The human eye was designed with eyelids to keep debris from entering and damaging the eye. However, in order to be successful in F Zero, you will have to train your eyes to not give in to the involuntary response of blinking. The game’s speed is so fast that if you blink once, it’s all over.
In the subject of racing games, there are two categories: realistic (Gran Turismo) or non-realistic (Mario Kart). F Zero, while not being realistic, is believable and somewhat in-between these two categories. Players race in hovering futuristic cars that can travel at extremely high speeds. F Zero has proven that you don’t need weapons in order to be successful in non-realistic racers. This series is known for its blazing speed, futuristic cars, and shockingly smooth frame rate. This game is all about track memorization and most of all, lightning quick reflexes. To some players, the difficulty level will be much too difficult while others will welcome the impenetrability. If you have grown up playing the F Zero series, then GX will give these gamers everything they want and then some.
Every F Zero game has been based on the use of an energy regeneration system. A power/energy bar is displayed on the upper right hand part of the screen. When the player hits a wall or enemy, or sustains damage in anyway, his power meter will fall. If this meter empties completely, then the race is over. Besides from taking damage, your meter will also fall when you use a boost. Boosting only becomes available after the first lap has been completed. This makes boosting rather limited and you must use it strategically and sparingly. To replenish your power meter, the player needs to travel over an energy field. These can be usually found at the beginning or end of each track.
Debuting in F Zero GX is Story Mode. Players will assume the role of Captain Falcon and play through nine chapters with each level having its own unique set of objectives. Each chapter is strung together by an extremely detailed FMV. This new mode of play is very fun and it will make players want to unlock all the levels. Gamers can now care about the characters as they each have their own story and background that comes with them instead of just being a racer on the screen. To advance in Story Mode, players will need to purchase the subsequent chapters. In order to receive money, the Grand Prix mode must be continually played as well. This means that the player will not stay within one mode of play for a given amount of time, but will enjoy both modes simultaneously.
The level and racer design is great. Each has enough variation to keep the player entertained for hours. During each race, players will be faced with twists, turns, jumps, drop-offs, dead ends, corkscrews, and loops. Some levels even offer multiple paths with one way resulting in a short cut.
Also new to any U.S. release of an F Zero is the Garage Mode. Here, players can tinker with every aspect of their vehicles. Even though players will probably make some ugly looking machines, they can still be proud of their own final product. Gamers may blow this section off, but others will be constantly adjusting their machines until they find the perfect harmony their looking for. The create-a-racer is cool, but I wish a track editor was introduced?oh well, maybe in the next F Zero.
Not only is F Zero a superb one-player game, the VS Mode will supply enough replay value to last for a good amount of time. Up to four players can compete at the same time and a frame will never drop. Viewers of the split screen multiplayer will be astonished about the sense of speed that you feel from watching four racers simultaneously.
In a game where speed is the most important factor, the controls have to be very responsive and dead on. Luckily, F Zero has these elements. The controls are very well laid out on the GC controller. The “A” and “B” buttons accelerate and brake while “L” and “R” drift turn in the corresponding direction. “Y” is used to boost, but boosting will only be available after the first lap has been completed. The “X” button is used to whack cars with a sideswipe maneuver. This feature is best used when there is a pesky car directly next to you. A great satisfactory feeling always comes from knocking a racer off the track this way. The “Z” button is used as a second form of attack. Once this button and a direction (left or right) are pushed, your vehicle will spin around and knock around players that are within proximity. If the player manages to destroy an opponent, then he will be rewarded with extra boost power. If enough kills can be made in a single race, then an extra continue will be awarded. The control pad is used to changed views. A normal view, a cockpit view, and more overhead view are all available. Some perspectives will work better in different tracks.
Each racer has his or her own unique control type. Someone who is fast will usually have less maneuverability. It is just a matter of time before you find the right the racer that fits your personal preference. However, no matter which racer you choose, the controls remain tight and responsive. If you are dedicated enough to own a Logitech Speed Force steering wheel with force feedback technology, you can use this to pilot your F Zero racer.
Graphics and Sound
Through the game’s fantastic visuals, the F Zero feels as fast as it looks. Because of a buttery smooth 60 frames per second, the race scenes are as clear as the crystal waters off a tropical getaway island (by comparison, the film industry standard is 24 frames per second and television is 30). To fully enjoy this game take advantage of the progressive scan mode on a high definition TV. This game also supports wide screen.
This game has great graphics, period. Amusement Vision has done an outstanding job of generating a great looking game for the next generation while still holding true to the older F Zeros. All the racers are back, but are now richly detailed in their Neo Las Vegas, futuristic style world in which they fit perfectly. However, this game may best be noted for its FMV sequences. It is extremely unexpected to see a FMV in a GC game, especially ones that have been created with quality.
The backgrounds in each race is what gives the game its futuristic feel. Neon lights, musky bars, lightning bolts, floating cities, twisting streets, and intense down pours will all send the player to the future. Nintendo even decided to invite the NES’s R.O.B. back into the picture. Look for him in the background.
The real glory is the extremely smooth racing segments. Amusement Vision must have designed this game to suck out every bit of processing power from the Cube. It is hard to image how they managed to create 29 other racers on screen at once with each machine giving off intense particle effects while generating real time lighting effects at 60 frames per second. F Zero’s racing scenes should be hung on a museum wall because it will make your jaw drop each time you see it.
The sound actually caught me by surprise. I was expecting the same old fast techno style music that was played in F Zeros past. However, each tune is new and fits the intense feel of F Zero. By the end of each race, you will be humming along to some of the songs. Also surprising, we actually get to hear characters talk in complete sentences. The proper sound effects are present as well. Realistically, if player views the game from the cockpit viewpoint, then you will be able to hear the purr of the engine. If you zoom the camera out, the player will not hear the engine as loudly. The sound effects as well as the music, get the job done.
If you achieve first place in Grand Prix mode, the player is given the opportunity to interview the character that he controlled. Questions such as “What was your game plan for winning?” and “What would you like to say to your opponents?” can be asked. This is a very neat and innovated feature as you get to hear F Zero characters talk for the first time. One thing that is somewhat annoying here is the fact that the characters are breathing/idling extremely hard. These character animations are moving way too much for a scene that is supposed to be static. Other than this, the graphics are fantastic.
Players of the GC Super Monkey Ball games will recognize a narrator say “Thanks for Playing” at the end of Grand Prix mode. This phrase seems to be owned by Amusement Vision.
One neat Easter egg that I noticed was a character named James McCloud. Players of the Star Fox series will immediately recognize this name. Fox McCloud is the main player in the Star Fox games with James being his father. This F Zero character wears the same uniform and colors as he did in Star Fox. He even has the unforgettable sunglasses. Inside the instruction book, each character gets described in detail. James McCloud was the captain of a contract flight squad, Galaxy Dog, and converted his space ship into an F Zero racer. The similarity between these two characters shouldn’t go unnoticed. Kudos to Nintendo for linking two elements of two games together.
GameCube to Arcade
If you are lucky enough to have an arcade within close proximity of your residence, then you can take full advantage of the GC memory card-to-Arcade function. Players can design their own vehicles in the GC version, save it to a memory card, and then play with it at the arcade. Players can also unlock special parts for the GC racer when a memory card is used at the arcade. This is a super cool and innovated function but gamers will probably never use it because of the rapid disappearance of video arcades. Hopefully this special feature will motivate gamers to get off the couch and travel to an arcade.
F Zero proves the fact that you don’t need weapons in a non-realistic racer. The early stages in the game only require a little skill, but the difficultly will increase tremendously, and quickly. This can be seen as a curse or as a blessing. Players will feel that they are getting their money’s worth from the insane difficulty while others will become easily frustrated. Either way, F Zero is a fun game to play alone or with three other friends. There is enough replay value to last a long time and everyone who plays this game will appreciate the smooth frame rate and blazingly fast speed. The game’s mesmerizing level design, fantastic visual and audio presentation, four player multiplayer mode, and unparalleled sense of speed is a wonderful entertainment package from beginning to end. With an insane amount of unlockables, VS mode, and GC-to-Arcade memory card mode, players will keep coming back to F Zero. This game is must even if you aren’t a racing fan. The only thing that might hold gamers back is the insanely high difficulty of the computer A.I. in the later stages of the game.
*As a helpful hint, remember to squirt Visine in your eyes before you play to help keep your eyes moist so you won’t have to blink as much.