According to the manual, the F-Zero Grand Prix was canceled due to the inherent danger of racing at 1000 km/h and the numerous accidents that resulted. Somehow though (apparently massive short term memory loss), just a few years later, the racing has been reinstated with even more dangerous tracks and more cars competing at the same time – thus the F-Zero X Grand Prix was born. Sounds like a great idea to me – what could possibly go wrong?
F-Zero X, released for the Nintendo 64 in 1998, catapults the player into the world of futuristic racing that was first introduced in F-Zero for the SNES. This go around, the game features a full 3D world (thanks to the N64’s increased horsepower and 3D capabilities), analog stick input, 30 different racers to chose from, and extra game modes that help to extend the replay value. F-Zero X features a tremendous sense of speed, and thanks to low texture details, the game maintains a high frame rate the entire time. The game also features a good mix of difficulty, and while not as horrendously hard as the story mode of F-Zero GX, F-Zero X still presents a solid challenge on the higher difficulties. F-Zero X also revamps the energy/boost system, allowing racers to boost anytime after the 1st lap, but at the expense of their own energy bar.
Unlike the 4 available racers in F-Zero, F-Zero X allows you to unlock a total of 30 different racers. The racers are also a lot more varied this time around, and each vehicle is ranked from A to E in 3 different stats: Body, Boost, and Grip. Body represents the vehicle’s durability, Boost represents the speed bonus you get from using your boost, and Grip is how well your vehicles handles before losing its grip on the track. Some of the vehicles have unique stat rankings (Great Star), while some share identical rankings with another (Iron Tiger and Astro Robin). In addition to the ranked stats, the weight of a vehicle is also factored into acceleration, max speed, and collisions. This variance in stats allows the player much more flexibility in driving style than the original game. The original 4 racers all return, along with a whole suite of new characters, including a dinosaur, cyborgs, aliens, and a great Skeletor ripoff. More so than in the original, an emphasis is put on destroying other racers for your own gain, and knocking your top rivals out of even one race in a circuit will often guarantee your victory in a cup. This factor combines with the Body stat to really change your play style based on which vehicle you choose.
Perhaps one of the best features of F-Zero X is the addition of the X-Cup race. Compared to the Jack/Queen/King/Joker Cups which all have 6 predefined tracks that must be completed, the X-Cup generates tracks randomly, providing loads of more potential content to be conquered. Sometime the track generator is a little off, and can produce brutal contour changes that send the entire field of computer racers plummeting to their doom. Overall though, the X-Cup is a tremendous improvement to the series, one that I sorely missed in F-Zero GX. F-Zero X also features a death race, where your sole purpose is to destroy the other cars as quickly as possible, with the player shooting for the best time possible. The death race track is completely straight, leaving you with nothing to focus on except the destruction of your competitors.
In addition to extra drivers and vehicles, the 3D nature of F-Zero allows for many different track styles. Most tracks are fairly ‘normal’ but feature lots of elevation changes, large jumps, and the track itself often twists and corkscrews through the air. In addition though, their are pipes, halfpipes, and cylinders that each present their own challenges to the player. This provides a great deal of variety, as well as makes for some very unique environments.
Overall, I have almost zero grievances with the game. The texture detail is quite low, but since the game maintains an incredibly fast frame rate at all times, I’m willing to make that sacrifice. The steering can also feel overly sensitive at times, with most of the response being found in the first half of the analog stick’s travel. But honestly, if this is what I’m reduced to complaining about, we’re in pretty good shape.
Gameplay: Lightning fast racing is practically defined by the F-Zero series. F-Zero X has tight controls, loads of replay value, a great sense of style, and sets the stage for the later 3D entries in the series. If racing is your thing, you will be happy with F-Zero X.
Graphics: Even though it’s an N64 game, the graphical detail is low. Overall though, I think this works to the game’s advantage. When 30 different vehicles are on screen, in addition to a 3D track, it would be easy for the game to get bogged down quickly. The low texture detail helps the N64 stay on top of its framerate and provide a blistering sense of speed at all times. I’ll take the eyelid peeling speed over texture resolution any day.
Sound: F-Zero games have always featured good sound, and this one is no exception. The music is perfect for cruising along at Mach 1 and slamming other drivers into the walls. It keeps your adrenaline up and fits the style of the game perfectly. I wouldn’t exactly load it onto my iPod to rock out to in the car, but it fits the game perfectly.
Nostalgia X-Factor: I have played this game countless hours, so it’s safe to say I have a little bit of nostalgia associated with it.
Worth Playing: This one is definitely worth picking up if possible. The X-Cup provides for loads of replay value, and while the graphical detail is low, the game still holds up very well today thanks to its intense speed and tight controls.
Buy it on Amazon: F-Zero X for N64 (disclaimer: affiliate link)