Are you after speeds that’ll make your eyes bleed? And graphics that’s aged so well that you’ll wonder just how on earth a purple little cube could have pulled it off? Welcome to F-Zero GX. The futuristic racer that gracefully aged with time and is still only available exclusively on the Nintendo GameCube to this day (unless of course you’re a PC gamer with emulation skillz)
Let an old dog show you some 60FPS tricks
Before Wipeout turned your world upside-down, on the PS1, there was F-Zero. It launched on the SNES and since spawned two sequels. It’s with F-Zero GX on the Nintendo GameCube where the cult status took over. Gone are the weapons and replaced with it you have speed, and then some. Considering that this is a 2003 game it’s delightful to see this racer pushing 60FPS, even when playing it with 3 other friends in split-screen mode. Yes, some of the background details are lost, but who cares when everything in the back looks like a blur anyway?
F-Zero GX reminds me of the days before DLC and mircotransactions sucked the industry dry of its money. 40 pilots (each with their own unique CG ending, vehicle and soundtrack), 20 courses and more bells and whistles than what you know what to do with. Place the disc in your GameCube and you’re greeted by so many modes that you’re not quite sure where to start. Best place to get going would be in Grand Prix mode.
Here you’ll select a pilot of your choice. By selecting the pilot you’re automatically selecting a vehicle that comes with its own unique set of specifications made up of Body, Boost and Grip, though the weight of a vehicle will affect that selection too. Newbies best opt for the best grip option, while veterans will know just how important it is to switch to the best possible boost and speed for the latter stages. Your obvious choice should be Captain Falcon (punch!). You’ll then decide a custom balance between max speed and acceleration and head off to the starting grid. The Grand Prix is made up of 4 cups and 5 races within each cup (Novice, Standard, Expert or Master). Now, this is where it’s WAY different to anything you would have experienced in any other futuristic game. The courses will challenge your skills, no matter how good you think you might be.
Your speeds will exceed 1500 KM/H. Tapping away at the analogue stick takes some getting used to as the vehicles are exceptionally twitchy, and it requires it to be so for your split-second decisions. If you have a problem with vertical velocity then it’s best you steer clear as you’ll, at times, fly through the air from one ramp to the next. Some parts of the track might be missing and in some instances you’ll be racing up the wall or the ceiling. All while fending off other competitors, 29 of them. Remember, you have no weapons to blast them out of your way. Press the Z button to have your craft spinning and knocking foes off the track or press the X button to side swipe other vehicles to damage and slow them down. That’s as good as it gets in terms of defending your position. The rest comes down to skill, and in this game practice really does make perfect.
Thoughout your race your eyes are always on the energy meter. Lose all energy and it’s an instant Game Over for you. It’s not for the faint at heart. But here’s the thing – once you reach the second lap (of three) you’ll get boost. Press the Y button and your ship will hit maximum speed, but lose some energy. On each track there’s a rainbow-like panel that’ll refill the energy meter, so it’s all about being strategic and knowing when to boost. And, unlike Wipeout, the R and L button will have your vehicle perform various slides around corners. It’s not quite airbrakes. Learning when to press either slide button, or simultaneously pressing both to take the perfect hairpin in high speeds, takes time, but once mastered it’s a magical moment in gaming.
2015, looks like 2003 has something to teach you
After each race you’re awarded tickets to customize and create your own ship from scratch (that includes a basic emblem design tool, that was quite advanced at the time) or buy more episodes in story mode. In story mode you’ll play as Captain Falcon as he uncovers the truth about Black Shadow, his nemesis. There’s VS. Battle to race friends, Time Attack, Practice, Replay and Pilot Profiles. Each Pilot has his or her own story and is well worth reading up on. 2015 has so much to learn from 2003.
Oh, but there’s more. If you took your GameCube memory card to an arcade that has F-Zero AX (which sadly never appeared in South Africa) available for you to play on then you could download another 6 tracks and several ship parts, that in turn unlocked those extras on the GameCube version of the game. It was the best R500 you could spend back then and I won’t even compare it by the standards of present times. It was also one of SEGA and Nintendo’s best collaborations.
Laugh at the purple little console all you want. F-Zero GX far outshines just about anything else in that generation when it comes to the abundance of content, graphics (which is better than any Wii game, other than Mario Galaxy) and it’s in a silky smooth 60FPS in widescreen to match your HD TV. It’s a great example of what games used to be, and just how much bang you got for your buck. These days it’s sadly F-Zero or F-off.