Coinciding with the cartoon series of the same name, F-Zero: GP Legend is a worthy sequel and a great addition to the recently aired television show.
Ever since the SNES, an F-Zero game has raced along each system, except the GameBoy Color. GP Legend is actually the first F-Zero game to appear twice on the same system. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity was a launch title for the GBA and it still stands as one of the best racers on Nintendo’s handheld. This latest F-Zero is built from Maximum Velocity but adds much more gameplay variety.
Aside from the usual Grand Prix mode, GP Legend has created a new Story Mode, which is somewhat similar to the GameCube’s F-Zero GX. Instead of just playing as Captain Falcon, the player takes part in five episodes from seven other characters. Uniquely, all eight stories mix into one. It is almost like seeing the same story through other characters’ eyes. The player even assumes the role of the bad guy. Each character’s story is explained through nicely detailed anime-style cut scenes. While the Story Mode is an extremely cool part of the game, more varied missions would have proven more advantageous. Each Story Mode mission is the same because it involves a similar conversation between two characters:
Character #1 will be seeking information, but Character #2 will say something like, “I will only tell you the information you seek if you beat me in a race.” Everything is solved through F-Zero racing.
This is a cheesy excuse to coax players into taking part in each mission. Just about every mission objective revolves around finishing in first place. Perhaps it would have provided a wider brand of enjoyment if more ?destroy your opponents’ machines’ or something like ?do not hit any walls’ missions had been included. Also, at the end of each race, the game will tally a Bounty. However, this Bounty money serves no purpose in the game. You cannot use your money to buy anything and it can hardly be seen as a form of scoring points. It’s uncertain as to why this is even in the game.
Controls and gameplay are mostly the same as in Maximum Velocity. ?A’ is the accelerator button, ?B’ brakes, and ?L’ and ?R’ initiate glide in the corresponding direction. After the first race lap has been completed, the player can sacrifice energy power for a boost of speed by tapping both ?L’ and ?R’ simultaneously. The spent energy power can be regenerated by racing over green parts of each track.
Taking tight turns is very common in GP Legend; some are even longer than 180 degrees. In order to manage these tight turns, the player must gain control of a skill called the Blast Turn. This involves rapidly tapping the ?A’ button to constantly boost the player’s machine. Combine this technique with a shoulder button glide, and most turns can be completed with little difficultly. Of course, each machine will handle differently – so players must find a machine that suits them best.
Taking a note from the GameCube version, players can now attack rival racers by double tapping a shoulder button. However, this is much more difficult than it sounds because it takes many hits to successfully destroy a rival machine. Plus, a maximum of only three other racers can be onscreen at one time due to the limitations of the GBA’s processor.
If you want a change from Story Mode, the Grand Prix mode is always available. Here players will races against 29 other computer-controlled machines in a battle for first place. Three cups are available, along with three different difficulty setting. GP Legend’s Grand Prix mode offers a hidden time-saving feature that some players might not ever realize exists. True gaming fans like to unlock and beat everything in each game they play. This means they would have to beat every Cup challenge on every difficulty to unlock everything. However, GP Legend saves time by letting the player just beat a Cup on the highest difficult to prove that they beat the same Cup on a lower difficulty setting. For example, if you beat the Bronze Cup on Expert (the hardest) difficulty, the game automatically checks off that you beat the Bronze Cup on the Novice and Normal settings. This makes perfect sense since if you can beat the game on the hardest setting, you can obviously destroy it on a lower setting.
Outside of the regular Time Trial mode, GP Legend also has a new mode called Zero Test. This mode of play challenges players to complete a certain part of each track. Instead of racing five laps around one track, the player will just race around one turn. Each challenge only requires the player to race about one fourth (or less) of each track. This mode is a great way to improve player racing skills as accurately cutting corners and taking turns properly are an absolute must. Beating the top preset time is extremely difficult and hardcore players will find tons or replay value in the mode when it comes to attaining perfection. On the down side, Time Trial mode only lets players save one ghost per game pak. Mario Kart Super Circuit allowed for multiple ghosts to be saved. It’s unclear as to why F-Zero can not do the same.
The graphics are extraordinarily fast, accurate, and clear for a GBA game. Just like Maximum Velocity, the game takes place on a two layered screen: one you race on, and the other is a background. It would have been great to race on multi-tiered levels, but it is just not possible on the GBA. Each F-Zero racer is a nicely animated 3D model. Each machine will rotate in place when adjusting your accelerating/max speed power bar before each race. The screen will even rotate around the winning machine while it is traveling down the track after the race is complete. This is a great view for a GBA game. Mist and lightning are just some of the special effects you will see during this game.
The typical F-Zero techno-style music has made its way into GP Legend. Most tunes are upbeat and clear, but they sound like they have been ripped from a MegaMan X game. Though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The front of the game’s packaging boasts “Link It Up! 1 Game Pak 4 Players.” So there is a single-pak link option, but it is extremely boring – only one track and one machine are available. This is a definite ?try before you buy’ type of feature that is designed to get other players hooked into buying their own copy of the game. However, if you play multi-pak link, any unlocked machine and any track can be raced. Unfortunately, this game was made before the release of the Wireless Links that are now packaged with Pokemon. So any type of multiplayer experience will need to be organised with the usual cables.
If you liked Maximum Velocity, then you will like F-Zero: GP Legend as it plays out in much the same way. The F-Zero series offers great games to play when you need a break from Mario Kart. GP Legend is a great game to place into your GBA’s cartridge slot; its solid gameplay mechanics, smooth graphics, and upbeat tunes will keep it in there for a while. But each player is encouraged to own a copy of the game for themselves because the single-pak link mode is minute. Oh yeah, and watch the cartoon every Saturday morning on the FoxBox.