Japanese Nintendo 64 cover art
F-Zero X (エフゼロ エックス Efu Zero Ekkusu?), is a futuristic racing video game for the Nintendo 64 (N64) console. Developed by Nintendo's EAD division, it was released in Japan, Europe and North America, in 1998. In 2000, an expansion of the game was exclusively released in Japan providing numerous extra features not in the original game. F-Zero X was later ported to the iQue Player in China in 2004. F-Zero X was re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan, Europe and in North America, in 2007. To honor the 100th Virtual Console release in Europe, it was made available there on June 15, 2007.
F-Zero X is the second 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.
Critics generally praised F-Zero X for its fast gameplay, abundance of courses and vehicles, track design, and maintaining a high framerate. However, the game has been widely criticized for its lack of graphical detail. In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.
F-Zero X is a futuristic racing video game where thirty pilots race on circuits inside plasma-powered hovercars in an intergalactic Grand Prix at speeds that can reach 1500 km/h. 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. The game can be used with a Rumble Pak, which allows for force feedback.
A normal race in F-Zero X consists of three laps around the track. Each machine has an energy meter, which serves two purposes. Firstly 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. Secondly it is a boost meter used for manually boosting in the second and third laps of the race. If the player has a "spare machine"—the equivalent of an extra life—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. 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 has five different modes of gameplay: Grand Prix, Practice, Time Trial, Death Race and Vs. Battle. 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 four difficulty levels, with three available at the start: Novice, Standard, Expert, and Master. 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, four of which 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 through highly complex and intricate up to those which throw all the cars off the track 
The first course in the Joker Cup, Rainbow Road (subtitled "Psychedelic Experience"), is the very same Rainbow Road track featured in Mario Kart 64, with a different ambiance to match the whole F-Zero setting and the lack of guard rails. In addition, when played with the F-Zero X Expansion Kit, the background music will change to a hard rock arrangement 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. 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. According to GameSpot, 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. The game is programmed with "64DD hooks", which allow it to detect whether the Nintendo 64DD is connected or compatible software is being used. This allows 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. Due to compression, the game features monaural music tracks, but ambient effects are generated with stereo sound effects. Two soundtracks were released featuring music from this game onto CD. 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 produced by Ryuichi Katsumata. Both the original soundtrack and the guitar arrangement are composed by Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai.
|F-Zero X Original Soundtrack tracklist|
15. "Goal Fanfare" - 0:10
|F-Zero X Guitar Arrange Edition tracklist|
6. "Climb Up! And Get the Last Chance!" - 4:26
Overall, critical reception of F-Zero X was positive; the game has an aggregate average of 86.93% based on 15 reviews at Game Rankings, and a metascore of 85 at Metacritic. Critics generally praised F-Zero X for its fast gameplay, abundance of courses and vehicles, keeping a high framerate with 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. Peer Schneider of IGN considered the game to rival Wave Race with its "perfectly fine-tuned controls and a fresh approach to racing". The title received Game of the Month for November 1998 from Electronic Gaming Monthly. An editor stated "the graphics may be simple, but they're smooth and the action is fast".
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 "particularly uninspiring" and saying that the "track detail is also very limited, giving the track a spartan feel to it". 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 simulation of speed in the game, but the reviewer commented "I wouldn't in a million years buy music like this to listen to".
In GameSpot's retrospective review, 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". IGN described F-Zero X as an exceptional update to the original game that "only suffers under its generic look". Peer Schneider believed that unlike the first game, F-Zero X "is not about showing off graphics or sound capabilities -- it's all about gameplay".
F-Zero X sold 383,642 units in North America and 97,684 units in Japan. The game sold 56,457 copies during its first week of sale in Japan, but sold nearly five times less the following week due to the N64 having a small dedicated fanbase.
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. Since the Expansion Kit has a larger amount of storage than the original cartridge, it includes new soundtracks in stereophonic sound 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. IGN singled out the track creator 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 to 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.
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The steep decline in sales is indicative of Nintendo's problems in Japan. Any release is anticipated by the small, but faithful number of N64 owners, who will buy the game on the day it comes out... F-Zero X sold little more than 11,000 copies last week, as opposed to almost five times as much in its opening weekend.
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