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F-Zero GX

Racing games have a kind of allure that no other respective genre can offer. There you are, strapped into the seat of one of the most advanced vehicular machines ever imagined. Your pulse is pounding as you wait for the green light and the wave of the flag, ready and willing to burn some rubber and take down anything that stands in your way. There’s something about that feeling that draws you ever deeper into the game, allowing you to enjoy the experience to the fullest extent. Maybe it’s the rush you can get from flying down digital racetracks, or the pride you feel when you’ve driven your best and humbly claimed that 1st Place trophy. Or maybe the insanely fast speeds have something to do with it. But whatever happens to catch your eye, chances are that F-Zero GX has plenty of it.

That’s a police station there on the right. That’s handy.

Welcome to the future, where intergalactic relations aren’t merely maintained with diplomats and translators, but with the sheer guts, skill and determination of the drivers of the F-Zero racing circuit. Our hero is Captain Falcon, an ace bounty hunter and race pilot extraordinaire. Not only is he famous for hunting down some of the most dangerous bounties across the galaxy, but is even more revered for his incredibly racing performances in between his contracts. However, fighting crime doesn’t pay, so the dashing captain has entered the F-Zero Grand Prix yet again, in hopes of finding even more fame and fortune. However, just because he’s the best pilot in the cosmos doesn’t mean he’ll get what he wants. Captain Falcon has made several enemies and rivals over the years, each one ready and willing to take him down before he crosses the finish line. Will the brave and valiant hero make himself filthy rich and famous again? It’s up to you to make it happen.

Ambition and futuristic themes aside, Captain Falcon’s adventure boils down to the basic elements needed to win a race: speed, skill, and handling. These three aspects are the most fundamental of any racing game. However, F-Zero GX takes these to the extreme, craftily testing your abilities as a gamer to their fullest extents. This game is not only the fastest-paced racer on the current generation of consoles, but it’s also one of the most demanding. If you don’t get used to the speed, you’ll likely end up road kill. The tracks of this game are littered with sharp corners, massive jumps, tangled curves, and plenty of other nifty little surprises. With so many hazards standing in your way, it’s almost painfully obvious that these levels are designed to keep you on your toes. You need to able to adapt to the ever-changing racing environment. If there’s a sharp turn coming up, you better know how to hug the curve unless you want to collide with the wall. You need to be able to figure out ways to get from Point A to Point B in less amount of time than your rivals, strategically applying speed boosts to give you that much-needed lead over your adversaries, all while dealing with the lowered control handling when flying at such high speeds. These excessive gameplay demands will easily discourage the average gamer. F-Zero GX can only be enjoyed if you have a lot of patience, determination, and some darned quick reflexes.

Isn’t the retro look of the game just great?

If you need a break from the awesome story mode, you’ll find that F-Zero GX comes with a few other gameplay modes that are practically begging to be tried out. The Grand Prix pits you against 29 other AI competitors and grants you access to a multitude of race courses, ranging from novice, standard, and expert level difficulty. The VS Battle Mode allows you and three of your friends to clash against each other for the coveted first place ranking. If you feel the need to put your driving skills to a real test, give Time Attack Mode a go. You’ll go up against some pretty high standards of racing, forcing you to bring out your finest racing abilities with skill, timing, and a little luck. If you manage to beat the preset times, you’ll unlock a few nifty little features that are definitely worth the effort. But just in case you aren’t up to par for the difficulty, the superb Practice Mode gives you the chance to hone your gaming skills.

While the majority of the story essentially focuses on Captain Falcon, there are dozens of other pilots with their own personalities, backgrounds, and racing styles. You can only use Captain Falcon in the story mode, but all the other characters are available to use in the Grand Prix and multiplayer competition modes. Veterans of the series will be greeted by the likes of Samurai Goroh and Dr. Stewart, but newcomers will quickly become immersed in the game’s massive cast. With each new character that you unlock and purchase with your prize money, you’ll be able to choose from a myriad of other racing vehicles. Some racers excel in acceleration, while others have smoother handling or better endurance. Choosing a character depends solely on your personal racing preferences, each one representing a slightly modified playing style from the other.

Wicked graphics, whipping past so fast you just can’t appreciate them.

However, even the huge selection of racers is just the tip of the iceberg. As your journey unfolds, you’ll come across tons of unlockable parts that can be used to create and customize your ultimate racing machine. Will you build your racer to attain maximum velocity? Or will you go for superior handling and endurance? What colors will you use? This game comes with more customization options than you should probably shake a stick at. The amount of freedom that F-Zero GX permits is truly remarkable. Once you’ve designed the perfect vehicle, you can create your own emblems to be placed on the body of your racer via the emblem editor. Are you a Mario fan? Why not draw Mario and display him as you race? What better way to intimidate the competition than to create a Metroid symbol? What about the Triforce? With so many options at your fingertips, it’s a fair bet that you’ll be riding around the track in style.

However, the beauty of this game doesn’t end with the fancy racers. The game is riddled with cutscenes that make excellent use of the Gamecube’s graphical abilities, portraying Captain Falcon’s trials and tribulations with remarkable detail. Everything, from the shiny lights to the reflective surfaces to Samurai Goroh’s massive gut is presented in all their glory. While the courses of F-Zero GX are some of the toughest around, they’re also some of the most breathtaking. You’ll find that some courses loop around themselves, others that are run through massive cities, intergalactic casinos, lightening storms, Mobius Rings, and tons of other amazing spectacles. My personal favorite is the Fire Field course, a long and twisted three-dimensional cylinder spread out across an endless pit of fire, with only the glowing lava showing you which direction you’re facing. Meanwhile, the light reflects off the steel shell of your racer, the techno and heavy metal music is pounding, and the engines are roaring with pure and glowing fury. That’s good stuff.

Looks like it’s going to be a lovely day. Ah…

F-Zero GX rocks. It takes the basic elements of any good racing game, and expands on them to create a new standard for the genre. That beings said, some people aren’t going to like this game; the amount of difficulty and technical handling required is more than enough to make some gamers throw their controllers down in frustration. The challenge of this game will bring out the best or the worst in a gamer, a true test of ability and skill. All of this is given to us with a great story, memorable characters, vivid settings, all wrapped up in a presentation that’s second to none. It’s the complete package, a rarity in this day and age, the kind that sets the example for future games to come.

10 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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