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F-Zero X

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F-Zero X
Numerous hovercars race on a thin straightaway toward the viewer, with "F-Zero X" in stylized capitals above.
North American box art
Developer(s)Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s)Nintendo
Director(s)Tadashi Sugiyama
Producer(s)Shigeru Miyamoto
Artist(s)Takaya Imamura
Composer(s)
  • Taro Bando
  • Hajime Wakai
SeriesF-Zero
Platform(s)Nintendo 64
Release
  • JP: July 14, 1998
  • NA: October 26, 1998
  • EU: November 6, 1998
Genre(s)Racing
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

F-Zero X[a] is a futuristic racing video game for the Nintendo 64 console. Developed by Nintendo's EAD division, it was released in Japan, North America, and Europe in 1998. In 2000, the Expansion Kit was released in Japan, including a track and vehicle editor. The original game was ported in 2004 to the iQue Player in China. It had Virtual Console re-releases on the Wii in 2007 and the Wii U around nine years later. On March 11, 2022, the game was re-released on Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, featuring online multiplayer.

It is a sequel to the original F-Zero (1990), and is the first F-Zero installment with 3D graphics. The game has a steep learning curve and its gameplay experience is similar to that of the original. F-Zero X introduced the ability to attack other racers, a Death Race mode, and a random track generator called the "X Cup". In the Death Race, the player's objective is to rapidly annihilate or pass the 29 other racers, and the X-Cup generates 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, although it has been widely criticized for its lack of graphical detail.

Gameplay[edit]

Hovercars navigate through a giant pipe in a course. Around the edge of the frame are two-dimensional icons relaying game information.
Graphical detail is sacrificed to keep the game at a stable 60 frames per second (FPS).[1]

F-Zero X is a fast-paced futuristic racing video game where 30 competitors race on high-altitude circuits inside plasma-powered hovercars in an intergalactic Grand Prix.[2][3]: 4  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.[3]: 5  The tracks include hills, loops, tunnels, corkscrews, and pipes.[4] Players can drift into turns without losing momentum[1] by using the control stick and trigger button.[5] The game introduces 26 new vehicles, and reprises the 4 from the original F-Zero game.[6] Each has its own performance abilities affected by its size and weight, and a grip, boost, and durability trait graded on an A to E (best to worst) scale.[3]: 8  Before a race, players are able to adjust a vehicle's balance between maximum acceleration and maximum top speed.[7]

Each machine's energy meter measures the machine's health and is decreased, for example, when the machine hits another racer or the side of the track.[3] This is also a boost meter for manually boosting, usually starting with the second lap of a race.[3]: 10 [8] Energy can be replenished by driving over recharge strips,[3]: 13  located at various points around the track. The game introduces the ability to attack other racers with either a side or spin attack.[1][9] Dash plates in various locations give a speed boost without using any energy.[10] Courses may have obstacles that reduce speed and traps that launch vehicles into the air, reducing its energy. 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 can be restarted. Players get an additional spare machine for every 5 contenders eliminated.[3]: 13 

Race modes[edit]

F-Zero X has 5 different gameplay modes: GP (Grand Prix) Race, Practice, Time Attack, Death Race, and VS Battle.[1] In GP Race, the player races against 29 opponents through 3 laps of each track in a cup.[3]: 7  Players get a certain number of points for finishing a track depending on where they placed, and the winner of the cup is the character who receives the most total points.[3]: 12  Each cup has 4 selectable difficulty levels: Novice, Standard, Expert,[3]: 7  and Master.[11] The higher the difficulty level selected, the tougher the opponents, and less spare machines the player starts with.[3]: 7, 13  Furthermore, the 3 cups initially available are ordered by increasing difficulty (Jack, Queen, and King respectively) and have 6 tracks each.[1] Eventually, the player can unlock the Joker Cup with its set of 6 tracks,[11] followed by the X Cup.[1] The X Cup is a set of 6 randomly generated tracks every time played.[11] The randomized track elements lack loops and can be simplistic, but others are intricate.[1]

Practice mode demonstrates any track with opponents.[3]: 11  Time Attack lets the player choose a track and complete a 3-lap race in the shortest time possible. Transparent re-enactments of Time Attack performances, allow racing against ghost racers, recorded by the player or game developer. Up to 3 player-contributed ghosts can be raced against simultaneously, but only 1 can be saved per track.[3]: 14–15  Death Race has the player annihilating the 29 other racers as speedily as possible on a specialized course.[1] There is no selectable difficulty level, or set number of laps, but the boost is immediately available.[3]: 17  Vs. Battle is the multiplayer mode where 2 to 4 players compete in a 3-lap race, and slots not in use by players can be operated by the artificial intelligence.[3]: 18  A slot machine for those out of the race early will appear if the option is enabled. Players can adversely affect the energy levels of those still competing by matching symbols.[1]

Development and release[edit]

[I]t's not possible to measure how fast your car can go in [F-Zero X], but it's possibly about 1,000 kilometers per hour — possibly the fastest racing game ever for a home system.

— Producer Shigeru Miyamoto, 1997[12]

In mid-1996, during Mario Kart 64 development, Shigeru Miyamoto said he planned a sequel to F-Zero for the Nintendo 64.[13][14] Initially titled "F-Zero 64", Famitsu magazine revealed the project in mid-1997.[15] Tadashi Sugiyama and Shigeru Miyamoto served as director and producer, respectively. Taro Bando and Hajime Wakai served as composers.[16] Several key Wave Race 64 programmers including the lead programmer made up the in-house development team.[1] Developed by Nintendo EAD,[17] it is a sequel to the original F-Zero (1990),[15] and is the first F-Zero installment with 3D graphics.[17] The game debuted at the Nintendo Space World event on November 20, 1997, publicly playable for the first time.[18][19] IGN reported this version was 60% complete and consistently ran at 60 frames per second. That frame rate goal required developers to minimize background detail, texture detail, and polygon count on vehicles which reduce as they pass. They noted that "[tracks] hide most of the limited backgrounds with their girth and undulating nature which block out almost everything else."[18] Fogging effects are used to hide background shortcomings such as where the sky and ground meet.[7]

The soundtrack includes remixes from its predecessor.[20] The ROM cartridge size necessitated data-saving optimizations,[citation needed] including a half-sized monaural soundtrack and real-time stereo ambient effects.[1] Some of its music is included in two soundtrack CDs. The F-Zero X Original Soundtrack was released on September 18, 1998, with 29 musical tracks.[21] The F-Zero X Guitar Arrange Edition was released on January 27, 1999, with ten guitar arrangements.[22] The game was released in Japan on July 14, 1998,[2] but its North American release suffered a three-month delay due to Nintendo's policy of evenly spacing the release of first-party games.[1][23] It was released in North America on October 26,[24] in Europe on November 6,[5] and in China for the iQue Player on February 25, 2004.[25] It was re-released on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console in 2007[26][27] and around 2016,[28] respectively. This was Europe's 100th Wii Virtual Console game.[29] A March 2022 re-release to Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack members has a 2 to 4-person online multiplayer mode.[30]

Critical reception[edit]

Critical reception of F-Zero X was overall positive. The game has an aggregate average of 87.61% based on 15 reviews at GameRankings, and a metascore of 85 at Metacritic.[31][32] Critics generally praised 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.[40] However, the lack of graphical detail has been widely criticized.[32] Peer Schneider of IGN described the gameplay as "god-like", "hair-splitting" speed;[7][41] and he considered the game to rival its predecessor Wave Race 64 with its "perfectly fine-tuned controls and a fresh approach to racing".[1] It received the Game of the Month award for November 1998 from Electronic Gaming Monthly. An editor stated "the graphics may be simple, but they're smooth and the action is fast".[20]

Next Generation stated that "From the rocking guitar tunes (courtesy of the same composer who created the original's music) to the insanely addictive Grand Prix races, the game is a blast."[37]

Allgame described the graphical detail as "certainly not up to Nintendo's usual standards".[24] GameSpot criticized 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".[10] Although the optimizations are strict, critics exalted the steady rate of 60 frames per second, which some thought made up for the lack of graphical detail with little room for improvement.[1][7][24] 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".[38] 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.[10]

EGM considered the music "really good with some excellent remixes of the old F-Zero tunes",[20] and CVG called the music dreadful.[42] The Electric Playground said it goes hand-in-hand to the simulation of speed in the game, but that "I wouldn't in a million years buy music like this to listen to".[38] GameSpot's retrospective review gave it 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".[43] IGN described it as an exceptional update to the original game that "only suffers under its generic look". Peer Schneider believed that unlike the original, it "is not about showing off graphics or sound capabilities—it's all about gameplay".[1]

In 2009, Official Nintendo Magazine praised the game, ranking it 39th on a list of greatest Nintendo games.[44]

Nintendo sold 383,642 units of F-Zero X in North America and 97,684 units in Japan.[45][46] In its first week of sale in Japan, 56,457 copies were sold,[47] but only about one fifth of that in the following week reportedly due to the Nintendo 64 having had a small dedicated fanbase there.[48]

Expansion Kit[edit]

The Nintendo 64 with 64DD attached

The 64DD is a peripheral for the Nintendo 64, released only in Japan, and designed in part to provision cartridge games with expansions on inexpensive 64 megabyte floppy disks.[citation needed] The F-Zero X Expansion Kit is the 64DD's first expansion disk, released on April 21, 2000, in Japan.[49] It contains 12 new tracks, a machine creator, a course editor, and new stereophonic soundtracks.[4] In addition to these 2 new cups, players can create a custom cup. The disk can save up to a 100 tracks and up to 3 ghost data per course. IGN singled out the course editor as the Expansion Kit's strongest feature because the designers used a similar tool in-house for the original circuits.[49] The machine creator's variety of options on pre-existing parts, can be used to balance the creations' settings and performance abilities, and name the machine. The course editor allows the player to design racing circuits with detailed tracks. Using a cursor, the player can determine the basic layout, and draw curves and hills. The player can add half pipes, cylinders, and numerous road surfaces, such as slip zones. The player can test the creation at any time and run practice laps.[49]

The Expansion Kit disk requires the cartridge,[4] which was programmed with "64DD hooks" to detect the 64DD and expansion disk.[50] This provisions the possibility of many disk-based expansion packs such as track editors or course updates,[1] but no more were made, and this one was not utilized outside Japan due to the 64DD's commercial failure.[49][50]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Japanese: エフゼロ エックス, Hepburn: Efu-zero Ekkusu

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Schneider, Peer; Casamassina, Matt (October 27, 1998). "F-Zero X review". IGN. Archived from the original on February 13, 2009. Retrieved May 22, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "F-Zero X Introduction" (in Japanese). Nintendo. Archived from the original on April 22, 2009. Retrieved March 7, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Instruction Booklet: F-Zero X. Redmond: Nintendo of America. October 26, 1998. NUS-CFZE-USA. Retrieved March 16, 2022 – via Internet Archive.
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  9. ^ Thomas, Lucas (June 29, 2007). "F-Zero X VC Review". IGN. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved February 6, 2015. Another addition made in X was attack maneuvers, allowing you to slam your ship sideways into the opposition or execute a 360 degree spin to deflect too-close competitors.
  10. ^ a b c d Mielke, James (August 13, 1998). "F-Zero X review". GameSpot. Archived from the original on July 12, 2007. Retrieved May 22, 2007. F-Zero X is a stunning achievement in that it's truly the first racing game that runs at a brisk 60 frames per second, even in multiplayer.
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  13. ^ "N64 Top 10 List". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 85. Ziff Davis. August 1996. p. 17.
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  48. ^ IGN Staff (August 7, 1998). "F-Zero X Sales Plummet In Japan". IGN. Archived from the original on March 14, 2006. Retrieved August 8, 2007. 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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