F-Zero X

F-Zero X - Nintendo 64 Gameplay Screenshot

F-Zero X (1998)
By: Nintendo EAD Genre: Racing Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo 64
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Despite being a highly accomplished racing game, the original F-Zero was perhaps most highly regarded for its admittedly impressive technical prowess. When news of a full sequel (F-Zero 2 was more like a ‘data-disk’) on Nintendo’s brand spanking new 64-bit powerhouse emerged, mouths began to salivate at the prospect of what wonders might befall gamers. However, when it finally arrived it wasn’t as instantly mind-blowing as many gamers were expecting. After the bar-raising the original did, a similar advancement was expected here, but the graphical detail was actually notably inferior to most of the other N64 games that had been doing the rounds, nevermind markedly better. This was apparently done on purpose by Nintendo so they could achieve a constant silky-smooth frame-rate of sixty frames per second. Their decision wasn’t met with much enthusiasm at first though. Was it worth the risk?

F-Zero X - Nintendo 64 Gameplay Screenshot

Questionable graphical detail notwithstanding, if there’s one thing that F-Zero X is, it’s bigger. Bigger and better than F-Zero in pretty much every area. The objective remains the same – to win races – but the courses over which this is done really are something else. One of the few criticisms levelled at the SNES game was that the courses were all completely flat. That situation has been rectified here and then some – I’m pretty sure there’s not a single flat course to be found in F-Zero X! They are all suspended high above the surface of their respective planets and their features range from gently twisting roads with slopes and the usual chicanes and hairpins to full-on roller coaster-style courses full of downhill plummets, uphill climbs, huge banked corners, corkscrews, massive ramps, loops, tunnels and everything inbetween!

F-Zero X - Nintendo 64 Gameplay Screenshot

The single player game modes available here include Grand Prix, Practise, Time Trial, and Death Race, and a majority of your time will most likely be spent on the first of these (in single-player, at least). Grand Prix’s are contested by thirty racers, each with their own distinctive ‘machine’, over one of the leagues. There are initially three available – the Jack, Queen, and King Cups, with each of them consisting of six courses. Points are awarded after each race based on your finishing position, from first down to thirteenth, and successfully winning the three initial leagues will open another one, the Joker Cup, which has six more courses. There is also a fifth and final league – The X Cup – but unlocking this takes a bit more work. It’s worth it though as it’s a test for even the most talented of racers as its courses are randomly generated each time you race so there’s no opportunity to learn them first!

F-Zero X - Nintendo 64 Gameplay Screenshot

The Practise and Time Trial modes are self-explanatory, although it’s worth mentioning that the latter lets you race against staff ghosts. This way you can see if you’re better at any given course than the people who actually designed it (and I’m sure a few obsessed individuals have devoted a lot of time to this pursuit)! The Death Race takes place on a basic course and sees the aggression level of each of the thirty racers cranked up a notch! Using your machine’s meagre attack moves (it can charge to the left, right, or perform a spin), the object is to take out as many opponents as you can while they all try to do the same to you (and each other). Another criticism the original game received was its lack of a multi-player mode. This is another area in which F-Zero X bests its forebear thanks to its fantastic Vs Battle mode where between two and four racers can compete at once.

F-Zero X - Nintendo 64 Gameplay Screenshot

One of the first things you’ll notice about F-Zero X is that it’s fast. Very fast. The Dash Plates make a welcome return here, as does the Super-Jet (or ‘Boost Power’ as it’s now called) and, unlike F-Zero where you only got one boost per lap, you can now use them as often as you want after you’ve completed your first lap. Each time you use it drains your machine’s energy though, so keep a plentiful supply of this by visiting the pit areas regularly. It seems that the various pilots have modified their machines since the last game too. They are faster anyway but you also now have the option of changing your engine settings by altering its top speed / acceleration ratio too. This combined with frequent use of the Dash Plates and your Boost Power, especially in conjunction with one another, can see your speed reach quite staggering levels, even hitting four figures on occasion (my current speed record is 1,527kph!).

F-Zero X - Nintendo 64 Gameplay Screenshot

There’s quite a lot to F-Zero X for an arcade-style racer but it would all be for nothing if the widely-criticised graphics kept gamers away. Personally though, I can’t see what all fuss is about! I asked earlier if Nintendo’s decision to sacrifice graphical detail for increased smoothness and speed was worth the risk. Well, in my opinion it was an excellent decision. The backgrounds may well be somewhat sparse but they are colourful and varied but that’s not hugely relevant anyway – the on-track action is so eye-meltingly fast, you’ll barely even get a chance to look at the backgrounds unless you come off the track and plunge into them! That said, it is impressive to see the horizon rolling around as the track meaders all over the place, or to be staring straight at the ground as you plummet down a collossal ramp (see the Fire Field screenshot!).

F-Zero X - Nintendo 64 Gameplay Screenshot

In addition to being really fast, each race is chock-full of action. The N64 throws the thirty racers, each in their own distinctive machines, constantly jostling for position, around the courses with apparent ease. A mere six of them are available to use at the start of the game (including those from the first game) but winning the various leagues gradually unlocks the remainder, each of which has differing grip, boost power, and body strength. They all look really nice too (plus you can change their colours!) and you can quickly build up genuine rivalries with many of their pilots, some of whom are more agressive than others. The game has a fantastic atmosphere which is helped considerably by the awesome rock soundtrack, featuring wailing guitars and thundering drums, and the courses that share names (but little else) with those in the SNES game are also graced with superb remixes (yes, including Big Blue!). It’s those courses though, that keep you coming back to the game.

F-Zero X - Nintendo 64 Gameplay Screenshot

Any game featuring jet-powered hovercars racing over tracks in mid-air is likely to feature lavishly-designed courses, and the opportunity here enabled the designers to really go to town! To this day, F-Zero X still features the best-designed courses I’ve ever raced on. Each of them is distinctive and memorable, and they really are thrilling to race on, something helped by the extremely precise controls afforded by the N64’s splendid analogue controller. Everything is so smooth and zooming along, weaving in and out of the other racers with pixel-perfect accuracy is exciting and great fun. There are also four difficultly level and, thanks to the X Cup, you’ll never run out of new courses to race on! The game builds up a fantastic sense of competition too, but there’s not really any one thing that makes this such a great game – it’s just a perfect blend of everything. Still probably the greatest racing game I’ve ever played.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-zcvM0b9VE[/youtube]

RKS Score: 10/10

Remake and Reboot

Video Game Remakes

Hollywood is going through a phase at the moment. The “reboot” of films such as Batman Begins, or the remake of titles including “The Taking of Pelham 123”, demonstrates a lack of original ideas and voices. And the games industry seems to be following suit, relying on summer blockbusters and sequels as much as the cinema.

Prince of Persia is a good example. Jordan Mechner’s classic had already undergone an ill-advised leap into 3D before Ubi Soft’s Sands of Time rebooted the story and added the amazing time rewinding feature. The two sequels added little, even with a Wii remake of the Two Thrones giving motion control. And so it was rebooted again, adding a controversial new game mechanic and dividing opinion.

Tomb Raider has also had its share of remaking and rebooting, with Legend and the 10th Anniversary editions. By handing the series over to Crystal Dynamics, Legend got closer to a true 3D world and Anniversary revisited the old locations with new polish.

The Wii is also seeing several of these new “interpretations”, as evidenced by Klonoa. The original game of the series appeared nearly ten years ago on the original Playstation, and was a 2.5D platformer with the player’s movement controlled along set paths. Fast forward and the graphical makeover is very good (the dreadful Americanised character voices less so), but the movement restrictions remain. The old-school game mechanics may feel uncomfortable to the new audience drawn to Wii, but there is a real challenge in there.

Other titles such as Resident Evil Files have had little done to improve them for the new hardware. The Play Control range has featured some gems brought up to date with Wii controls – Pikmin, for example – but Nintendo would be advised to cherry-pick the best titles to update.

Perhaps the most successful reboot has to be Call of Duty. Arriving first on PC, the console-specific versions (Big Red One) were followed by the unusual idea of two developers alternating work on the franchise. But the biggest surprise was waiting for Call of Duty 4. The subtitle Modern Warfare gave it all away – the franchise moved from its World War II setting (and its competitors Medal of Honour and Brothers In Arms) to the present day. However, despite plans to call the 2009 sequel Modern Warfare 2, Activision has gone back and put the Call of Duty tag in front to avoid losing sales.

So rebooting is not all bad news. In the end it would be nice to be swamped with new and original ideas every time we looked at the shelves in our local game store, but the companies cannot be blamed for the fact that the familiar titles (and gameplay styles) will sell more.

GAMES COMING OUT FOR CONSOLES: NOV 2nd 2010

vote McCain Obama Super Mario Bros
vote McCain Obama Super Mario Bros

Hey, its election time and you have the awesome choice between spineless yes men and tea baggers, why not skip all that and play some video games instead. Okay, fine. MTV told me to rock the vote so how about you game the vote. While you are out picking up these games stop over at your local voting station and get your democracy on.

God of War: The Ghost of Sparta

I have a love hate relationship with the PlayStation portable. I like the games and all, but why all the remakes and such like Final Fantasy and Parasite Eve being PSP only? Oh, well in GOW Sparta we follow the events of our hero between the story from GOW 1 and GOW2. This story takes place during Kratos visit to Atlantis and if it wasn’t sunk before we now know how it got that way. The game is the second to find its way onto the PSP and has all the brutality it did before and stunning visuals to boot. One thing we know for sure, he really dislikes King Midas.

Golden Eye 007 – Wii

Hey, pop quiz, how do you get people to keep playing the Wii, answer, you remake games that were awesome on previous consoles. Yes, my Wii hate runs read, but my love for Golden Eye never dies. It was one the best console shooters of all time and even ranks up high for all-time best FPS shooters. Now those of you with the Wii gathering dust have a reason to celebrate as a remake of this classic is coming to you Nov 2nd.

Now the game is new meaning new graphics and even a new bond as you play as Daniel Craig, but all the classic gameplay that made it great is still there. You can still decide how you want to finish missions going in Rambo style or playing it like Bond really would being stealthy and cool. Multiplayer is back with a four person split screen tons of modes and support for the Wii and classic remote, nunchuk and even the zapper. Will I be buying a Wii to play this, no. Will I get my friend to buy it and camp his house, yes.

What about the Kinect Games?

Yeah, about that, as I said this list is for games I would buy and this week these two are the only ones I would consider. However there is also the new Sonic Free Riders and Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2 that look good. However, I need to be a little more hash and this week you only get two from me. Next, week we will be back for our countdown to black Friday report so stay tuned and until then keep the spending to a minimum.