Soapbox: it’s time to admit the F-Zero X is the best F-Zero
There’s a bit of a running joke here on the Nintendo Life team; it is a well known fact that I am a huge fan of F-Zero X on the Nintendo 64, and despite my strong convictions on the subject, almost everyone try to convince me otherwise as to the best F-Zero.
You will find references to this hidden in Nintendo Life, our social media channels and even in private areas, such as our Soft loading messages. the the most recent example is a meme tweet, which was created in a moment of madness during this should were a high level business meeting and finally prompted me to write this article.
It’s just a little fun … where is it? Let’s go back to 1998 first and find out what it is. The Nintendo 64 had been out for almost a year here in Europe and (until now) lacked decent racing games. Sadly, Sony’s PlayStation was inundated with quality in the genre, including Annihilate, Destructive Derby and Peak runner. On the N64 it was like Crusin ‘United States, San Francisco Rush and High-end rally. Not really a fair fight; heck, even the third Sega Saturn was lucky enough to have better runners than Nintendo’s console.
But Nintendo still had an existing racing franchise up its sleeve: F-Zero. Now, the original SNES game was one of my favorites on the previous gen system, a game I vividly remember going to Woolworths a few days after Christmas and buying with my Christmas money. The character and ship illustrations were fantastic and, combined with the Mode 7 effect and memorable music, left a lasting impression on my young imagination.
Fast forward to 1997. F-Zero was no longer considered relevant; its cartoonish graphics were outdated and childish. The super cool and ultra stylish WipEout was the New the future of anti-grav racing. Nintendo needed a fresh take on the racing genre and brought in Shigeru Miyamoto to come up with something special and, more importantly, something. fresh. Apparently conceptualized at the time of Mario Kart 64’s development, Nintendo started work on ‘F-Zero 64’.
The best way to get news about upcoming video games on these dates was either through word of mouth or through print magazines. Sure, the Internet existed back then (56k modem, right?), But it was still the magazine space that dominated the world of news and video game reviews. Any avid gamer would buy at least 2-3 different magazines a month, and I was no different. These publications were a vital link between the players and the industry.
News of the 3D F-Zero sequel slowly started popping up in magazine news sections, trickling me in with a screenshot here, a screenshot there and tiny snippets of information. It’s amazing to think today, but you’d literally have a paragraph of text and maybe just one screenshot like only content for a month on an upcoming game. Yet I would not have done it otherwise; your brain filled in the gaps while you imagined how it would be in meticulous detail.
These very first screenshots delighted me; I believe they were taken from a Spaceworld demo tape in 1997 and showed the Blue Falcon accelerating through a corkscrew track followed by a loop-the-loop. Unbelievable, I remember thinking. Of course, WipEout had some pretty cool songs, but nothing like that; F-Zero 64 looked more like a digital roller coaster than a typical racing game.
In early 1998, magazines began publishing detailed previews of the game, now given its final title of F-Zero X. The game sounded amazing. Not only would it run at 60 frames per second while featuring 30 cars in a race, but all of them would be unique playable characters, each with their own unique ship design. New attack options have been added, as well as a Death Race mode and the main dish, the X Cup.
Those who don’t know what the X Cup is, you’re missing out. It’s a feature that randomly generates tracks in a Grand Prix, which means you’ll never play the same race twice. It blew me away; an infinite number of tracks ?! It looked like witchcraft in the late 90s. Nintendo also promised an “Expansion Kit” for its 64DD add-on that will allow players to design their own levels and ships. I had have this game.
F-Zero X released in Japan in July 1998; it was summer break for us in the UK, and the PAL version was due out later in November. I couldn’t wait that long and looked on the back of my magazines for an import store. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember it cost between £ 70-80. Keep in mind that the average Switch game costs £ 40 today, and that gives an indication of how much that was for someone who had yet to earn a proper salary. A few days later he arrived; finally having the game in my hands and ironically having never seen the sensational Japanese box art before, I was completely stunned. Wow, what a blanket!
There was a problem, however. Nintendo didn’t care about us dirty importers and sometimes changed their baskets to make them incompatible with converters. My converter did not work with the Japanese copy of the F-Zero X which meant I had to wait a few more days as I hastily ordered the latest ‘N64 Passport’ model. Time was not wasted, however; I’ve studied every inch box and manual while waiting for the arrival of the new converter.
Finally I ran the game and it was good quickly, something static screenshots in magazines couldn’t even begin to convey. I quickly found out that Jody Summers’ White Cat was my go-to ship, suitable for my riding style, and I continued to spend hours and hours in the game, getting better and better and finally finishing it. in “master” difficulty. Legend.
Oddly, F-Zero X is one of that handful of games that simply “work” with the odd-shaped Nintendo 64 controller. Just like Z targeting in Zelda, the control scheme seems quite natural to me. The analog stick offered such a precise degree of control in F-Zero X, the steering nuance was exceptional. Interestingly, it was so noticeably missing when the game was ported to Wii U several years later, myself and other fans made some noise and Nintendo finally applied a fix. You are welcome.
Anyway, let’s talk about the elephant in the article: F-Zero AX / GX. I hope I have now convinced you that I like myself a little F-Zero. So when it was announced that Nintendo and SEGA (remember that?) Were working together on F-Zero AC + GC using the Arcade / GameCube ‘Triforce’ platform, you could tell I was excited. very excited). The first screenshots and videos have surfaced online this time around and Wow, what a beautiful game. The graphics were amazing and the music uplifting; this was shaping up to be the sequel to my F-Zero dreams, I couldn’t wait.
So much so that I started working on a fan website and managed to buy the domain names fzerogx.com and fzeroax.com; when i was a teenager this is what i did – i was so excited about games that i created websites about them. Who knew I was going to do Nintendo’s life, right?
This time I had no problem importing the F-Zero GX from Japan at launch as I had a Japanese GameCube. Unfortunately, the hype wasn’t real to me. Let’s be clear, I don’t think GX is a wrong game – far from it – but for me it just changed the gameplay too far from the formula I knew and loved in the N64 title.
Understandably, GX looks like an aggressive arcade racer (it’s developed by SEGA, after all), while my love for X was born in precise controls with quick turns and an increase in line. GX is hard where X is subtle; it’s just a different style of play, aimed at a different audience: arcade players. In my opinion, you could almost use the contrast of styles to compare Mario and Sonic, or even Nintendo and SEGA. Both are valid, both are good, but both are absolutely different.
Over the years, I’ve grown to love GX / AX for what it is. I have fond memories of playing the AX version in arcades in the Far East and I often find myself checking the prices of retired cabinets on eBay (sure would fit in the garage, right?). The truth is, F-Zero X is the better F-Zero, IMHO. It’s the most Nintendo version of F-Zero. If you prefer the original, the GameCube version, or for some crazy reason one of the Game Boy entries, then don’t worry, we can still be friends; we are united as one, all fans of the F-Zero series as a whole, and that is what matters. But if you don’t think X is the best of the bunch, then you are wrong.
What do you think, Nintendo? Another’s time? Let us know if Ant’s memories hold true to you by posting a comment.
What is the best F-Zero? (409 votes)
BS F-Zero Grand Prix (1996, SNES)
BS F-Zero Grand Prix 2 (1997, SNES)
F-Zero X Expansion Kit (2000, 64DD)
Maximum speed F-Zero (2001, GBA)
F-Zero GX (2003, GameCube)
F-Zero AX (2003, Arcade)
F-Zero GP Legend (2003, GBA)
F-Zero Climax (2004, GBA)
Please connection to vote in this poll.