F-Zero GX GameCube Review

Have you ever dreamed of racing at over 2000 km/h? Well, probably not, but you can at least wonder what it would feel like. At that speed, one small error could mean your death, and I don’t think many people would be willing to risk their lives just to be able to participate in such a race. Well, luckily for us, Nintendo, in partnership with Sega, has answered our prayers! The follow up to the successful F-Zero X was released on GameCube last fall, and like many other fans of the game, I jumped on it and played it to death. Now that I’ve unlocked every race in the game and finished it on all difficulty levels (in Grand Prix mode, not story mode), I think it is time for me to give this game a review!

I’ve always been a fan of racing games, especially ones that give you a good sense of speed. F-Zero GX delivers on that, more than you could ask for. I thought that the N64 version offered everything this game could have, but this time, since it’s Sega that developed the game, they’ve added their own little touches to it, so much that I think they’ll have difficulty doing better next time! You have the usual Grand Prix mode where you have to race through 5 races and try to finish first overall. By doing that on all circuits, you unlock a harder difficulty level. Fortunately (or unfortunately for some), Sega has given us many difficulty options and completely finishing the Grand Prix mode will be an extremely difficult task. There are a , standard, expert, and master difficulties. I’d say that the game should be fairly easy to most on novice and standard, then you start having some kind of challenge on expert, and master can be quite difficult and will require you to practice a lot. Since you only start with 3 circuits, you’ll have to complete those on high difficulty levels if you want to unlock the 4rth circuit, and then you’ll have to complete them all on master to unlock the 5th one, which is the AX cup, or if you prefer, the F-Zero AX arcade game. So you are actually getting 2 games in 1!

You are racing against 29 other racers who will do anything to beat you, that means that they can attack you and try to destroy you. You have an energy bar, and not only does it represent your “health”, but it is also your boost energy. So the more you boost, the less energy you have. So you could potentially use your boost to get in front of your opponents, but then you might not have any energy left and you might screw up and run into a wall and it’s game over for you! I’d say that most of the time though it’s the ones who take the most risks that wins. But your opponents aren’t the only thing you’ll have to think about while racing. The tracks have been made so that you’ll have some obstacles to try and stop you. There is ice, lava, sand ,  mines. Some will only slow you down, but some might hurt you a lot and sometimes you think you’re gonna win and you don’t even see them coming. Since each track has a different difficulty setting, the later tracks are the ones that are going to have the most obstacles, and sometimes the tracks themselves don’t even have any walls so you might fall off track and kill yourself, which can be really frustrating on master difficulty since you only have one life. But there are also boosts on the track and jumps to help you, and there’s also pink parts on the track to refill your energy bar when you’re out. Since you only get to use your boosts on the 2nd lap, you’ll have to use the ones that are already on the track in the first lap if you want to get some serious speed. And also, one funny thing to mention is that when you finish a circuit, you are invited to F-Zero TV and you are interviewed and you can pick what question to ask your racer and he answers it and even though it’s kind of pointless, it’s pretty funny nonetheless.

Grand Prix mode was, in my opinion, the main attraction since it’s where I spent most of my time; but there was one other mode where I got lots of fun, and that was Story mode. It is actually new to the F-Zero games and it is a very nice addition. You’ll be playing as Captain Falcon on 9 chapters. Each has an FMV sequence to present it and some of them are pretty funny. All of the characters in them have voice overs so you’ll actually get to know what Captain Falcon’s voice sounds like! Each chapter offers you a different challenge. For example, in the first one, you’ll have to gather capsules on a track in a certain amount of time. In another chapter, you’ll be racing against one man to the finish, in , you’ll be racing against more than 1, then you’ll be saving someone from a building about to explode. There’s a lot of variety in there and it’s quite fun, and it’s also a lot more challenging than the Grand Prix mode if you want to complete it on all difficulty levels. The even normal difficulty, which is the easiest in story mode, can give you a certain challenge the first time you try it. You’ll unlock some new ships and parts by completing chapters though, so it’s a good idea to practice and finish them on the hardest difficulty levels  are also vs battles and time attack modes like in other F-Zero games, but time attack adds a new twist this time, one that is going to give even the most hardcore of gamers a real run for his money. The vs battles are normal racing in any of the races in the game for up to 4 players. The time attack is exactly what it says, a time trial mode, but if you are able to perform a good time in a certain race, you can purchase a staff ghost. A staff ghost is a ghost from one of the staff members at Sega/Amusement Vision. That ghost is kind of like the best time they could do, and your goal is, of course, to beat it. It isn’t perfect since it is possible to beat it, but it took me so much time to complete just a single one of them that at some point it became frustrating, so it is definitely only for the hardcore fans of the game as it is truly the biggest challenge of the game.

Then there is one of my favorite parts of the game: customization. Since the game has a shop, you can buy new ships in it, and there are 37 different ones in the game, each with its own character and theme song. You can also buy new parts for your own customized ship, you can buy new staff ghosts, new tracks, new story chapters and even a new song. But since we’re talking about customization, let’s get into the building ships part. You get to pick the 3 parts that you prefer (cockpit, body ,  booster) and put them together to build your ship. Then you pick one of the 37 characters from the game, and then you can pick the color of your ship. Depending on the different parts you’ve taken, your ship will have a different name. But that’s not all since you can also design emblems using some kind of Mario paint interface and put them anywhere on your ship. That means you can design your own logo and have your own ship. It’s actually a good idea to build one since the best ship in the game is a custom one. The final customization part is done right before the race when you decide if you want your ship to have a higher top speed or better acceleration, or a balance between the 2.

The technical aspects of this game are awesome. All those graphics whores out there will be pleased with this game since it boasts some of the best graphics on the system. There are 30 ships on track at the same time. The races are huge with lots of stuff going on in the background. There’s just a little bit of pop up in some places, but nothing too serious and the game runs at a constant 60 frames per second. In some races there is rain, sometimes there are leaves falling and even what I call fire rain that comes faster when you are going at insane speeds. There’s even one race with falling meteors that I thought was quite impressive. This environments in this game are huge and it’s a good thing that AV spent lots of time polishing it since F-Zero is the kind of game that really needs to be perfect.

One aspect of the game that is extremely surprising is the music. Sega did an amazing job at remixing the old F-Zero theme songs into techno music that fits the game perfectly. It is fast paced and, even though some songs have been heavily remixed, you’ll be able to recognize them all. There’s also some rock music thrown in since there was lots of it in past F-Zero incarnations. Like I said before, each racer in the game also has its own theme. There is so much music in the game, I can’t believe how they were able to compose all of them in time and with so much diversity in the different tracks. There’s also a different mix of each track music when you get on the 3rd lap of the race. Great job Sega! The sound effects aren’t special though as some seemed to sound like in F-Zero X, but still, it fits the game well anyway so it doesn’t matter that much. There are some new ones though and everything sounds good, so no complaints here.

Overall, I can say that it was a wise decision for Nintendo to lend their franchises to other developers since AV has made, what I think, the best incarnation of F-Zero GX yet. There are lots to keep you busy for quite some time, the graphics are great, the music is amazing, the game is incredibly difficult and it will take you lots of time to finish it. The customization part is quite fun and you’ll probably spend some time designing your own ships to race with your friends. This is a game that took a long time to develop and it truly shows as it is one of the best games on the system. Go buy it!