Posted By: wraggster
Nintendo understands gameplay – but you sometimes have to look outside the company’s R&D labs to find developers that understand Nintendo. HAL gave us Super Smash Bros’s unashamedly vibrant celebration of all things Nintendo. Intelligent Systems crafted the wryly self-referental Mario & Luigi twinset. And when Amusement Vision was tasked with updating Shigeru Miyamoto’s futuristic racing franchise for GameCube, the result was F-Zero GX: a game clearly made for fans, by fans.GX (and its little-seen arcade twin AX) is fiercely loyal to its older brothers. The craft, quaintly reminiscent of the low-poly pastel models born of a previous generation’s technology, handle just as they did on Super Nintendo and N64. For beginners, it’s a nightmare: taking corners too fast sees your craft dragged by its behind into a race-scuppering trackside smash. But with practice it’s possible to forge a tangible bond with your machine – steering in graceful arcs that keep just the right side of skidding catastrophically out of control, boosting out of corners, thundering past competitors with neck-tightening precision.It’s Scalextric at 1,200kph. No other racing game comes close to evoking such a breathtaking feeling of just barely keeping control of a vehicle that’s going far, far too fast. Tracks aren’t so much driven as dreamed, with brutal 180-degree turns, sudden two-lane splits and cruelly placed speed strips pouring into your eyes that bit faster than it’s possible to consciously process. Over someone’s shoulders, it’s an incredible thing to watch. In the pilot’s seat, it’s frightening.Having 29 rivals – all expert drivers, all focused on smashing you off-course in anything but the beginner’s Standard Mode – turns F-Zero GX into a thrillingly anarchic motorway war, a proper jostling battle for pole position rather than a four-way fight. Your competitors cheat with magic boosts in traditional F-Zero style, of course, but that’s the secret of the game’s pounding relentlessness. Where every second is a potential overtaking opportunity for your enemies, every race won is a victory for eyes and fingers. And each craft has a unique balance of speed versus acceleration versus barging strength – so no single machine is ever truly odds-on favourite.Our F-Zero GX review said the GameCube title was better than the Nintendo-developed versions.
The tracks are spectacular. N64’s F-Zero X had scenery restricted to the odd 2D statue to keep the framerate up on the struggling 64bit machine, and couldn’t help but look limp next to its perceived rival – the cooler-than-thou PlayStation offering, Wipeout. In GX, Amusement Vision tweaked its Super Monkey Ball engine to push GameCube harder even than Nintendo itself, and transform F-Zero’s abstract tarmac ribbons into real places. Now, Mute City is a city, all blazing bridges and ghostly glowing billboards. Port Town is a port – with, apropos of nothing, much-maligned NES accessory ROB the robot looming over the ships and hotels. Craft cling treacherously to tube-like tracks looping over lava; Casino Town’s psychedelic neon whips past at 1,500kph; towering ramps send the craft soaring over Aeropolis like a sychronised diving team.