you can play.

Overall: 10 (not an average)
If all games had a few of the distinctive features of F-Zero GX, whether it be the customization, the replay value, the sense of accomplishment, or the smooth-as-whipped-cream gameplay feel, the industry would be in for a facelift for the better. Sadly, none of it would sell, either. If you actually have the nerve to sit through this one, and give it your best shot, you will be completely satisfied. The only complaints that I can honestly give are based on the missing multiplayer elements in some courses, and the lack of a randomly generated track session. Other than that, the courses are original, and the game is like a bra that was specifically designed for you... unless you don’t wear a bra. Then it’s like something else that’s comfortable.

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Community review by zoop (March 22, 2004)

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