F-Zero X Review – Definitive 50 N64 Game #20

The list so far: The Definitive 50 N64 Games

Every Nintendo 64 features an Extension port underneath for a very specific purpose – the 64DD – a disc-drive add-on intended to answer competitor’s larger CD-based media. It doesn’t give the system the ability to play normal CDs, but rather proprietary 64MB disks.

These disks could work on their own, or as expansions to regular cartridge games – such as F-Zero X.

The original F-Zero made for a stunning demonstration of the Super Nintendo’s Mode-7 technology – and so too does F-Zero X show off its system’s capabilities. Not with more detailed graphics, but by taking full advantage of true, polygonal 3D.

F-Zero X takes players through grand spiralling tracks full of twists and turns and tubes. It’s a fully realized version of what could only be dreamed of for its predecessor.

In its time, F-Zero X was actually criticised by some for its simplistic graphics, but unlike so many other N64 games which suffer from devastatingly choppy frame rates, F-Zero X maintains a smooth 60 FPS. It may be less showy than the other super-fast futuristic racers we’ve featured on this list, but F-Zero X has also aged much better than most.

X also adds a whopping 26 more playable characters to the original game’s four. Joining Captain Falcon and Samurai Goroh are all kinds of other colourful characters and freaky aliens. Not the least of whom are the mysterious James McLeod and the suspiciously rotund, mustachioed, star belt-buckle wearing Mr. EAD. Every character has his or her own vehicle and stats, and best of all, they all hit the track with you in races.

Although the 64DD was announced before the N64’s launch, it took an eternity to develop. Ultimately, Nintendo managed to largely back away from the project. Selling the add-on only briefly, beginning in late 1999, and only in Japan. Only 10 compatible games and other software items were released for the system, despite numerous others originally being planned.

Among the handful of 64DD titles to actually release is the F-Zero X Expansion Kit. This gives the game 12 extra tracks, a car editor, and a very robust level editor as well. Ghost data can be saved, and custom cups can even be created. Of course, that experience is largely off-limits, as getting your hands on a 64DD can be a difficult and expensive process.

Never the less, F-Zero X is still stacked with quality content. The game contains four normal Grand Prix cups of 6 tracks each. An additional cup that actually allows you to race on randomly generated tracks can also be unlocked.

In addition to Grand Prix and the expected Time Trial mode, there’s also Death Race mode. Here, you take on 29 computer opponents along an endless straight-away. The idea is to bash and smash the other vehicles into oblivion with side and spin attacks.

Finally, F-Zero X also provides a VS. mode for 2 to 4 players, a welcome addition after the original F-Zero’s lack of multiplayer, but very much expected in the N64 era.

F-Zero X was followed by the fantastic F-Zero GX on GameCube and a number of GBA titles, but we sadly haven’t seen much of Captain Falcon and friends since.

Let me know what you think of F-Zero, the 64DD, and the Definitive 50 in the comments section below. Don’t forget to rate and subscribe. Check back next week for entry #19 on the Definitive 50 N64 games!