Jonny started playing this game with mixed emotions...and he’s still not sure what to think. Read his full review for an explanation.
It’s hard for me to review F-Zero: Maximum Velocity. I’m tempted to compare it to the original F-Zero and point out all the flaws and shortcomings, but that wouldn’t necessarily be fair; MV adds some great new things to the old formula and is in many ways an entirely different game anyway. Part of me hates the game for being so hard, and part of me loves it for the very same reason. However, I do entirely believe that Maximum Velocity is an extremely hardcore game that, despite being released by Nintendo itself at launch, is appropriate for a relatively small portion of GBA owners.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: this game is hard. Extremely hard. Only the most skilled, devoted, hardcore, insane players will be able to clear every cup on Expert and Master difficulty levels. This sick amount of challenge is a double-bladed sword any way you look at it. Maximum Velocity is definitely not a game you’ll beat within a few days...at the same time, the difficulty limits how much of the game normal players will experience, and how much they will enjoy what they can access.
With that said, I have some issues with how the challenge is implemented. It stands to reason that the computer AI will get better at higher difficulty levels. This is true in MV; however, a lot of other things happen which I feel takes away from the game’s racing purity. Expert and Master races could be described less as “high-speed twitch racing” and more like “try not to get nudged in the ass”. The CPU racers don’t just get better, they get meaner, often to the point where they don’t seem to care about winning, just as long as you lose. Their vehicles also get tons of speed upgrades, while you get nothing. I don’t understand why Nintendo couldn’t have included a way to purchase handling and speed upgrades or something. There’s also another problem inherent in this situation: your favorite car could very well become useless at the Master level. For instance, I’m a huge fan of “Wind Walker”. It turns on a dime and has good acceleration and boost length. However, its top speed is average-to-low, and when all the AI hovercraft suddenly get huge stat boosts with no loss in handling or anything else, the Wind Walker becomes obsolete, and I’m forced to switch over to a different vehicle, which I can’t control to save my life.
There are some good things to say about the learning curve though. At least through the Expert difficulty level, you can get by with any vehicle you choose, as long as you’re skilled in its use. The game isn’t so hard that you feel like you can’t progress, but it’s hard enough that you feel challenged and provoked to get better and keep going. The clever AI will always keep races tight, providing for many memorable, incredibly intense finishes. It is those moments that Maximum Velocity truly shines.
The game is no slouch in other areas, although the gameplay and challenge easily dwarf other topics of discussion. MV’s graphics engine is slick and very fast. The GBA’s sprite-scaling and rotation effects are put to good use, and they do a lot to differentiate this game from its SNES predecessor, which didn’t have the luxury of such features. The sound effects are some of the best I’ve ever heard in a handheld game, particularly the “swoosh” of other cars passing from one side to the other after a race. Wear headphones and be bathed in stereo separation. The music is fast-paced, well suited for the gameplay, and nice enough to listen to, but it’s not even close to the original F-Zero’s unforgettable guitar riffs and techno beats.
If you’re the type of gamer who latches onto really difficult games and obsesses until you’ve mastered them, you’re going to love Maximum Velocity. This game is hardcore beyond belief. It’s also a lot of fun for more casual racing fans and those of us who loved the original game, but a five-day rental is probably enough to get you to the Master races, which you’ll attempt and then give up on.