#374 F-Zero X

Posted: 30th January 2011 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

24th game played so far


Genre: Racing
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

The best way to explain this game is as a fast futuristic racer where you need to be careful not to crash and burn, or fall down from the road. In other words, a faster, deadlier Mario Kart, with its own futuristic style.

The game looks bad, but there’s a reason for it – they had to keep the frame rate up, that was more important.

Our Playthrough

We played through some of the GP mode, some deathmatches and some VS matches. In other words, we tried some parts of everything.

Our Thoughts

I think I’ve now officially travelled at over 1000km/h. No, I don’t think you ever actually made it to that top speed. In that case, I was very close. I think the safest thing we can say is that we have now both straddled a very thick pole using a plasma powered vehicle.

 

Oh yes, and then we were ejected from it at high speed to proceed on our course to victory. Well I did – you somehow flew off of the edge of a rounded edge and crashed. I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t fly straight though, I remember a few embarrassing falls you made.

Only in the VS Mode though, when I was racing with the AI I never fell off. Also, you were the only one who exploded. Stop ruining my double entendres. Also, I saw you fall off during at least one death match game. That was because I got bored with it and hoped for some flaming wreckage. As a gaming mode… it was exceedingly dull. Yeah, it was. Waiting for others to crash and burn, even when you can nudge them, seemed to take ages. It doesn’t help that they can easily restore their health so a lot of bumping went to waste. Yeah. So can you, to be fair, but the AI do not try anything to get each other killed.

Where the deathmatch mode is a dud the Grand Prix is a lot of fun, even considering the very poor graphics (for the time) which Jeroen will now explain:

Yes, as I’ve referenced before, the game looks relatively simplistic. It’s 3D, that’s for sure, and it doesn’t look horrible, but we see better in many other N64 games. The reason for this has to do with the required frame rate for the game. It has to show the track and up to 30 racers at a time, together with assorted other decorations. The game also moves fast (the km/h above are actual figures, although I’m sure it wouldn’t match in real life). Because of the speed of gameplay, it was important they kept the frame rate high – keep it constant as 60 frames per second. To make sure they could, Nintendo used simplistic graphics in this game, so the CPU didn’t need to spend that much time on rendering the models. So it needed to look simple and relatively bad to make sure the game stays playable.

Do you understand now, dear? I understood it but knew you would be able to explain it better… and don’t call me dear. Even on the blog it sounds condescending.

ANYWAY! The point I think that needs to be made is that despite the lacklustre graphics are in fact the biggest boon that this game possesses. True, it is not always pretty to look at but it allowed greater focus on the overall experience of a high-octane racer with an amazing rock soundtrack. It also allowed the construction of some fantastical gravity-defying courses that it would take until the next generation of consoles to be able to render perfectly (Sickness bags not included) It is to the credit of this series that the sequel F-Zero GX is seen to have the best graphics of a Gamecube game.

The fact that one of these games in this series has not been made for the last 6-7 years is a real pity as people are now growing up in gaming without the F-Zero series. Realistic racers are all well and good, to be honest, but sometimes you need a good futuristic racer. The current champion of this title will be the Wipeout series, but that would not have been made if not for the original F-Zero on the SNES.

It fits in brilliantly with the legacy of Mario Kart as well, and while it’s not as quirky fun and cute, it has the same casual gameplay in a more futuristic, raw setting. The only thing that’s missing is weapons, something that both Mario Kart and Wipeout do brilliantly.

 

Yeah, but I think that this is a game where it’s fair enough. True, it doesn’t work with the deathmatch mode, where they’re badly missed. But during the proper racing modes, it means that you can focus on the actual racing and bashing them out of the way, rather than weapons coming in – making this far more dependent on racing skills instead of weapon luck or skills.

Strategy also plays a large role in this. Before each race you have the opportunity to weigh up top speed against acceleration. If you have enough knowledge of the race track to come you can actually stack the deck in your favour a little bit. Yeah, which is one of the two bits of customizations – the other being the obligatory ‘pick your player and cart with its own handling and grip’ – which is more so compared to the original where there were only 4 playable vehicles. Fair enough – it’s a new version after all. It also allows for adding in a little bit of characters – 30 different models and drivers, all of which race normally (of course).

As for the last feature, did we mention the music yet? Briefly I think, but it definitely needs more of a focus. Yeah, it does. It’s a rock soundtrack, ‘sounding’ fast (does that make sense?) and certainly adding to the experience of a speedy game. It sets your heart racing, blood pumping and sets you up for having to be fast, using your reflexes, and keep racing. Some of the music, especially the one used for the Big Blue track, is very familiar. Mostly because of it’s use for one of the stages in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Which shows the legacy of this game – it is an important racer, one you don’t want to miss out on even if it just a chance to play as Captain Falcon without him repeatedly saying his name as he punches Pikachu in the face.

Final Thoughts

Seeing how more of my formative gaming years was in the company of Wipeout 2097 compared with the F-Zero franchise it is interesting to see the huge influence one had on the other. In that way F-Zero X is a really important title in the racing genre, even if it is not the most stunning. Somehow over 12 years later the simple gameplay can still induce an adrenaline rush; mightily impressive if you ask me.

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