It may have been a long time in coming (over seven years, to be exact), but Nintendo is finally back in the garage working on a sequel to the smash hit first-gen Super NES racer, F-Zero. F-Zero X (tentative title) was shown in playable form for the first time at Space World '97, and it wowed crowds with its fast, fluid animation, variety of crafts and intense track design.
F-Zero X features four racing circuits to race on--the Jack Cup, the Queen Cup, the King Cup and a fourth Cup that (presumably) doesn't open up until later in the game. Each Cup has a variety of tracks, just like the first F-Zero, and in fact many of them come straight from the Super NES game Gust the names though--the layouts are, for the most part, entirely new). The track layouts are superb, with big jumps, lots of twists and turns, special features (like tracks that are spherical, where you race around the outsides of a huge tube that holds you in with some sort of gravitational pull) and more. And for those who complain about N64 games not having enough variety--there are 30 (yes, 30!) crafts to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics and drivers (including the four from the first game). In addition, each craft is rated from A-E in terms of Body, Boost and Grip at the Selection Screen.
Obviously the best part about F-Zero X, though, is the game's astonishing sense of speed. If you thought the first F-Zero was fast, wait until you see this baby zip across your TV. We're talking 60 frames of animation per second, with crafts that reach speeds of 1000 km/h and more (our personal best was over 1400 km/h), and this is with up to 30 crafts on screen at once. Even the Two- and Four-player Modes are fast. Just like the 16-Bit version, there are "zippers" on the tracks that send you forward, and when you complete a lap, your craft gains the ability to "Boost" at the expense of your Power gauge. Fortunately, just after each lap you can race over special bars on the track that will help replenish lost energy (again, just like the first F-Zero). All in all, F-Zero X is shaping up to be a killer racing game, and with a 64DD add-on already in the works (see sidebar), you can count on seeing this baby in the headlines for a long time to come. The only problem? You'll have to wait until late '98 for the U.S. release. With any luck, NoA will give us a quick port so we can be playing the game before the end of the summer.
Behind the Screens
At the Space World show, Mr. Miyamoto revealed that F-Zero X would be one of the first N64 cartridge games to have a 64DD add-on disc released sometime after the cartridge. With this add-on, you will be able to choose from more hov-ercrafts, more tracks and best of all-the disc will come with a track editor and a hovercraft editor! Not only will you be able to create your own tracks, but you'll be able to download ones that your friends may have made, or possibly (in Japan at least) download special event tracks from participating retailers with special kiosks. Heck, you'll even be able to record your best race and turn it into a ghost racer for someone else to race against on their machine! The possibilities are endless!
- MANUFACTURER - Nintendo Co., Ltd.
- THEME - Racing
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1-4
Download F-Zero X
F-Zero X is the long-awaited follow-up to the classic F-Zero on the Super NES. Back then, the limits of the hardware meant that the futuristic hover-sleds of the game were limited to zipping around a flat track that span around the player like a Monopoly board on a record player.
Now, fabulous advances in microchip technology mean that you can play exactly the same game - only in 3-D!
That sounds a bit familiar, doesn't it? It's more or less what Nintendo has done with every N64 game it's produced -take an old classic from the days of the Super NES and spruce it up with amazing visuals and analogue controls. As Yoshi's Story proved, it's not always a winning formula. How well does F-Zero X hold up?
Initially, F-Zero X doesn't seem all that special, because the game looks... well, 'retro' would be the kindest description. Old Nintendo hands will talk admiringly about all the visual cues it shares with the SNES game, but those whose eyes aren't clotted with nostalgic cataracts might not be so happy about their latest purchase looking like a seven-year-old 16-bitter.
Start playing, though, and it doesn't take long to work out exactly why everything is so barren. Detail hasn't just been sacrificed for speed, it's practically been burned alive. F-Zero X maintains a consistent 60 frames per second speed, which is at least twice what most games manage, and when you realise that there are 30 cars on the track at once, all jostling for position, it's quite a feat.
It's so fast it makes your eyes water. Literally. That's an observation borne out by experience. Everything blasts past so insanely fast that it becomes almost hypnotic, and after a while you begin to realise that you've been staring intently at the screen for five minutes without blinking and there are flies stuck to your gummy eyeballs.
The large number of opponents is part of what makes F-Zero X a different experience to any other racer. The cars are all pretty evenly matched, so gaining places comes down to skill, quick reactions and well-judged use of boosters. The short races (three laps) mean that you're battling for position right until the end.
There are 24 race tracks, plus the Death Match circuit and the special X course, which randomly generates a new track each time you play - you have to be a pretty damn good player to access this, though. F-Zero X does apparently have 64DD 'hooks' for the expansion disk, which (if it ever appears) will feature a track designer, but for now you have to make do with whatever the X track throws at you.
Considering the opportunities presented by proper 3-D tracks, it's quite odd that more advantage wasn't taken of them. Although there are a few vertiginous sections where the track dreams of Mr Alton Towers, producing a proper feeling of queasiness as you struggle to keep your bearings, there aren't nearly enough. Extreme G recognised the potential of having the courses spend nearly as much time going up and down as from side to side, but F-Zero X is sparing - maybe too sparing - with its loops and rolls.
The amount of pop-up and fogging is also quite a shock, since the amount of scenery is so sparse. Normally you don't notice it while you're playing - your mind is otherwise occupied just trying to stay on the track - but on a couple of tracks things suddenly spring into existence right in the middle of the screen, which can be distracting.
For a Nintendo game, the in-game artwork is surprisingly ugly. Nintendo usually can't be faulted for their presentation, but the characters in F-Zero X look as though they've been drawn by a fifth-former whose ambition in life is to paint an Iron Maiden album cover. The cars they drive (30 in all) do look rather good though - each one is different, and even at speed on the track it's possible to pick out individual racers at a glance.
The music... well, it depends on whether you like West Coast plank-spanking rock or not, wailing twiddly guitar riffs screeching out in a blatant attempt to appeal to the American audience. This is one area where Wipeout 64 should definitely have the upper hand - even a mere MIDI rendition of Firestarter or Atom Bomb would be ten times better than the 'biddly-iddly-iddly-iddly-waaah-wah-wah-wahhhl' guitar shredding that F-Zero X inflicts on your ears.
Out of Your Gouraud
So, does F-Zero X make the grade? It is, after all, enormously late - only Zelda 64 has been longer on the waiting lists - and by the time it gets a UK release in late October, the likes of Extreme G 2 and Wipeout 64 will be on the track as well. The lengthy delays don't seem to have made much difference to the game, since the final version is, bar a few minor touches like the glossy shading on your car, all but identical to the one at Space World last year (see issue 9).
Fortunately, F-Zero X has enough going for it to make the hold-ups tolerable. Just. You're not likely to see a game this fast anywhere else, yet it never feels as though you've lost control, which happened quite often in Extreme G as you bounced helplessly from one side of the track to the other.
While the multiplayer game only has four cars on the track at once, which is a bit of a letdown considering how many vehicles the game is capable of throwing around, it's just as fast as the regular game, and can get as competitive as Goldeneye. Opportunities for cruel play are frequent, because once you get fully acquainted with the controls you can pitch your rivals off the track and watch long-term friendships evaporate in bursts of furious swearing.
There are a few disappointments, though. The Death Match game (see boxout) is Nintendo's only real concession to the current trend for racing with violence, and simply engaging in a high-speed dodgem car chase doesn't have the same visceral impact as blasting your enemies from the track with missiles and heavy machine guns. Nintendo's recent conservatism is also heavily in evidence - like Lylat Wars and Yoshi's Story, F-Zero X is more of a graphical update of the old SNES games than a genuine sequel. It's hard not to wish that a few new features had been included in the game instead of the designers just going, "It worked before, so let's not change anything."
Moaning aside, F-Zero X doesn't disappoint. It's a racing game that is totally dependent on your own skill to win, which is quite rare on the N64! The sheer speed is enough to make your head spin, the tracks present plenty of challenge (once you've beaten the three regular difficulty levels, there's a hidden 'Master' level to try) and the varying characteristics of the cars offer loads of scope for players to find their perfect vehicle for their driving style.
A little more innovation would have been appreciated, but this is one case where a more or less straight update of the SNES original was all that was needed to produce a great game. The only question remaining now is whether or not the PAL conversion will be any good - even the Japanese NTSC game has borders, and there's not much point having a game running at 60 frames per second when our TVs can only handle 5ofps! We'll have to wait until October to find out...
Released back in 1991 when the Super NES was first launched, F-Zero has gone on to become one of the most well-respected console racing games of all time. Sadly, aside from two 16-Bit Satellaview-only "updates" in Japan, a sequel was never released... until now.
Finally, F-Zero X for the N64 is finished, and we've spent just about every waking hour of the last two weeks playing through the Japanese version in order to uncover all the secrets the game has to offer. Needless to say, this isn't another Yoshi's Story; oh no--this is one sequel that's quite worthy of carrying its predecessor's name.
Before we get into detail about the game's structure and play mechanics, let us make one thing very clear--this game is FAST. We're talking 60 frames-per-second, 30 machines on screen at once, ZERO slowdown fast. Get it? The game moves so quickly and smoothly you'll have a hard time ever looking at Extreme-G or Aero Gauge in the same light again. Even the Four-player Mode screams by without a hitch.
If you remember, the first F-Zero featured four different "Machines" to choose from. (Machines are what the hovercrafts are called...if you're lazy you can just call 'em cars. We won't think any less of you.) Well, there are 30 different Machines you can choose from in F-Zero X. At the beginning, you can only choose from the first six (four of which are the ones from the original F-Zero), but as you win Cups at the various difficulty levels, you'll open up more Machines. Each Machine is rated from A (best) to E (worst) in three categories (Body, Boost and Grip), and they each have varying weights which affect their overall performance.
In the main mode of play (GP Race Mode), your challenge is to win each of the game's four Cups (Jack, Queen, King and Joker). Each Cup contains six courses. In the beginning, only the first three Cups are available--to open Joker, you need to win Jack, Queen and King on at least the Standard difficulty level. Once you do that, the goal is to win all four Cups on Expert difficulty--NOT an easy task. In fact, this is one of the reasons F-Zero X is so appealing: it's challenging. Let's face it, Nintendo-made games aren't known for being incredibly difficult, so the challenge involved in F-Zero X makes for a very pleasant experience (especially if you're old-school and think most of today's games are just too damn easy). Anyway, if you do beat all the Cups on Expert difficulty, you'll open up the Master difficulty (which is nearly impossible--only the best of the best will be able to beat it) and the mysterious X Cup. The X Cup rules--each time you play it, the experience will be different. Why? Because the tracks are randomly generated. That's not a typo--the game randomly generates the tracks every time you play. This not only makes for incredible replay value, but it makes for great multiplayer matches, since no one player will ever have the advantage of knowing a track better than any of his opponents. Even though it's highly unlikely that the 64DD will ever be released in the U.S., gamers in Japan will be able to purchase an Expansion Disk for F-Zero X (for the DD) that will allow them to save these randomly generated tracks to a disk and then edit them. Cool!
The tracks themselves are brilliant--there are twists and turns all over the place, corkscrews, ramps, tubes (some that you go inside of, and some that you go outside of), patches of dirt and ice that can hinder your progress, traps and more. There are no tracks with wind or magnetic strips (like the original F-Zero), but there're more than enough new obstacles and interesting track layouts to keep you busy. There are four different camera angles that you can use, though to be honest, we found the default camera to be the most useful. One of the best new features in F-Zero X is your ability to attack opponents. Here's how it works: When racing, the Z and R buttons act much like the L and R ones did in the original game--holding either one while turning will result in a sharp turn in either direction (and to add to this, if you hold the analog stick in the opposite direction of the way you turn, you'll drift rather than slide, giving you even more control over your turns). If you double-tap Z or R, you can initiate a sweeping side-attack that can take out an enemy racer in one shot if executed properly. Even better, if you hold Z and double-tap R (or hold R and double-tap Z), you'll perform a special spin attack maneuver that can really lay on the damage if it connects with an opponent. Since your overall placing in any Cup depends on how many points you've accumulated over the six courses (First Place will net you 100 points, gradually scaling down to 15 points for finishing 30th), you may find yourself chasing down specific racers who are ahead of you in the standings (clearly labeled as "RIVAL" on the screen) in hopes of blasting them into oblivion with these attacks so you can bypass them in the rankings. Nobody said winning would be easy...but it sure is fun!
When you first turn on F-Zero X, you're given the option of playing any of five different gameplay Modes: GP Race, Time Attack, Death Race, Vs. Battle and Practice. There's also an Options Screen that lets you toggle a few settings on and off (CPU racers in multiplayer. Slots in multiplayer and a Handicap setting). We've already explained the GP Race Mode, so let's run through the others.
First up, Time Attack. The Time Attack Mode lets you challenge any course you've opened up so far to compete for the best times. There are no other racers on the track, but you can save your performance as a Ghost and than race against it on the second run-through. This is very cool; unfortunately, you can only save one Ghost at a time, so if you want to save a new one, you'll have to overwrite your old one. Then there's the ultra-cool Death Race Mode.
This mode pits you against the other 29 racers on a relatively small track. The object is simple: Destroy all of your opponents as fast as you can. You get as much time as you need to get the job done, and the game will save your best time so you can compete against your friends. This Mode is very cool, but it's got two downsides: 1) Your opponents aren't very aggressive at all, so you don't have to worry about yourself dying unless you fly off the track, and 2) You can only play this mode with one player. D'oh! This would've made for a great variation on regular Multiplayer play.
Next up is Vs. Battle. If you've got friends to race with, this mode rocks. You can race with two, three or four players on any of the tracks you've opened up so far, and the game will keep track of who's got the most wins via a point system (first place gets five points, second gets three, etc.). To add to the excitement, you can switch on the Slot option in the Options Screen. This'll let players who've lost (either by exploding or falling off the track) play a special slot machine that can cause lots of trouble for the racers still on the track. It's a great way to exact revenge on an unsuspecting opponent.
Finally, there's the Practice Mode. This is pretty simple--you just pick a difficulty level and a track from any of the Cups you've opened up so far and go. You'll still have 29 other racers to race against, it just won't count in the end. There's no lap limit here, so you can just race over and over until you've perfected the track.
So there you have it. Nintendo's been up and down in recent months, but F-Zero X is definitely a major up. It's one of the best N64 games to date, with great gameplay, slick visuals and immense replayability. Add to that the major challenge (especially on the Expert and Master difficulties), and a rockin' soundtrack (easily the best we've heard from Nintendo on the N64 so far), and you've got another must-own Miyamoto title. Just be prepared to wait a bit--the U.S. version isn't scheduled for release until late October.
Miyamoto's 60-frames-per-second update to the Super NES classic F-Zero is cominq alonq nicely. New info from NCL has it that the game features four hovercraft from the original, plus eight new ones. You get almost 20 courses that pack loops, corkscrews, half-pipes and other wild track sections you never dreamed you'd see in the first game's ultra-fiat Mode 7 landscape. Best of all, F-Zero 64 will feature Two-to Four-player Modes and Rumble Pak compatibility.
- MANUFACTURER - Nintendo - Japan
- THEME - Racing
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1-4
The fastest racer on Earth, and one of the most exhilarating four-player experiences you can buy. Fast, strong and very, very long.
F-Zero X hits the UK, but is it still "so fast it makes your eyes water?
The racing in F-Zero X, so the story goes, evolved from present-day Formula 1 Grand Prix and because of this some of the cars in the game bear a striking resemblance to the Fi cars of today. That's at least as far as the body of the vehicle goes anyway, because the cars in F-Zero X don't have any wheels! Instead they utilise something called a 'G-Diffuser System' which enables them to hover just above the ground and cling to most surfaces although their grip is tentative at best.
When you begin F-Zero X, you get a range of options to choose from. In addition to a full Grand Prix, you can race the various tracks against a timer with an optional ghost racer to keep you on your toes, and then there's the Death Race.
In Death Race mode, you race around a simple circular track, and the idea of the game is to wipe out the other 29 racers. Unlike Wipeout, the cars in F-Zero X don't have weapons. Instead they have two offensive 'moves'. Double-tapping the Z or R buttons makes your craft veer sideways and creates a temporary energy shield. Hit another car with this shield and you damage it. If you hold either the Z or R button and double-tap the other one, your craft performs a more devastating 'spin attack' which can knock competitors clear off the track.
The downside to this attack is that you lose speed so it's not advisable to use it too much in a Grand Prix race.
In addition to the shield attacks, your craft also has a boost facility. In Death Races you can use this boost immediately, but in Grand Prix mode you must complete one lap before it's accessible. The catch with the boost is that each time you use it it depletes your energy, so you need to use it sparingly. Fortunately each track has areas of pink... erm, stuff which regenerates your energy.
The F-Zero X Grand Prix mode is initially fought over three cup competitions, each of which has six tracks and can be played on Easy, Standard or Expert level. Finish all three cups on the standard difficulty setting to access the Joker Cup, and finish all the cups including Joker on Expert, and you get access to the X Cup. For those of you that still require further challenge, beat all five cups on all three difficulty settings, to get a new playing level -Master difficulty!
In total there are 30 cars to choose from in F-Zero X. However, when you first begin the game you can only access six. To get more vehicles, you need to complete the various cups and this gives added incentive to compete on the harder difficulty levels.
Dial 'X' For Excessive
The tracks themselves start off simple but soon get more and more outlandish and dangerous. You find yourself racing around the outside of huge tubes where too much boost sends you sailing off into space. Some tracks feature huge jumps, others have ice on which you lose traction (which is weird, since your car isn't actually touching the track) and mud which slows you down (see previous comment). In addition, while the early tracks have walls at the side to prevent you from coming off, the further you go, the less these walls appear.
Thankfully, the PAL version of F-Zero X is almost indistinguishable from the NTSC version as far as performance goes (okay, okay, so the text isn't in Japanese any more, but aside from that, no difference). The game itself is still great fun, the only complaint being that the Death Race, while fun at first, quickly becomes boring. Multiplayer mode is fast and surprisingly smooth, adding more to an already excellent game. Despite the challenge from Wipeout, F-Zero X still has loads to offer and race fans would do well to give it a try.
Fastest racer on earth. Great racing, great fighting and damn hard.
Killer Cheat: Do not use this code to open up all the tracks, difficulty modes and cars. Okay?
At the mode select screen, press L, Z, R, Top-C, Bottom-C, Left-C, Right-C and Start. A chime will sound if you manage the code correctly.
Change Car Colours: At the car customisation screen -where you adjust the acceleration/top speed ratio - press R to cycle through a set number of colours for your car.
Spinning Cars: Also on the customisation screen, press the C buttons to spin your selected vehicle this way and that Useless of course.
Squashed Cars: At the car select screen press and hold L and R With these buttons held, press Left-C and Bottom-C to squash all the cars.
Ridiculously fast and smooth update of the old SNES game. Unmatched control, four players and even a random track generator!
F-Zero X by Nintendo looked all right, but the controls needed major work. Don't fret, though, Zero fans--this futuristic racing game doesn't come out until August, so there's plenty of time for Nintendo to make the necessary improvements. The game will definitely have multiplayer capability (up to four players simultaneously) and at least four different racers to choose from.
It's been seven years since F-Zero was first released for the Super NES. Even as one of the system's first titles, it was one of the best 16-bit racing games, and still is to this day. Will F-Zero for the Nintendo 64 achieve the same status? Judging by an early peek at the game--yes!
Even though still in development, F-Zero 64's shaping up to be a top racing game, featuring single-player race and time-trial modes, as well as a split-screen multiplayer mode for up to four drivers (just like Mario Kart 64). The game still uses a futuristic antigravity racing theme, and the tracks will feature loops, curves, tunnels, and jumps. You'll be able to choose from eight vehicles, four of which are from the SNES version. F-Zero 64 will also feature multiple camera angles that you can change on the fly.
It looks like F-Zero 64 will have old, faithful Nintendo fans doing cartwheels, while bringing a whole new generation of players into the Nintendo fold. Look for more coverage on this hot game in upcoming issues.
The original F-Zero pioneered futuristic racing games at the dawn of the 16-bit era--but that was seven years ago, long before Wipeout and other antigravity racing games raised the stakes. Yet, who says "You can't go home again'? F-Zero X, Nintendo's latest 64-bit update of a company classic, has all the makings of a hover-racing game hit.
For better or for worse, F-Zero X doesn't stray far from the addictive speedfest SNES gamers devoured in 1991, though it features more aggressive orchestrations of the original peppy music, fancier models of the futuristic cars, new portraits of the old comicbook-style characters, and deadlier, corkscrew-laden versions of treacherous tracks such as Silence and Big Blue. Boosters drain your energy bar instead of being individual power-ups (a welcome improvement), but, for the most part, the gameplay has been lovingly preserved. A cockpit view, the return of the magnetic rails, and less draw-in would have been nice, though.
Instantly engaging and packed with an awesome four-player mode, F-Zero X delivers high-powered racing with that immaculate Nintendo touch.
- Leaning into turns with the R and Z buttons is imperative to keeping a good racing line--especially on narrow curves.
- Beware of long stretches of track without guardrails in the Queen and King runs, particularly the halfpipe of White Land 2. One ill-timed spin and you're retired.
- Bumping enemies off the track is too risky--miss, and you're the one who gets hurt. Use the Spin attack instead.
- Big air does not always get you ahead. On some jumps, angle your nose down and rejoin the track.
- The best place to hit boosters? Over the pink rechargers. You'll get more power immediately.
The sleek ships and fast frame rate will divert your attention from that pesky horizon fog (and the popup it tries to hide).
Butter-smooth analog steering, combined with weight-shifting buttons, makes your machine move with power and grace.
The new versions of the old F-Zero songs, complete with high-octane heavy-metal guitar licks, sound great, as do the game's clearly audible warnings and other signals.
If Diddy Kong Racing seemed too wimpy, look no further. F-Zero X draws on its own fine history to create a turbo-charged, worthy update of the classic hovercraft racer.