We've got impressions of the first playable F-Zero demo, from the World Hobby Fair in Japan!
At the 17th World Hobby Fair (Jan. 25 - 26 in Tokyo), F-Zero GC was in playable form, but before I start on my impressions of the game, first the details. F-Zero GC is scheduled for this May in Japan. F-Zero AC still does not have a release date in the arcades. When asked whether F-Zero GC will support the GBA connection in anyway, the representative answered, "not at the present moment."
The version playable at the World Hobby Fair had seven modes. Two of them were Single Race and Versus. The rest were not unlocked. There were four tracks to choose from: Mute City - Twist Road, Port Town - Long Pipe, Green Plant - Intersection, and Port Town - Aerial Dive. Four crafts and drivers were available for play. These include Blue Falcon (Captain Falcon), Wild Goose (Pico), Golden Fox (Dr. Stewart), and Fire Stingray (Samurai Goroh).
After watching the footage released last year, though the graphics were spectacular, I still had some doubts especially with Sega handling the development. In particular, the control seemed a bit loose from the footage. However, after waiting two hours in line, Sega has put my doubts away.
For F-Zero fans, the handling of your craft feels just like its N64 predecessor. The controls are modified for the Cube controller, but it remains intuitive, and takes almost no time to adapt. Here is the controller setup:
A button - accelerate
B button - brake
X button - side attack
Y button - boost
Z button - spin attack
L / R trigger - moving the center of mass
Control Pad - change view
Before each race, like before you can adjust the handling (faster acceleration versus top speed) to adapt to each course. Rules are still the same - three laps, boosts are available after the first lap, and pit stops restore you energy.
In short, F-Zero GC is F-Zero X with a major visual upgrade. Besides the electrified boosts, the most noticeable thing is the backdrops and surroundings. First of all, they are a treat to look at, but more importantly the complement the speed and physics of the game. In the N64 version, for example, sometimes you do not fully feel like you are upside down or performing a loop. In F-Zero GC, you will clearly see that you are reversed with the buildings and structures upside down. Most of the tracks are designed so that it is like controlling a roller coaster. There are rises in the track that will make you anticipate what is coming next - a sharp descent or a jump. You still compete with 29 other racers all at once and I did not witness any slow down. The 2 player versus mode features a vertical split screen, and that too seemed to run flawlessly.
Mute City was the beginner track and featured futuristic landscapes with plenty of holograms. The Twist Road of Port Town was the classic tube with obstacles inside and lots of bumps taking place in a space station. The Aerial Dive of the Port Town was the hardest course available featuring many gaps and jumps. Perhaps the most interesting course was the Green Plant located in a forest. The Sega touch was apparent with the luscious scenery of trees and the occasional glare from the sun: it was like watching Blue Falcon racing in a course from Daytona USA in the arcades.
The game cannot be called revolutionary, at least from what I've seen and played. Just like how Super Mario Sunshine was a proper upgrade of Super Mario 64, F-Zero GC seems to be an evolution of its N64 predecessor. Although it is jointly developed with Sega, the game still holds on to its F-Zero roots. F-Zero fans will not be disappointed this May.