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F-Zero GX

1 rating: 3.0
Racing / Driving video game by Sega for the GameCube

Prepare for the future of racing! Nintendo and SEGA - both accomplished masters of high-speed fun - have collaborated to create the fastest, most visually stunning racing game of all time! Hunt for turbo boosts as you battle aggressive racers through … see full wiki

Release Date: August, 2003
1 review about F-Zero GX

Nintendo Hard Returns!

  • Apr 8, 2010
Pros: Fast!

Cons: Don't expect to see Story Mode beyond training

The Bottom Line: Almost as fast as Sonic the Hedgehog!

That's it. I'm done even trying. The story mode of F-Zero GX brings us the return of that grand old trope known as Nintendo Hard. Those who grew up in the shadow of the Playstation probably don't know what I'm talking about, so I'll explain: Back then, video games didn't provide replay value through little secrets, Easter eggs, and trying to earn that vaunted 100 percent completion screen. Replay came because the games were damn near impossible, and regularly handed our heads to us. We played again and again because if we had made this jump a split second earlier or hit that bad guy a little lower, we never would have seen the Game Over screen. And this is F-Zero GX in story mode. I know it's possible to play the game in story mode. I've seen the Youtube demonstrations which proved it, and although I'm not ruling out the tool assistance which aids so many of the speed runs available on Youtube, all the runs look unassisted. 

F-Zero, the popular futuristic racing series from Nintendo, has never been known for cakewalk challenge. And certainly years of video game scavenger hunts in leiu of difficulty have softened me up. But even taking those into account, F-Zero GX brings back Nintendo Hard with a vengeance. F-Zero GX just plain hates your guts. When you begin story mode, the game demands you complete training on both normal and hard modes before, you know, actually racing. Training in normal isn't bad, but hard is just murderous. As I have tried and failed it repeatedly - and I'm certainly not a bad gamer - I have never even received the chance to begin story mode. 

The unusually high difficulty of F-Zero GX is one of the two very weird aspects about it. The other is that one of the designer logo screens features both a Nintendo logo and a Sega logo. I realize its now been ten years since the curtain call of the Dreamcast, but as a member of the 16-bit generation, I'm still but a product of my formative gaming culture, and my gaming culture believes the very thought of Nintendo and Sega teaming up for anything is blasphemy. Yet here we are. Sega played a large role in the development of a game in a series exclusive to Nintendo. 

There is a story in F-Zero GX, but as previously indicated, I'm not going to risk destroying yet another controller in a frustrated rage. It's fortunate the story mode is just one of a few different modes, or else F-Zero GX would be one of the more tragic stinkers in gaming history. Extreme difficulty in story mode aside, there is a truly outstanding racing game to be had here. It gives you the usual in the way of options: Story, grand prix, time attack, and practice. Story takes you through a story. Grand prix gives you consecutive races against opponents on a single circuit of your choice. Time attack pits you against you and yours. And practice pits you against the nasty turns and jumps of any course so you'll have an edge against the computer. You can also create your own racer or buy others in a shop using earned credits. (Good luck with that.)

F-Zero GX is a futuristic racer. It gives you futuristic cars straight out of sci-fi, corkscrew course designs which defy basic physics, and 1000 mile an hour plus speeds. Forget Gran Turismo; F-Zero is racin' for those who love RACIN'. It's racin' for people who are in it for pure speed. You start off with access to three vehicles and 15 courses. You can earn more vehicles with more credits, and unlock courses in all likelihood through ungodly skill. The courses are all wildly creative roller coaster rides. They feature obstacles like jumps, twists, 90 degree turns, and half pipes. The selection starts kind of limited at 15, although it is fully possible to unlock more. (Good luck with that, too.)

The legendary difficulty of F-Zero GX, for everything I've said, is actually perfectly legit. At least it is in Grand Prix mode. In story mode you have to deal with the timer in training, an unfair deal because the course takes about 25 seconds to lap out of 60. But in Grand Prix, all of your computer opponents are of equal speed and skill as you. Games have evolved beyond the point of using cheap tricks to steal leads, and so your opponents will be using all the genius tricks which worked so well for you in past console generations: Taking corners on the inside, last-minute speed bursts, and sending you headlong into barriers by getting in your way. You're not the only smart guy out there anymore. And unlike other games of its ilk, F-Zero GX doesn't give you weapons to launch at the stubborn AI.

The course designs add an extra dimension of strategy. Worrying about blind hills and turns is usually enough, but F-Zero GX takes course obstacles to some creative extremes. Some courses take place partially in tubes, and if you're in the wrong position when the course opens up again, you can be destroyed. (And you don't reappear back on the course like in other racing games. If you stray and explode, that's the end of the line.) The margin of error is generally very low, and so successful navigation on many courses is as dependent on luck as it is skill. 

The ideal car to drive is always integral to good strategy in racing games. But whereas most racing games are able to offer balance with a few cars, the sheer speed of F-Zero GX makes your car selection into a choice between the frying pan and the fire. Do you want a better grip at the sacrifice of speed, so you'll end up getting mooned by your opponents? Or do you pick the speed demon and risk crashing into all but the widest corners? You can drift, but in the faster cars, you'll need to do that at nearly every turn. 

If you fall off the course in F-Zero GX, you start the race over. And the number of times you can do that is limited. This adds to the race or die mentality of the game. It can also be very frustrating if you visit the Game Over screen of the fifth race of a Grand Prix you've been leading for the last four races. 

The graphics are just awesome. The scenery is well-rendered and colorful, and there is no slowdown. The backgrounds are a little bit limited, but they'll probably be going by too fast for you to pay too much mind to them. The racers all have very clever designs. The sounds give you rockin' hard tunes to listen to, but that's really about it. You'll hear the occasional smash if you crash into an obstacle and the usual revving of the engine when you use a speed burst. The music is excellent, but the sounds do leave something to be desired.

Gameplay is as tight as can be, which is good considering how hard the game is. How tight your racer controls depends entirely on which racer you're using. Faster cars are harder to control. Drift turns allow you to take those 90 degree corners, though if you're using one of the faster racers, they're no guarantee that you'll make the turn without crashing into it. The speed burst system is pretty clever - you get an energy bar with your racer, and when you use speed bursts, the energy goes down. If it does down too far, you go boom. This is both a blessing and a curse; I like the idea that I can use unlimited bursts as far as my life will allow, but you also share this bar with the damage you take from crashing. 

Although the insane difficulty will probably give even hardened gaming vets pause for thought, that's really all it should be - a pause. There won't be any real shame in losing to this computer time after time. After all, everyone else does it, and there's still the four-player mode so you can play against opponents who aren't so tough. F-Zero GX is still a very solid racing game. Furthermore, with racing games recently concentrating more and more on realism instead of speed, F-Zero GX gives you a great game for a breed which appears to be getting rare.


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