This review was originally published in 2016 and we are updating and republishing it to celebrate the release of F-Zero X on Switch, available as part of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack N64 library.
Original F-zero on Super Nintendo really wowed gamers with its stunning use of Mode 7 visuals, colorful graphics, infectious music, and a tough but fair difficulty curve. It was truly the first of its kind and inspired many imitators over the years – and arguably laid the foundation for a hugely successful Super Mario Kart. With all of this in mind, Nintendo must have known that the expectations for the N64 sequel were high and duly went out of their way to make a game worthy of its predecessor.
Racing is crazy business F-zero X; you will get a real buzz when you rush along the tracks, find your way in traffic jams, try to hit the acceleration arrows and avoid collisions with barriers. After the first lap, you get to use the famous “Boost Power”, where a portion of your precious energy meter can be exchanged for a burst of speed. However, it is important not to overdo it, otherwise the slightest blow will turn your craft into a flaming twisted mass of metal. Fortunately, the controls incredible tight and precise, so when you hit a wall it’s almost always your fault, not your game.
Another way to ruin a race day is to fall completely off the track, resulting in a long fall, a big bang and an instant retirement. Since the racecourses are located above the cities, you will probably also ruin some poor guy’s garden party. Luckily, you seem to have a friend in the game’s governing body, as (assuming you have a spare ship left) the race is then restarted from the start, giving you another shot at success (or maybe just finding a new place to catch fire).
The tracks are well designed, with a mix of turns and straights of varying widths. Sometimes you need to drive on a smooth line, and sometimes you will find yourself crashing into turns. There are loops and varying degrees of elevation change, while sections of the halfpipe are reminiscent of particularly intense bobsledding as you bob from side to side trying not to be thrown off the track, and the tunnels make you dizzy as you spin upside down trying to wrest some degree of control. Driving through large pipes suspended high in the sky can be terrifying as every collision or mistake can end your race.
You can only rely on your driving skills to get the win, or you can be a little more aggressive as spins can be performed with the drift buttons to try and knock other racers into danger. This can be a mistake, as it can corner you awkwardly, slow your race, or even lead to your own elimination, but if your championship rival (indicated by an on-screen marker) is right next to you, it can be tough. resist. If you develop a taste for this extreme road rage, the game also features a Death Race track where the goal is to defeat the other 29 participants as quickly as possible.
In addition to the main game mode, there is a practice mode, time attack, VS battle and death race. Death Race is fun as you need to eliminate the other racers by any means possible (Using the Black Bull ship is highly recommended!). These features are what you would expect from a game like this and they greatly extend the game’s lifespan. There are several cups of increasing difficulty to compete in, and once they’ve all been beaten, you can try out the random beat track generator.
Initially, only six race cars are available for the player to choose from, but the rest open as the game progresses. Each one has a different rating for body, acceleration, and grip, and once a slider is selected, is available to adjust the ship’s performance depending on whether you prefer acceleration or speed. Once you are happy with your choice, you take one of the cups – each consists of six races of three laps; score more points than other participants to become the champion.
There are four main Cups in the game, but you can also unlock “X Cup”. The twist here is that the tracks are randomly generated and unfamiliar layouts can lead to many disasters when you stumble over unknown dangers. Randomly choosing parts can certainly lead to some easy, stress-free rides, but other mixes can be extremely complex. For example, on one of the routes we encountered, thirty cars entered the turn and only thirteen exited it on the other side. On another X track, the dastardly Nintendo Life car was the only one that managed to finish the race. Funny, but then he collapsed to his death during the victory lap.
On normal trails, you will be busy trying to figure out the best line, learning a good way to run the controls, knowing where it is safe to attack with a spin and how much boost power you can use before you can safely do so. to the charging bar. The cups get harder and there are (eventually) four levels of difficulty, so there’s plenty to keep you busy. Apart from the Grand Prix mode, you can take part in “Time Attack” where shaving tiny fractions results in hours “one more time”.
Visually, the game has a simple, stripped-down look that can look very basic at times. Where there are no flat colors, there are low-res textures, and the fog effect does not always hide the distant path that has appeared. However, it moves quickly and smoothly, even at the beginning, when thirty different ships are fighting for position.
With 30 racing cars and 24 exciting tracks, the F-Zero X is a lot of fun. Nice multiplayer mode, crazy unpredictability of Cup X and trying to improve your time in Time Attack and Death Race modes. All this adds to the replay value. The visuals can look a bit basic at times, but the smooth framerate and speed at which you race around the tracks help make up for it. If you are in any way a fan of the racing genre, this game cannot be recommended more highly. This is one of the best non-Mario games ever made by Nintendo and deserves your attention. Dare we say it? This is the best game in the F-Zero series.