F-Zero GX is a futuristic racing video game for the Nintendo GameCube console. Developed by Sega's Amusement Vision department, it was released in Japan, Europe and North America, in 2003. Its arcade counterpart, F-Zero AX, utilizes hardware conceived from a business alliance between Nintendo, Namco, and Sega. F-Zero GX runs on an enhanced version of the engine that powered Super Monkey Ball. The game is considered as one of the best racers of its time and the greatest racer on the GameCube platform.
F-Zero GX is the fifth / sixth released installment in the F-Zero series and the successor to F-Zero X. The game continues the series' difficult, high-speed racing style, retaining the basic gameplay and control system from the Nintendo 64 title. A heavy emphasis is placed on track memorization and reflexes, which aids in completing the title. GX introduces a "story mode" element, where the player walks in the footsteps of Captain Falcon through nine chapters while completing various missions. Overall, the game was well-received by critics for its visuals, intense action, high sense of speed and track design.
F-Zero GX is a futuristic racing game where approximately thirty pilots race on massive circuits inside plasma-powered hovercars in an intergalactic Grand Prix at speeds that can exceed over 2000 km/h. Tracks include loops, half-pipes, cylinders, and jumps. Some courses have innate obstacles like dirt patches, mines, tricky jumps, and magnetic tubes to navigate. Before a race, the player is able to adjust a vehicle's balance between maximum acceleration and maximum top speed. This adds strategy, as players with greater knowledge of the circuits can make better decisions. There is a wide range of machines available for the player to choose, each with its own characteristics and performance abilities, including and limited to varying levels of top speed, acceleration, cornering, grip, boost, body, and each is driven by a different character. Custom machines can also be created, they consist of three adjustable parts that affect the overall performance of the vehicle.
A race in F-Zero GX consists of three laps around the track. Each machine has an energy meter, which serves two purposes. First, it is a measurement of the machine's health and is decreased for example when the machine hits another racer or the side of the track. Second, the player is given the ability to boost after the first lap. Boosting greatly increases the racer's speed, but also drains their energy. Energy can be replenished by driving over recharge strips that are placed on the track. There are also dash plates located at various points around the track that give a speed boost without using up any energy. If the player has a "spare machine" then falls off a track or runs out of energy, the race will be restarted, or their machine will be restored to the track with half depleted energy. As with all F-Zero titles, combat is not a crucial part of the game, but machines can attempt to damage and destroy each other using side or spin attacks. Vehicles that have taken an excessive amount of damage and are about to finish a race can attempt a "suicide finish", an intentional explosion done just before the finish line that gives broken down vehicles a chance to slide past the line on momentum alone.
F-Zero GX includes several different modes. In the Grand Prix mode, the player chooses a cup and races against twenty-nine opponents through each track in that cup. Players get a certain amount of points for finishing a track depending on where they placed, and the winner of the circuit is the character who receives the most total points. There are three difficulty levels available at the start: Novice, Standard, and Expert. Master difficulty can be unlocked by beating the Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald cups on Expert. Placing first in a cup on Master difficulty with a non-custom machine unlocks an FMV featuring that machine's pilot. The Vs. Battle is the multiplayer mode where two to four players can compete simultaneously.
Time Attack lets the player choose a track and complete it in the shortest time possible. Ghost data can be saved to a Memory Card, racing against a staff ghost or transparent re-enactments of the player's best three-lap performances is possible. Up to five ghosts can be shown at a time. A new Story mode allows the player to follow Captain Falcon as he races through missions and completes a wide array of challenges. The replay mode allows saved replays to be viewed under different camera angles and music. Customize is where items such as pilots and machine parts can be bought. Practice allows the player to practice any track with an adjustable amount of laps and opponents. The Pilot Profile mode has each character's biography, theme music, information on their machine, as well as a short FMV sequence.
There is also an Internet ranking system whereby players will enter a password on the Internet and will get ranked based on their position in the database. Players can receive a password after completing a race, write it down, go an enter it into a webpage database, and it will track their time and the machine they've used.
Though GX has more tracks than its predecessor F-Zero X, there is no longer a code to unlock them all, which means that some will never see more than the first 15 tracks. Furthermore, the "X Cup", which randomly generates tracks, was removed in GX. There are four "GX cups" in the game with five tracks each. Initially only the Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald Cups can be played. Diamond Cup can be unlocked by coming first overall in Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald Cup on standard or a higher difficulty in the Grand Prix. Beating the first three cups on Expert also unlocks the Master class difficulty level. Individual AX tracks can be unlocked by placing first on the tracks in the arcade (F-Zero AX) version of the game and saving progress to a memory card. Placing first overall in the other four cups on the Master difficulty setting also unlocks five of the six AX Cup tracks for purchase using tickets. The sixth, which is the 26th and last track in the game, Mute City: Sonic Oval, can be unlocked by placing first in the AX Cup on any difficulty level.
The new "customize mode" allows the player to create emblems to place on the machines and buy items and use a variety of them in many ways. Buy parts to customize a machine that range from extremely heavy to extremely light ones, in-game sounds, unlockable pilots, circuits and finally "staff ghosts" that players can try to beat - these ghosts do particularly fast runs on tracks and are exceedingly difficult. All of these things, once unlocked, are purchased using "tickets", which the player wins by completing one of the five Grand Prix Cups (Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond, and AX) or story missions, or by achieving specific minimum times in time trial mode (which also unlocks that track's Staff Ghost). Depending on what gameplay mode is selected, the amount of tickets earned can vary based on the cup chosen, difficultly level and the position the player finished in.
The new story mode lets the player race as Captain Falcon in nine chapters of various non-standard racing scenarios, such as Falcon's training regiment, a battle against a rival's gang, an escape from a collapsing building through closing blast doors under a narrow time limit, the F-Zero Grand Prix race against 29 other veteran pilots, a race against the villain Deathborn in the Underworld and ending with a race against the sinister "Creator" of the world. Each chapter can be completed in three difficulty levels, each of which unlocks an item in the game's shop: "Normal", which unlocks the next chapter; "Hard", which unlocks parts from the arcade version, F-Zero AX; and "Very Hard", which unlocks driver-specific vehicles from F-Zero AX. Toshihiro Nagoshi, one of the game's co-producers, stated that this mode was included because the development team felt that the F-Zero universe was unique and they wanted to explain some of the characters' motivations and flesh out the game world.
After properly navigating out of banked turns, the game's physics modeling allows F-Zero machines to get a boost of acceleration if it has high grip, high acceleration and/or heavy weight. Players can exploit F-Zero GX's finely tuned physics model to simulate special boosts caused by correctly leaning into curves using the controller's shoulder buttons. This can be done easily on a wide straight stretch of a circuit to generate movements likened to actual snakes. These back and forth snake-like movements set a high rate of oscillation, achieving speeds of over 3,000 km/h. This technique, called "dakou" or snaking, has been known to deliver a massive increase in speed, but it is best used on the early, easier tracks and when racing alone in Time Trial. It is an extremely challenging technique to employ (the constant back-and-forth motion wreaks utter havoc with traditional steering), not to mention a painful one; players can find their hands aching when using such a technique. Because this gives the user a distinct speed advantage over other, "non-snaking" opponents, players regard snaking in general as anything from legitimate and advanced racing strategy, to an unfair tactic, or even outright cheating. According to Nintendo, the snake technique was an intentional addition to F-Zero GX's gameplay.
At the AOU Amusement Expo in mid-February 2002, Nintendo announced that an arcade board under the name of "Triforce" was being developed in conjunction between Nintendo, Namco, and Sega. In an a follow-up interview held in London, Miyamoto said announcements will be made revealing several software titles that will make use of the hardware. The first occurred in late March 2002 and was from Sega's Amusement Vision. The announcement revealed Sega's subsidiary Amusement Vision and Nintendo will collaborate to release F-Zero video game titles for the Triforce arcade board and the Nintendo GameCube. While Amusement Vision was responsible for most of the game's development, Nintendo EAD executives including Shigeru Miyamoto, Takaya Imamura, and Isshin Shimizu, took on leading roles. The game was in development for over two years and Nintendo revealed the first footage of F-Zero GX at the Pre-E3 press conference on May 21, 2002. While the game was known to exist several months prior, it had remained behind closed doors until that conference. During the development process, Toshihiro Nagoshi focused on what he called the self-explanatory "Interface" of the game, and "Rhythm" — to give the way the tracks are laid out a rhythmic feel.
In early March 2003, according to the official Nintendo website, F-Zero was delayed by two months. Via a live video conference call from Japan on July 8, 2003 Shigeru Miyamoto, supervisor Takaya Imamura and Amusement Vision president Toshihiro Nagoshi answered questions about the two F-Zero games. There Miyamoto announced the Japanese version of the game was finished and would be soon available to the public. Toshihiro Nagoshi mentioned that back at E3 2003, he was hoping that they would have that time to include a LAN multiplayer mode, however they chose not to actually support a LAN mode in F-Zero. He stated "Once you include a mode like that the multiplayer mode becomes the focus of gameplay. With F-Zero, we're more focused on the single-player game. That's the main reason we've not included it this time". Takaya Imamura commented that even though he worked directly on F-Zero throughout its different incarnations, this time Imamura took a "step back and was involved at kind of a producer level at looking over the game". Imamura went on to say he "have worked on the F-Zero series, and seeing the results of the collaboration with Sega, I found myself at something of a loss as to how we can take the franchise further past F-Zero GX and AX".
Sega's Wave Master handled the games' music. Hidenori Shoji, Daiki Kasho and Alan Brey composed a soundtrack for GX and its arcade counterpart called, F-Zero GX/AX Original Soundtrack. It was released on July 22, 2004, in Japan by Scitron Digital Content.
Critical Reception and Sales
Nintendo's announcement that their next installment of the F-Zero franchise will be developed by Sega's Amusement Vision development studio came to be a surprise. F-Zero GX was well-received by most gaming critics. It has been credited for its visuals; arcade/home connectivity; plenty of longevity; sharp controls; tough challenge; fleshed-out single-player modes. 1UP.com stated that the series is "finally running on hardware that can do it proper justice". IGN has praised the developers' work commenting they have "done a fine job of taking Nintendo's dated franchise and updating it for the new generation". Eurogamer stated that, graphically, "it's hard to imagine how Amusement Vision could have done a better job". IGN considered the title to be the best racing game on GameCube and was awarded by GameSpot as the Best GameCube Driving Game of 2003.
The game's most common criticism is its difficulty, particularly in the game's story mode. IGN noted in its review, "For some, GX will be the ultimate racer. For others, it will be flat out too difficult". It earned 4th place in their list of the top 10 most difficult games to beat. GameSpot thought "the extreme increase in difficulty will surely turn some people away before they've seen the 20 tracks and unlocked all the story mode chapters". GameSpy mentioned that "purists may find it too similar to N64 version" and criticizes the lack of LAN play.
The title was one of the nominated finalists for the Interactive Achievement Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. In Japan, F-Zero GX sold over 100,000 units and became qualified for the Player's Choice line in both Europe and North America by selling at least 250,000 copies.
F-Zero AX Connectivity
The game's memory cards, on which saved games are kept, can be taken to an arcade with F-Zero AX, the game's arcade counterpart, to download special data. Players are meant to use the AX arcade cabinets to unlock permanent access to the fifth and last cup, the AX Cup; a number of new custom machine parts and ten new vehicles. This is easier said than done, as AX cabinets are quite rare; according to a fan-compiled F-Zero AX Locations database, less than twenty are available in the North America region. However, more can be located and its content can instead be unlocked in F-Zero GX by going through the game normally or by the use of a cheating device. In GX, the AX Cup can be unlocked by completing all other cups (Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald and Diamond) on Master difficulty, the vehicles by completing Story Mode missions on Very Hard difficulty and all the custom parts by completing Story Mode on Hard difficulty and the Grand Prix on expert in the Diamond cup.