Whenever Nintendo releases a new game for its platform, you can generally assume it's going to be good. That's definitely the case when the game is the next in a franchise. While F-ZERO GX wasn't developed internally by Nintendo, rather, the game was out sourced to Sega's Amusement Vision. The result is a much more sophisticated arcade racer version of F-ZERO, and a game that will challenge even seasoned gamers.
For the uninitiated, F-ZERO is a high-speed racing game, it was essentially the original WIPEOUT, and gained a following on the Super Nintendo. The franchise is back with the same winding, looping and corkscrewing courses, as well as the ones where you are literally riding on the outside of a tube and go completely around the track. There are boosts around the track, and after one lap, you can begin to drain your energy shield (protecting you from other racers' attacks as well as collisions) to put more power to your engines for a brief period of time. Fortunately, this energy can be replenished in certain portions of the track.
The first thing you'll notice is how fast the game plays. The first time I played the retail version was split-screen on a 13" TV and even then I was completely blown away. The game speeds by and runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. The game plays extremely well, with the different racers (which you unlock through the deep story mode) control differently. The controller itself is very responsive and intuitive, you'll pick up the controls in a heartbeat.
While most gamers think of arcade racers as being pretty straightforward, F-ZERO isn't quite so easy. There is a lot of strategy that depends on the track you are racing. Some of the turns require some heavy drifting, attacking other racers is important, and you'll also need to set your acceleration/top-speed gearing to the correct area for the certain track you're on. If you're really good you can learn something called "snaking" doing constant drifts to trick the game into thinking you're coming out of a sharp turn and deserve a boost of speed. It's a nifty trick, but very difficult to pull off successfully over a long period of time.
A big lift to the game is four-player split-screen multiplayer. You'd think that the game would only support two-players at most, but Amusement Vision managed to squeeze in support for the full complement of GameCube controller ports. Now we just need online/LAN play for the next version.
From a graphical standpoint, the game is mind-blowing. The characters and vehicles all look good, but what's really impressive is the backgrounds around each race and how fast they go screaming by. Oh yeah, it runs in progressive scan and 16x9 widescreen (perfect for the kid with the nice TV down the hall in your dorm).
The rock and techno music in the game is actually quite good. At one point I left the game on after a race and was out in the hall talking to someone. I could hear the music over my speaker set-up and it grew on me, even as I heard it over and over again. Who would have thought it? The sound effects are well done, and the game has an excellent sound suite.
F-ZERO GX is the perfect racer for casual fans who are looking for something exciting and pretty, as well as for hardcore gamers looking for a serious challenge (on the upper difficulty levels). It's worthwhile for any GameCube owner to pick up.