Monday, 19 October 2015

F-Zero X Review (N64)


One of Nintendo’s best loves franchises F-Zero has had surprisingly few games developed over the years. Three home console versions, two handheld, one arcade game and an add-on for a device that failed almost immediately are all to show for some of the most iconic characters, locations and music in the Nintendo arsenal. F-Zero X is the second game in the series but does it still hold up?

We’ll get the negativity out of the way right from the off. The biggest criticism you can level at F-Zero X is how bland it looks. Though this is the first time the series moved into 3D it lacks detail on both tracks and crafts but when you spend a bit of time with it that quickly begins to become an irrelevance.

There is arguably a very good reason for the lack of graphical detail and that is that you have thirty unique craft hurtling around roller coaster like tracks without the framerate dropping. Thirty unique vehicles was (and still is), a very impressive number to race against and they each have their own driver, strengths and weakness. This means there is more than enough choice for any gamer to find their perfect match which makes losing that little bit harder to deal with.

The game also has a large amount of tracks to get to grips with. You get four standard cups containing six tracks each and then the X cup which actually randomly generates tracks for you each time you play it. Some of the most iconic versions of F-Zero tracks are found in the game with Big Blue and Mute City among the highlights. 

There isn’t a bad track here and each will test your driving skills to the max. There are giant cylinders, upside down sections, half-pipes and loops to get your head around. Once you finally think you’ve got it mastered you’ll then come up against tracks like the dreaded ‘Big Hand’ (a track shaped like a hand full of open curves), and then watch as you fly off the track at 780mph. 

F-Zero X is not easy and venturing past the Novice setting will require good concentration and an understanding of the track design. The learning curve is steep (though not as tough as F-Zero GX), and players may well have to spend time trying out different craft to succeed. Crossing the line ahead of twenty-nine other racers is a tough thrill to beat though and it’s well worth the effort.

As well as the standard single player mode you get Time Attack and Practice mode to sharpen your skills and the Death Race mode which has you trying to wreck the other vehicles in as quickly a time as possible.  The VS mode allows for four player split screen (and good luck seeing the corners in that), where any player who has wrecked gets a continually spinning slot machine to play with that adds penalties to the racers still in the race.

Unlike racers such as Wipeout and Mario Kart there aren’t any weapons to pick up and use in the. Though you can perform a spinning attack the core experience is about the thrill and speed of pure racing. Using the left and right air brake and hitting the speed boosts on the track is the key to success as is setting up your acceleration to high speed ratio before each race starts. Once a lap has been completed you get access to boost power but this needs to be used sensibly as it uses up the same meter that acts as your health bar and when you blow up it is race over.

Overall, F-Zero X may not be pretty to look at but the simple graphical style at least keeps things clear on the track. It’s in the playing that the game still shines and the thrill of zooming around as the music blares is still hard to find in other games. The track set is one of the best ever and there is still so much to love about the game after all this time. It remains a classic and a game that every N64 owner should hunt out.

Overall 8/10

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