This series has a hardcore fanbase, and I think that’s cool. I’ve seen the fans in online message boards complain about not having a sequel, and I know that feeling. F-Zero X is a really strict racing game. Your “boost power” is your life meter. A vehicle that isn’t durable enough can just blow up if you crash into walls or other vehicles too many times. Still, I understand wanting to cross the finish line after lap three before anybody else, so let’s start from there.
I think F-Zero X is one of very few Nintendo 64 games to run at 60 frames per second, the most frames per second N64 could handle. In layman’s terms, it means the screen is constantly updating so you can see on-screen changes sooner. The cost is that the graphics are a bit primitive, even for Nintendo 64. Also taking a toll on graphics is that there are thirty racers in a race.
Yes, there are thirty racers including yourself. The developers (Nintendo EAD) deserve credit. The racers are hand-drawn and they look like they came out of a comic book. There’s a dinosaur racer for crying out loud, called Bio Rex. The racers’ personalities are reflected in their vehicles’ design. Also, each racer has a rival, so if nothing else, you’re trying to beat your rival when you play.
The courses are varied. The theme of the game is “futuristic.” Parts of courses can be circular, and you can ride on the underside. There are a good number of tunnels, and an occasional ramp. It looks like there are twenty-four courses first four cups (a cup is a series of races, in this game, six races per cup) In the last cup – the “X Cup” – the courses are randomly generated. Randomly generated courses were certainly ahead of their time in 1998. You need to start lap two to get “Boost Power.” Again, your boost is your vehicle’s health, so feel free to use it, but don’t go over the limit. Every course has a place with pink track on either side – called “Pit Areas” – where you can recharge your “Energy” (in other words, your health).
Sometimes an opponent’s vehicle will blow up, and so the total number of racers drops from thirty to twenty-nine, for example. You yourself have a different number of spare vehicles depending on the difficulty level you select. There is even a “Death Race” mode, where you try to blow up the remaining twenty-nine racers quickly.
It’s actually a good challenge to best your computer-controlled opponents. It’s more challenging than contemporary racing games, like ExciteBike 64 or Ridge Racer 64 (and certainly harder than Mario Kart 64). There is a four player mode, but I can’t say I’ve played it.
I understand the real fan favorite F-Zero game is F-Zero GX. I also know this series is regularly compared to WipEout, which is a PlayStation game, and that there are more WipEout titles than F-Zero titles. If something in this review sounds appealing, give F-Zero X a try. But for me, it kind of gets lost in a rather sizable collection of N64 racing games.
Hooray for hand-drawn!