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F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

Review By: Jared Black

Developer:   Nintendo
Publisher:   Nintendo
# of Players:   1-4 (Link Cable)
Genre:   Racing
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   6-11-01

After the original F-Zero was released alongside the launch of the SNES, gamers the world over became addicted to its fast-pace, great Mode-7 special effects, futuristic music, and finely tuned gameplay. For years SNES owners screamed for a sequel, but unfortunately that never happened (except in Japan). With the release of the N64, fans of the original once again clamored for a sequel, and this time Nintendo delivered F-Zero X. While it was a great game, a lot of old-skool gamers still complained that it didnít really capture the feel of the original SNES version. Well, F-Zero has once again launched alongside a Nintendo system, this time on the GBA. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity has arrived, and itís finally the sequel (albeit in portable form) old-skoolers have been clamoring for.

Essentially, F-Zero: Maximum Velocity plays like a souped-up version of the original F-Zero. In the default control configuration, the "A" button controls your acceleration, the "B" button controls breaking, the "L" and "R" buttons control drifting, and pressing both the "L" and "R" buttons together utilizes your speed boost (one awarded after each lap). There are several different control schemes to choose from, so you should be able to find a configuration that suits your style.

At its core, gameplay is still driven by two main forces: insane speed and your energy meter. Your energy meter represents how much energy your hovercraft has remaining, and will be depleted every time you hit an obstacle, wall, or computer driver. Just like the original, youíll be able to refill your energy meter some by driving over a power bar (this time itís solid green instead of pink stripes). If your energy is totally depleted, you explode and the race is over. Naturally, the sheer speed of the gameplay will make this difficult to avoid.

The track design is really well done. It does away with the corkscrews and tubes of F-Zero X, and reverts back to the flat-track design found on the SNES. This isnít a bad thing, as you still have to deal with numerous obstacles such as ramps, land mines, circles that send you spinning along the track, the walls themselves (which are electrified), other computer drivers, and more. These obstacles are strategically placed along the track, and will push your driving skills to the limit. Combine the insane speed with excellent track design, and youíre in for quite a challenge.

Although it plays mostly like its SNES predecessor, a couple of things have been tweaked in its move to the GBA. First, the point system has been done away with. It really served no purpose in the first F-Zero (you were awarded points based on what place you were in after each lap), so thereís less cluttering the screen now. Secondly, the control scheme feels a bit looser. While this may be due simply to the system itís on (you move the screen as you move the GBA), it nevertheless makes it more difficult to get a grip on the controls. As you unlock additional cars however, youíll surely find one youíre comfortable with. Finally, the A.I. has been significantly upgraded. Computer-controlled racers now react much more intelligently, even going so far as to intentionally bang you in the air in hopes that youíll be knocked off-course and crash on the planetís surface below. Unfortunately, the A.I. now seems to be too good, as it will often cheat by artificially keeping the race close. When the player is in first place, even running a perfect race wonít distance themselves from the rest of the drivers. When the player is trailing, itís often easier to catch up then it should be. While this is good in a way (it keeps the race competitive), Iíd rather just have an accurate portrayal of how well I raced.

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