F-Zero X, is a futuristic racing video game for the Nintendo 64 console. Developed by Nintendo's EAD division, it was released in Japan, Europe and North America, in 1998. F-Zero X has been re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan, in Europe as the 100th VC title, and in North America, in 2007. When the game was later developed and released for the iQue Player in China in 2004, it became the first and only title of the series to feature online multiplayer, as well as being Nintendo's first racing title with online multiplayer. In 2000, an expansion of the game was exclusively released in Japan providing numerous extra features not in the original game.
F-Zero X is the third released installment in the F-Zero series and the first released video game in the franchise to feature 3D graphics. The game has a steep learning curve and its gameplay experience is similar to that of the original F-Zero title. However, the title does introduce a "death race" mode and a random track generator called the "X Cup". In the death race, the player's objective is to annihilate the 29 other racers as speedily as possible, while the X-Cup "creates" a different set of tracks each time played.
F-Zero X is a futuristic racing game where thirty pilots race on circuits inside plasma-powered hovercars in an intergalactic Grand Prix at speeds that can exceed 1000 km/h. The game can be used with a Rumble Pak, which allows for force feedback. Taking place after the original tournament was discontinued for several years due to the extreme danger of the sport, F-Zero X begins after the Grand Prix is brought back with the rules and regulations revised under the same name as the video game. The tracks in the game include hills, loops, tunnels, corkscrews, and pipes. Some courses have innate obstacles like dirt patches, tricky jumps, and tubes to navigate. The game introduces 26 new vehicles, and brings back the four from the original F-Zero game. Each has its own characteristics and performance abilities and before a race, the player is able to adjust a vehicle's balance between maximum acceleration and maximum top speed.
A normal race in F-Zero X consists of three laps around the track. Each machine has an energy meter, which serves two purposes. 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. If the player has a "Spare Machine" then falls off a track or runs out of energy, the race will be restarted. The game introduces the ability to attack the other racers by either utilizing a side or spin attack. Also, this is the first F-Zero game in which the player can boost after the first lap which greatly increases the vehicle's speed, but also drains its energy. Energy can be replenished by driving over recharge strips, called "Pit Zones", located at various points around the track. There are also dash plates around the track that give a speed boost without using up any energy.
F-Zero X includes five 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 number 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. The higher the difficulty level, the tougher the opponents and less opportunities the player gets to retry. However, there is a Practice mode which allows the player to practice any track with 29 opponents.
Time Attack lets the player choose a track and complete it in the shortest time possible. Racing against a staff ghost or transparent re-enactments of the player's best three-lap performances is possible. In Death Race, the player objective is to annihilate the 29 other racers as speedily as possible on the only course, which is a perpetual straightaway. There is no multiple difficulty levels to choose from, nor is there a limit to the number of laps but the boost can be used right away. Vs. Battle is the multiplayer mode where two to four players can play simultaneously with or without handicap. Those not in use by players can be operated by the computer. If a person ends up retiring before the other players, that person can enter the "VS Slot". A slot machine will appear and depending on what three identical pictures the player manage to match will adversely affect the competitors.
F-Zero X has five Cups in total whose names are based on face cards. Four of them contains six courses each. Initially, only the Jack, Queen, and King Cups are available to choose from and each vary in difficulty from beginner, intermediate and expert respectively. The Joker Cup can be unlocked by coming first overall in Jack, Queen, and King Cups on standard in the Grand Prix. Beating these four cups on Expert unlocks the Master class difficulty level and the X Cup. The "X Cup" is actually a track generator that "creates" a different set of tracks every time when played. The randomized track elements can vary from simplistic and straightforward to highly complex and intricate.
The first course in the Joker Cup, Rainbow Road (subtitled "Psychedelic Experience"), is the very same Rainbow Road track featured in Mario Kart 64, only with a different ambiance to match the whole F-Zero setting. In addition, when played with the F-Zero X Expansion Kit, the background music will change to an alternative rock remaster of the same song heard in this track in Mario Kart 64.
== Development and Audio ==
Initially titled F-Zero 64, Famitsu magazine revealed the project in mid-1997. The game, which was produced alongside Zero Racers, was renamed late in its development. Several key Wave Race 64 programmers including the lead programmer made up the in-house F-Zero X development team. The game made its debut at the Nintendo Space World event in late November 1997 where the public was able to play it for the first time. F-Zero X became the first racing game to run at 60 frames per second with up to 30 vehicles on screen at the same time, but in order to keep the frame rate, polygon counts on the vehicles, textures and track detail are sacrificed. The North American release of F-Zero X suffered from a three month delay due to Nintendo of America's policy of spacing the release of first-party games out evenly. Features from the Nintendo 64DD are included in F-Zero X which allow for the cartridge to be compatible with add-on disks such as track editors or course updates, however none of these were utilized outside of Japan, due to the 64DD's commercial failure.
F-Zero X features remixed music from its predecessor. Besides the games' visual detail, another setback in order for the title to run well at its frame rate is the quality of its audio. Due to compression, the game only features monaural sound. Two soundtracks were released featuring music from this game. The F-Zero X Original Soundtrack was released on September 18, 1998. The F-Zero X Guitar Arrange Edition, which was released on January 27, 1999, contains ten guitar arranged musical tracks from the game. Both the original soundtrack and the guitar arrangement are composed by Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai.
Critics generally praised F-Zero X for its fast gameplay, abundance of courses and vehicles, keeping a high framerate even though there can be up to thirty racers on screen at the same time, and track design. However, the game has been widely criticized for its lack of graphical detail. The title received Game of the Month for the month of November from Electronic Gaming Monthly. An editor stated "the graphics may be simple, but they're smooth and the action is fast". IGN described F-Zero X as an exceptional update to the original game that "only suffers under its generic look". They believed that unlike the first game, F-Zero X "is not about showing off graphics or sound capabilities -- it's all about gameplay". They considered the game to rival Wave Race with its "perfectly fine-tuned controls and a fresh approach to racing".
Allgame called F-Zero X as "certainly not up to Nintendo's usual standards" in terms of detail and texture quality. GameSpot also criticized the games' graphical detail, calling the low polygon count on the vehicles as "particularly uninspiring" and that the "track detail is also very limited, giving the track a spartan feel to it". In GameSpot's re-review of the Virtual Console release, they gave it a 6.5/10 calling it "the black sheep of the series" when compared with the other F-Zero games in "visual style and technical flair".
Despite its visual setbacks, critics exalted the game for managing to keep a steady 60 frame/s, which some felt made up for the lack of graphical detail. The Electric Playground found the framerate to give "the game a major boost in the feel department" making it "seem like your vehicle is bursting through the sound barrier". In regard to the music, EGM considered it "really good with some excellent remixes of the old F-Zero tunes", while CVG called the music dreadful. The Electric Playground thought it goes hand-in-hand to the feeling of speed in the game, but not much else.
F-Zero X sold 383,642 units in America and 77,154 units in Japan, making it the 49th best-selling Nintendo 64 game. The game sold 56,457 copies during its first week of sale in Japan, but sold nearly five times less the following week.
Disk Drive Expansion
The F-Zero X Expansion Kit, released in Japan on April 21, 2000, was the first add-on disk for the Nintendo 64DD. The Kit will only operate in conjunction with the cartridge of the original game, however all of F-Zero X's regular features are accessible plus twelve new tracks, a car editor and a track creator. The Expansion Kit includes new soundtracks in stereo as well as the entire collection of monaural audio tracks from the original game. In addition to the two new cups, it is also possible to create custom cups. The disk can save up to a hundred tracks and up to three ghost racers per course. The track creator was singled out as the Expansion Kit's strongest feature since it is virtually the same tool the designers of F-Zero X used for themselves to create the original circuits.
The Car Editor offers a variety of options when creating a vehicle. Using a set of pre-existing parts, the player must balance their creations' settings and performance abilities before the machine is finished and named. The Track Editor is a detailed track creator that allows the player design their own racing circuits. Using a cursor, the player can determine the basic layout of the track and also add points to it to create track elements such as curves and hills. Furthermore, numerous different properties like half pipes and cylinders, as well as numerous road surfaces, such as slip zones, can be added. The player also can test their creation at any time and run practice laps.