Game Review: F-Zero GX (GameCube)

By: Jac Bakley, Video Game Critic

While attending Bakuretsu 2015, I found out there was a game room in the hotel where the convention was being held. I decided to check it out, and it was quite a sight. The game room had about fifteen different gaming consoles, including ones that weren’t released here like the Nintendo Super Famicom. The game console I spent the most time playing was a silver GameCube, and the only game I played was F-Zero GX. And oh boy, did it make me want to smash the controller.

F-Zero GX was released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2003, serving as a direct sequel to F-Zero X on the N64. It was developed by Amusement Vision and Sega, who also developed its arcade counterpart, F-Zero AX. While it did garner some critical acclaim, there was a certain aspect of the game that earned it harsh criticism.

On the main menu, you’ll notice that there’s a few more options and gameplay modes that you can choose from. Aside from Grand Prix and Time Attack, there’s a shop, driver profiles, and even a story mode. In Grand Prix, you can race three different cups, each of them consisting of five different tracks. Unlike F-Zero X, where each cup contained six. Also, from the start, you only have four characters to choose from, instead of six like in F-Zero X.

As the race begins, you’ll notice a massive improvement in the presentation since F-Zero X. The graphics are really good for the GameCube. The graphics almost look Wii-quality. The machines and the tracks actually have a lot of detail, and there’s now roadside scenery. Wow! No more bland, foggy roads! The draw distance has been greatly improved as well, but it’s still a little blurry. This makes it a little hard to see far ahead of you and judge the turns and obstacles, but at least you can now see more than five feet ahead of you.

If you thought F-Zero X was insanely fast, you ain’t seen nothing yet. While F-Zero X was faster than the speed of sound, F-Zero GX is practically faster than the speed of light. I’m not exaggerating; you’ll be amazed at how fast the game really is compared to its predecessor.

If you want to go even faster than that, drive across the speed boosters. You will move up to ludicrous speed; speed like you’ve never experienced before in your life, speed that will put Sonic the Hedgehog to shame, speed that can hinder your progress and make you constantly slam into walls and fly off the course.

The music in this game is outstanding, as well as fresh and new. No recycled tracks, and no 64-bit quality sounds. The best tracks in the game are probably Fire Field, Red Canyon, and Mute City, but every track in the game manages to blow my mind. If you thought F-Zero X was a little heavy on the guitar, however, this went way overboard.

So yes, the graphics and music are incredible for 2003, but what about the actual gameplay? Unfortunately, the intense speed of the races makes this game incredibly difficult. F-Zero X was hard too, but the difficulty here is downright insane. Like I said before, you can easily fly off the course or slam into walls too many times due to the game’s light speed, and you will have to memorize the courses greatly to judge the turns and obstacles. The other racers can also catch up with you very easily, making even novice-difficulty races very hard to win.

After completing a Grand Prix, you’ll be awarded with tickets. These tickets are used to buy different machine parts, new racers, and story mode chapters.

Yeah, you read that right: you have to PAY to progress through Story Mode. In another game, like Sonic Adventure 2, you would unlock different chapters in Story Mode by simply completing the level before it. But here, you have to complete races to pay for Story Mode! That’s just downright stupid, but what do you expect from a company like Sega, who later cursed us with Sonic 06?

Anyway, Story Mode consists of 10 chapters and you can only play as Captain Falcon. In the first chapter, you’re in a racing simulator and have to collect these strange objects that are scattered throughout Mute City. If you don’t collect all of them, you have to start over.

The second chapter is your first race and this demonstrates how much harder the Story Mode is compared to the Grand Prix. You have to race Samurai Goroh to the other side of Red Canyon and you have to avoid falling boulders along the way. Don’t use your boosters until the very end. If you do, he will just boost right past you again. Even when you use all your boosters when close to the finish line, he can still spam his and beat you with ease.

The third chapter is another hard race and the fourth chapter is a deathmatch against 29 racers. In the fifth chapter, you have to save Jody Summer from a building that’s getting ready to explode. Someone needs to arrest whoever it was at Nintendo who programmed this. You are still traveling at light speed, and need to go through narrow passages between walls, as well as get to the end before the time runs out. The passages only open when you are two feet away and it’s extremely easy to crash into the walls as a result. If you crash once, you won’t beat the time limit.

The sixth chapter is another race and then comes the unholy grail of difficult races: Chapter Seven. Oh my god, words can’t even describe how hard this is. You have to compete in a Grand Prix of thirty racers in Mute City, and it’s far worse than Rainbow Road on 150CC in Super Mario Kart. There’s energy-draining terrain in some parts of the race, and it can only take a few seconds for opponents to destroy your machine. You’ll need all the boost power you can get, because if you don’t land in first place, it’s back to the start for you.

After playing Story Mode for a total of 6.5 hours over three days, I couldn’t beat Chapter 7, so let’s conclude this review. This game is graphically stunning, and the speed of the races makes it very fun to play, but the sharp increase in difficulty may turn gamers off. While Diddy Kong Racing is the hardest game on the N64, F-Zero GX is undoubtedly the hardest game on the GameCube, and both are on par with each other. If you’re the type of person that gets easily frustrated, stay as far away from F-Zero GX as possible. As for anyone else, enjoy its speedy gameplay and impressive audio and visuals.