F-Zero is one VERY challenging game but it is also lots of fun. After a few hard won victories from a handful of intense races, PGC’s Editor-in-Chief has emerged to give his Maximum Velocity impressions.
I love F-Zero. I won’t go into the love too heavily here but the first time I saw and played F-Zero on SNES I knew I had to have one of those systems and that “futuristic racing” game was a big part of the reason why. Years later, when F-Zero X was released in Japan, I quickly imported it and it remains one of my most re-visited N64 titles to date.
After finally getting a hold of F-Zero Maximum Velocity for GBA, I’ve come to the conclusion that the game is different from previous F-Zeros while being still very “F-Zero” at heart and is overall awesome. The graphics look about as good (and actually quite better) than the original F-Zero on SNES. The vehicles look great and the backgrounds are quite colorful and detailed. The music is another real highpoint and is very reminiscent in style to the tunes of the first F-Zero with all kinds of great “old school”-ish riffs.
How is it different from previous F-Zeros you ask? It’s trickier for one thing. Whereas other F-Zeros were all about cruising at top speed and sharp turns, you now must take turns more carefully. Essentially, you’ll have to let off the accelerator, slide in the right direction at the right time and then start hitting the accelerator again. It makes for a lot of button tapping but after a few defeats and lots of practice, you will get the hang of it.
Not only is the control different, other difficulties also work to make Maximum Velocity more challenging than the previous games. The first track alone features conveyer belts, a ramp and several bordering surfaces that will slow you down if you drive over them. Later tracks have obstacles such as massive ice sheets and landmines that explode into bubbling pools of radioactive tar when you hit them. (Ouch!) This is just stuff you find on the tracks too. The actual turns are sharper and as you progress, get crazier and crazier. This being a GBA game, there are no 3D loops or “staircase” tracks but I wasn’t expecting anything like this. The track design makes up for it though, with all kinds of insane layouts.
Another throwback to the original F-Zero is the return of “drone” cars that litter the path to the finish line. These vehicles move slower and bobble around the track, making it all too easy to crash into them. I haven’t run into any exploding ones yet but they are still mighty annoying and can cause you to lose power or your place in the race.
Speaking of power, it’s easier to lose, harder to regain. The energy bars to recharge you are shorter and increasingly out of the way. This creates a problem as all the added challenges make finishing a race quite perilous. There were several times where I had been leading but ended up blowing up late into the race because tracks are just so brutal. As your craft loses energy, it starts crackling, sputtering and… worst of all, slows down considerably. It sucks when it happens, but it is a very nice touch to the game.
There are boosts and they work like the first F-Zero. After each lap, you get one boost, which can be activated anytime (by hitting both L & R simultaneously) though it you trigger it at the wrong time, you’ll bounce off the walls like a pinball. This happened to me accidentally after a few series of tight turns, a couple of times but I have learned to be more careful. Hitting boosts at the right time can make all the difference in the world.
F-Zero Maximum Velocity is hard from the get-go and only gets tougher but is challenging without being too frustrating. You will find yourself coming back time and again to try a track. Since the system is portable, the challenge provides a very welcome amount of replay.
I’m playing the heck out of this sucker and loving it. Look for a full review soon.