From zero to sixty...million.
It's unfortunate that H.G. Wells' vision of the future does not include super fast hover cars.Â If only it did, because a story about the devolved working class (the Morlocks) running over the future bourgeois (the Eloi) in souped-up, streamlined rockets is a story I want to read. Â
Even though Wells missed out on a top-notch plot twist, you can still get your fill of the future with the latest in the F-Zero series, F-Zero GX, created through a partnership between Nintendo and Sega. Â
The two former enemies sharing one title screen is a beautiful thing. And make no mistake: through their combined efforts, F-Zero GX is one beautiful game, but damn, is it a difficult one, probably even more difficult than it was for Nintendo and Sega to finally shake hands and be friends. Â
The original gang of four, Captain Falcon, Dr. Stewart, Samurai Goroh, andÂ Pico, return from the SNES F-Zero with all their pals, about 30 unlockable racers in all. If you think about it, a Captain, a Doctor, a Samurai, and a Green alien are kind of like a future version of The Village People.
Among the other racers are some F-Zero-ified versions of familiar Nintendo faces. Mr. EAD bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain mustached man, while Samus and Fox McCloud make their own transmogrified appearances. Â
Each racer has a custom F-Zero vehicle with specific ratings.Â Besides the basic accelerate and brake, there are side 'dashes' that can be applied to corner the turns more tightly.Â While the basics of F-Zero GX are quick to learn, the depth comes with mastering the different track layouts and the speed boosts Â
When you use speed boosts, vehicle health is depleted. The key to mastering any stage is learning when and where it is best to boost. The tracks have revitalizing strips that re-energize the racer when driven over, so each stage has its own unique timing cycle of boosting until empty and then re-energizing to win.
The combat side of F-Zero GX is a bit more random.Â There are two kinds of attacks: a basic attack and a spin attack that cuts down speed but hurls the centrifugal force of your craft against enemies.Â Spins are used less often in traditional competition; destroying another racer doesn't offer any extra score bonuses.Â Five kills does net one extra try for the competition, but it's easier just to focus on the race.
The main Tournament gives you a limited number of tries before it forces you to throw in the towel. It can be aggravating to get all the way to the last of five races, only to run out of tries, but thankfully there's a Trial race mode that lets you assign multiple variables for your practice runs.
There are four cups in the Tournament competition: Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, and Gold, which requires you to beat the other three cups first.Â At five tracks per cup, one set can sometimes feel a little long, but there's greater clemency towards messing up and placing poorly on one or two of those tracks. When you place in the top three in the Cup tournaments, you are rewarded with tickets that can be spent on car upgrades or to progress the Story mode.
Story mode puts you in Captain Falcon's shoes as he fights for good, justice, and the right to wear odd spandex costumes.Â Each chapter features a different challenge, from finishing first to literally destroying the competition.Â The story is somewhat hokey, but come on, this is F-Zero.
The tickets you acquire can be used to buy more racers or car parts to create your ownÂ vehicle. You can even design a little logo for your craft. Your custom vehicle can then be transplanted to F-Zero AX arcade machines, where you earn bragging rights and even more tickets to use in the Gamecube version.
Even though the Gamecube is well behind when it comes to online gaming, there's still plenty of the technology there to provide LAN gameplay. The split-screen of the multiplayer mode is decidedly less enjoyable than what a system link could provide.
What F-Zero GX does provide is a visual barrage, with lightning that winds through urban fields and tracks that twist in a trippy, Mobius mind screw. The actual designs are pretty arcadey, but when you're barreling down the tracks, the lasting impressions are the pure sense of speed and the velvety smooth framerate. There's enough minor cursory action happening in the backgrounds to you give the realms some life.
There's also a good variety of music, including individualized themes for each racer.Â Mostly techno or rock, the music fits the game's atmosphere. The electric hum of each craft and various other sound effects complete the game's aura.
F-Zero GX is truly knuckles-scraping-against-asphalt hard, but not impossible. It's completely rewarding when you finally overcome the odds. Yet at the same time, it's a daunting game and is best to take on gradually in small doses.Â I've noticed that if I keep at any one stage for too long, I just won't get it. But if I try again the next day, it suddenly comes to me.
With its sweet graphics, high speeds and imaginative tracks, F-Zero GX races to the lead of the Gamecube pack. Then again, there isn't much competition.Â But whether compared to games like Extreme G3 or just rated on its own merits, F-Zero GX is a delightfully difficult game that will more than satisfy your hunger for a challenge.