Getting in to actual gameplay, it’s a simple circuit race, three laps per race, five courses per circuit, the first circuit is an easy romp that will get you acquainted with the world of F-Zero, while the last circuit will test every racing fiber in your body with it’s tricky courses that are without walls to keep you from going off the course. There are the standard twenty courses, five of which are unlocked, and if Nintendo did what I’m hoping, six more can be unlocked via arcade link. Although this remains to be seen as there aren’t really any US AX machines readily accessible in my area. The courses are varied and provide plenty of a challenge especially with 29 other racers on the track. As you play through Grand Prix mode you are awarded points based on your placement per race. Simply finish with the most points and win. The game will also let you know when you’ve got someone right on your tail in the standings as they will be tagged “Rival” through the race. You can actually keep your opponents from getting anywhere near you by destroying them in the race by using the spin dash attack that will knock them out of the current race. With enough skill you could even wipe out the entire field if you wanted to. This will keep you sane, as the game tends to pull out some ridiculous wins when you get to the later levels. Senseless destruction in a racing game is always a good time.
As you race you earn tickets, these lead to being able to unlock parts to build your own custom car. This has to be one of the most fun things in the game, finding the car that fits your play style perfectly. The trick is to find the perfect balance between acceleration, body weight, max speed, and cornering. As it works out you’ll want a car that’s not too heavy but one that can take a few hits. Or if you’re a crazy Japanese player, you can go for the Dark Condor, which is considered to be the best car in the game. With it you can reach speeds in excess of 3500kph, of course being able to reach that speed is no easy task and requires precision driving. But it’s something to shoot for if you want to make times like 1:28 on 8 laps of Mute City in the arcade.
The only flaw to this masterpiece? The insane difficulty. Even on normal difficulty the story mode is ridiculously hard. And playing Circuit races on expert mode is just that, for experts, the computer will easily snatch wins away from you, which will require their destruction in the next race. It’s nice to know that there is some balance there. Even on Standard difficulty the Diamond Course is going to be a trying experience, and Master mode? Let’s not even get in to that… I’ll just say it ended with a controller needing replacement. Another thing that bugged me was my inability to transfer my data to another memory card. Oh sure I could move my Garage Data just fine, but my game data wouldn’t budge. This meant that if I wanted to have a data on a separate card I would need to start over. Needless to say that after 8 chapters of story mode I wasn’t about to quit yet. Also there is a small exploit with Garage Data being transferred, you can have your ship, but when you start a new data all the part you’ve earned won’t be present, yet you will keep your car. An interesting paradox.
The GameCube finally has an exclusive racing game worth owning. And with an Arcade Link being available for extras, this game just keeps getting better and better. I just hope you’ve got some patience, because you’re going to need it when you fly off the track after a harrowing S turn. But the deep car customization, excellent sound and graphics, and fun multiplayer gameplay make this game a must own, go out and get a copy today, and a spare memory card for some arcade data. I’ll see you at the arcades and on Internet Ranking.
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