Game Review: F-Zero X

By: Jac Bakley, Video Game Critic

Nintendo’s F-Zero is one of the most overlooked and unnoticed franchises of all time. After it made its debut on the Super Nintendo in 1990, there have only been five games in the series. F-Zero is one of my favorite racing franchises, next to Wave Race and 1080˚  So, I’m going to take a look at F-Zero X for the N64.

The four cups that are unlocked from the start are Jack Cup, Queen Cup, King Cup, and Joker Cup. Your car (or machine) travels at over 1000 kilometers an hour. I’m not exaggerating. This game is insanely fast because your machine travels at practically the speed of light. You’re gonna find yourself ramming into walls and obstacles in the tracks quite a lot, and unlike most other racing games you have an energy bar. Running into enemies or ramming into walls will reduce your energy bar slowly. Sometimes it’ll happen as you progress, other times it can happen within a few seconds. Once your energy bar is depleted, your machine explodes and you lose a life. Lose six lives, and you’re done. No more chances. That’s the end of the grand prix. There are pink energy paths in the road that can replenish your energy meter, but what are the odds of you ever getting your machine there before it goes “kaboom”? Some of them aren’t even that reliable. Some are too short, and others are to thin.

You’ll accumulate even more damage just to get your machine against the paper-thin paths to replenish your energy, so in some stages like Big Blue 2, you’ll come out not changing your energy meter at all. You can also lose your machine by flying off the course because the game is incredibly fast. This will most likely happen to you at some point. There are times when you can’t see what’s ahead of you and you think you’re going straight when you need to curve.  Either you get your lightning reflexes going, or you’re toast.

It’s not impossible, though. There’s at least one track on every cup that’s pretty murderous. However, there’s one track that goes way too far, (Big Hand). This track is literally shaped like a hand, and it has so many sharp turns and so many unbarred paths that there’s no way you’ll make it through this track alive. Come on, who at Nintendo thought this was a good idea? This track was inserted into the game with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. On the second lap of every race, you’ll receive a booster. This is supposed to help you get ahead of your opponents in a race. However, who would’ve thought a power-up would add to the challenge even more? This increases your car to ludicrous speed, and it will make it even harder to make your turns. Not to mention, using the booster depletes your energy meter slowly. If you don’t use this booster at the appropriate time and crash into walls and as a result you could die almost instantly. This game may be difficult by survival means, but not so much by winning means. If you manage to keep your head during the race, it’s not too hard to get up to first place every time.

There’s no single race, I might add. Time Attack is really your only option if you want to race a single course. In Death Match, you’re tasked to race on an infinite looped road and knock all of your opponents off course or destroy their machines. If you’re the last one standing, you win, but again, good luck with that. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do surviving this thing. Often times you’ll miss your opponent trying to knock them against the walls and just slam into them yourself. Even with as much practice as you could’ve possibly had, your chances of killing all of your opponents before they kill you are pretty slim. Whichever happens, though, a Death Match could last from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

The music ranges from okay to totally memorable in this game. Mute City’s music track is probably the highlight. However, the music did get a little carried away with the electric guitar. It’s almost ear-piercing. The tracks also vary in background, course design, and textures. They’re not very creative though. Often times, you’re just going in a circle or in another sort of shape. There are no loops, half-pipes, waves, jumps, obstacles, nothing. The only things that make these tracks unique are the different music and backgrounds, but even those are recycled from pre-done tracks in the game. X-Cup is fine if you’re looking for more variety, but it’s kinda bland. The game’s main issue surprisingly is not the difficulty. If you just get track memorized, the race can be a really fun experience. I’m sure you’ll appreciate how fast the gameplay is.

The machines are low-polygon, the draw-distance is pretty poor, and the tracks have no roadside detail at all. Other than a few signs here and there, you’re just racing on a plain track floating above a certain terrain- lava, forest, sand, etc. According to Nintendo, they had to sacrifice any graphical detail in the game in order to make the game run at a stable 60 frames per second. Due to hardware limitations of the N64, they couldn’t include both. To be fair, the graphics aren’t abysmal but you’d wish you weren’t just racing on a plain, gray track with no roadside detail whatsoever. There’s no denying it, the F-Zero X game is hard. However it is fair, and very rewarding. Its graphics are the real problem in this game. But to be honest, are we seriously gonna let graphics ruin our love for the game? They’re probably the reason why this game isn’t on any list of N64 games considered the best. That said, this game is a perfect example of, “graphics don’t matter if the game plays well.”