Review by Tom Clark

Reviewed: 10/22/01 | Updated: 03/13/02

Vroom VROOM!

The Game Boy and Game Boy Color were never really renowned for their racing games. The limited power of the machines was more sorted to (seemingly endless) platform games than anything else. The arrival of the Game Boy Advance is hoping to redress that balance. The greater power of Ninty's latest handheld sees the advent of portable FPS games, and of portable racing games that are actually quite good. Which brings us in a nice roundabout way, to F-Zero: Maximum Velocity.

While it never reached the fame of the Mario or Zelda games, F-Zero still remains one of Nintendo's foremost franchises, and this, the series' third outing, does nothing to change that. For the uneducated, F-Zero is a racing game that features hover-cars instead of the four or two wheeled flavour of vehicle. Set in the future, the basic concept is that F-Zero racing is a high-pay, high-octane and high-risk pursuit. Long story short: you pelt around tracks that hover far above the planet-scapes at breakneck speed hoping to win the ultimate accolade of being an F-Zero champion. All right, so plot isn't this game's strong point, but what do you expect? It's a racing game!

And a pretty darned good racing game at that. The tracks are varied and distinctive, and contain the usual stereotypes (icy tracks, lava [in this case caused by detonated mines] etc.) although they are presented with such style that this game seems fresh and exciting. In fact, most of the special features available in the game are rather clichéd - you collect a speed boost that lasts for a few seconds at the end of each lap, you can unlock better vehicles..... Perhaps it's because portable racing games are relatively new (although there are so many cropping up on the GBA at the moment that this is in danger of changing quite rapidly), or maybe it's just the overall quality of the game, but F-Zero manages to stand up above it's lack of originality and seem bold and different while you play it. Indeed, it is only when you stop playing that you realise how standard all it's features are.

The game contains all the graphical and aural features you would expect from one of the first wave of GBA games. It runs at an occasionally eye-blistering pace without any pop-up or slowdown, and unlike many portable games I didn't mind having the music at full volume while playing the game. Gone are the days of portable games having the stereotypical electronic beeps that passed for 'music'. The sounds here would rival anything that the SNES or Mega Drive had to offer.

The control, too, is fluid and responsive, and makes good use of the GBA's two extra buttons. This game really does everything it can in order to show off the power of the new machine.

However, the Advance has been with us several months now, and the wow factor has been lessened somewhat. Had I reviewed this game at the time of it's release I would have probably given it a higher score, thinking it was the most incredible thing on a portable ever, but I've seen the tricks the GBA can pull, and without the amazement factor the gameplay is all that is left. Thankfully F-Zero has that in spades. This game won't last you for months - it starts to feel repetetive after a few weeks, and once the novelty of a handheld F-Zero game wears off it starts to collect dust rather rapidly, but while it lasts it is very addictive. So this game was perhaps just Nintendo's way of showing off with their new machine. Thankfully, it was a fun way to show off.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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