With the upcoming “Mario Kart: Double Dash” still months away, Nintendo looks to cash in on another franchise racer. “F-Zero,” which first appeared on the Super Nintendo and later on the Nintendo 64, has reemerged for GameCube as “F-Zero GX.” The game takes place in a sci-fi setting where mach-speed hovercars in various shapes and sizes compete for the prize.

Kate Green
Courtesy of Nintendo
What a piece of junk!

While the plot has never amounted to much in the past, a Story Mode that ties together some interesting scenarios through cinematics has been added to the usual Grand Prix and Versus modes. Unfortunately, the disjointed chain of events and lack of any climactic buildup make the storyline seem convoluted. It’s as if this mode was an excuse to include its nine scenarios, which range from racing through a canyon full of falling rocks to escaping an exploding reactor as the blast doors close in front of you.

But the lack thereof has never detracted from what the series does best – pump massive amounts of adrenaline.

Penny pinchers and novice gamers beware: “GX” is not a good rental, nor is it a walk in the park. There are tons of surprises to unlock, and most of them require a great deal of time and skill. As an example, this gamer has spent over five hours on only one of the “very hard” difficulty Story Mode chapters with no avail.

The graphics boast some beautiful backgrounds, but the ship designs lack detail in order to insure the fast and flawless frame rate, which is crucial for a game that relies on an intense feeling of speed. However, the imperfections are still too apparent.

Also crucial for that sense of speed is the sound and the music, which for some reason were totally left in the dust (or rather, the antigravity field) by the makers. First of all, they dropped the rockin’ theme of the previous games in favor of lackluster, ambient techno. Secondly, they removed the roar of the engine in favor of silence. Sound is barely audible, and there is no option to crank it up.

However, the plethora of unlockables and extra features make “F-Zero GX” a superior single player investment, and the multiplayer is just as exciting. Of course, those “Mario Kart” fans who suffer from motion sickness or poor hand-eye coordination might want to hold out for something that’s more newbie-friendly.

Rating: 4 stars









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