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• F-Zero GX

developed by SEGA’s Amusement Vision/published by Nintendo
1-4 Players (4+ blocks)/1 GD-Rom/Nintendo Gamecube/2003.08.26

Even years after its release F-Zero GX remains one of the best racing games ever made.  Having previously created the arcade hit Daytona USA, SEGA’s Amusement Vision had all the experience necessary to tackle Nintendo’s long-running futuristic racing series. They brought together all of the traditional F-Zero elements (recharge strips, boost power, arrow zippers, and ramps) while introducing some new ideas into the mix.

Beautiful Racing Venues

The designers at Amusement Vision clearly did their homework when they began designing the various race tracks for GX. Each course has a beautiful setting based on classic F-Zero locales, such as futuristic cities, spaceports, forests, deserts, volcanic craters, and more. These are some of the most brilliantly designed courses ever seen, requiring Players to memorize the locations of cork-scew turns, speed boosts and recharge strips so that they can maximize their boost power to maintain top speed.

Taking a cue from F-Zero X, the courses resemble looping rollercoasters. Many have you racing on the inside or outside of a tube, creating a unique feeling of vertigo. There are slippery icy patches, sections with no rails, sections with magnetized rails, exploding mines, and rough patches that will steal your speed. This goes far beyond the WipeOut series in terms of course design and difficulty. Did I mention there are 29 ravenous competitors hungry for 1st place? Enemies will knock you around with a spin-dash or slam you into a wall with a well-placed bodycheck.

Story Mode

The infamous story mode is the main addition to the series. There are 9 chapters starring Captain Falcon, told through relatively high quality but obnoxiously cheesy computer animations. The scenarios and dialogue are mostly cringe-worthy Saturday morning cartoon fare, but don’t underestimate them. Each chapter presents a unique racing challenge that will test even the best player’s mettle: from collecting markers on the course within a time limit, to racing on a course with no rails.

Garage – Custom Machines

Earning custom machine parts adds incentive for completing the story mode, which is essential to winning the more difficult championships. This is the other addition to the series: the garage. Machine parts (body, cockpit, and engine), each with its own rating, can be combined into countless varieties of different racers, of any color, and customized with decals. At first the parts you get will only create lemons but soon you’ll have a custom machine that is much faster than anything else on the road.

Presentation

GX remains one of the most gorgeous racing games due to its insane course design, incredible sense of speed, and rocksteady 60 fps frame rate. The textures are incredibly detailed, and the trackside details – from the interior of a crazy casino to the interstellar docking station of port city – are a sight to behold.  One of my favorite effects is the electrical charge that surges around your vehicle when you hit a speed boost. And ROB the Robotic Operating Buddy puts in a cameo in one of the stages – you can’t miss him!

F-Zero AX: Insane Arcade release

True to their roots, Amusement Vision simultaneously made an arcade version (F-Zero AX), resembling a cockpit and reproducing the motions of a race, built in conjunction with Cycraft VR simulators. Players could bring their memory cards and collect AX pilots and courses for play at home via GX. Unfortunately, due to its size and the waning popularity of arcades in the West, only a limited number of them made it overseas.

Notably absent is F-Zero X’s random track generator, which would’ve been a nice diversion for multiplayer matches. Something similar to the scrapped 64 DD track editor may be asking a bit much, but would have been extremely cool. Unfortunately, no LAN connectivity was implemented meaning 2-4 players will be playing via splitscreen – without the option of computer opponents.  Another annoying quirk of the game is its memory card restrictions, which prevent sharing accomplishments between friends. These minor quibbles do little to detract from your enjoyment of the game.

Final Lap

GX offers plenty of variety with 20 courses to select from (an additional 6 AX tracks can be unlocked), and over 30 pilots and vehicles. With four difficulty modes ranging from easy to Master class, the game requires dedication and lots of practice. In fact, beating the computer opponents on Master class will require perfect piloting skills and a little luck. What’s more, the more difficult grand prixs come with less and less credits, resulting in the gamer affliction SPS (Sweaty Palms Syndrome).

As a gamer who largely preferred the weapons-based racing of the Wipeout series, I must admit that F-Zero is back and easily takes 1st place. While the Wipeout series retains the better soundtrack, compared to the meager selection of courses in Wipeout, along with its extreme difficulty, F-Zero GX reclaims the top spot amongst futuristic racers, and is the best racing game available for the Gamecube.

The Home Stretch

PROs:

  • 20+ race tracks
  • 30+ vehicles
  • Tight, responsive controls
  • Beautiful presentation
  • Extreme challenge

CONs:

  • Almost too difficult
  • No track editor
  • No online play

One Sentence Review: Easily one of the fastest, most challenging racing games ever made.
One Word Review: Thrilling.

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