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by Nintendo


F-Zero is one of those games that I was always interested in but just never got around to playing. I never saw it on the SNES, nor did I get around to picking it up for the N64. But I wasn’t going to let myself miss it on the Game Boy Advance. I’ve loved a tight racing game ever since I plunked my first quarter into Pole Position, and a space racer makes it that much more exciting. The buzz on the game was generally pretty positive, and the screen shots looked great. I just hoped that the game would live up to its promise of speed. F-Zero is everything the box promises. It’s a fast-paced space race that keeps you on your toes.

I’ve been playing so many cart racer games lately that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to win or lose a game based on how well I corner. I like games that take a little bit of skill and finesse. I never feel like I’m getting my money’s worth when I’m able to master a race game in one or two laps. The controls on F-Zero take some time, but once you’ve got them down they feel tight and responsive. I also appreciated the noticeable differences in the handling of different vehicles. I hate it when they dress up the same car in different colors. Choosing different racers makes for a different game.

The tracks take work to learn, and you need to anticipate turns well in advance to make the most of the race. Collision damage in the game also ups the ante for racing the perfect race. Run into the curbs or your opponents too much, and the game ends. This may sound funny, but it felt good to be held accountable for sloppy driving. Too many games let you get away with too much. In this age of first person shooters, it is usually enough to be pointing your gun in the general direction of the target. F-Zero doesn’t let you get away with a casual run around the track.

Not only is the gameplay first-rate, but this is a great looking game to boot. Of course it doesn’t compare with even last-gen systems, but I continue to be amazed at how much this little GBA can put out. Lots of opponents with nicely detailed tracks will keep you coming back for more. The detail in the actual vehicles is really impressive; I particularly liked how racers blow up.

The music and sound effects are more than serviceable. You won’t be humming to the soundtrack, but it won’t annoy you either. There are a lot of little touches in the game that add up to make it a really entertaining experience like the inclusion of a battery back up and the multiplayer capability. You can actually play up to four players off of one cartridge. Even though I knew it was coming, I’m still a little blown away by the possibility. You only get one track and no choice of vehicle, but if you’re willing to use multiple cartridges you get a little more variety and have the option of trading rankings.

Also, there are a ton of vehicles and tracks to unlock. This game will keep you coming back again and again. My only real complaint with the game is that one or two laps less per track might have quickened the pace a little. These are good-sized tracks, and some of the circuits seem to go on a little long.

This is a must have for racing fans, and for under 30 bucks, you’re not going to do much better. Gone are the days when a handheld game meant you could finish it on a Sunday drive to Grandma’s. F-Zero is all about speed that doesn’t get over too soon.

Jason Frank   (06/13/2001)


Ups: Fast-paced, challenging and good-lookin' race game

Downs: Some tracks a little long and tedious

System Reqs: Game Boy Advance


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