Retro Video Game Review: F-Zero X (Nintendo 64)

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Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars

One of the first releases for the Super Nintendo 16-bit home console game system was F-Zero, a futuristic racing game featuring jet-propelled cars that hovered over tracks that spanned wondrous environments for a high-octane, fast-speed experience. It set the standard for smooth-flowing racing titles outside of the traditional rubber-on-road genre, and proved to be a successful release.

It was so successful, in fact, that it was an obvious choice for an upgraded sequel to be on the next Nintendo unit, the Nintendo 64. This became F-Zero X, with a similar premise to the original, but with every aspect expanded and built upon further.

Gameplay

This racer features a wide selection of drivers, each with their own distinct vehicle, and each with its own rating in acceleration, weight, top speed, and handling. Then, choosing from a few color schemes available as well, the actual racing is seamlessly fast over massive futurescape tracks. In one-player mode there are a couple dozen racers at once; in multiplayer mode, up to four can play. Every race is three laps, with “boost power” being an ability gained after the first lap is completed. However, each boost depletes energy, and when the energy is gone, the car explode, adding an element of strategy and risk to every contest. Certain areas replenish energy by driving through them. Racetracks feature loops, half-pipes, full-pipe (both inside and outside), and spectacular jumps.

Graphics

F-Zero X looks sleek and smooth – the “cars” have convincing appearances for crafts that go hundreds of miles, the “tracks” are insanely huge structures with expansive straight-aways and breath-taking elements, and the sense of motion is precise and enrapturing. However, the game does suffer from being one of the initial releases for Nintendo 64, when developers had yet to master easily working with polygons. The consequence is that, although they certainly do not look bad, the vehicles and other elements look crude and simple at times, even for its generation. In the end, though, F-Zero X achieves a unique theme and definitely establishes its own identity.

Sound

The effects are odd: At times they are comical (cars falling off the track, the way the announcer declares “You’ve got boost power!”), at others they are appropriate and technical (the coarse fire-punch of a boost, the sickeningly quick explosion of a fallen vehicle impacting). Overall, F-Zero X achieves its own experience, a special blend of hyperactive race action and comic-like impossibility. The soundtrack matches, offering a steady onslaught of speed-beat techno tracks.

Creativity and Innovation

The original F-Zero for Super Nintendo certainly had more innovation, with its original implementation of an imaginative, futurism racer with selectable characters. The Nintendo 64 upgrade provides the same fare, but does accomplish an admirable job of impressively expanding on the original.

It stands the test of time as a solid session of fun, especially in multiplayer mode, where the racing gets personal and heated. There is even an option for “dead” players to play a slots game to determine energy levels, adding a level of participation even for vehicles that have exploded, a great idea. One of the characters, Captain Falcon, has even become popular in his own right, with appearances in the Super Smash Bros. games. Some of the tracks still offer an awe-inspiring sensation of height, length, and sky-bending twists and jumps. For its firm stance in the annals of Nintendo racing, F-Zero X earns its four stars out of five.

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