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[8/13/04] F-Zero GP Legend

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GAME: F-Zero Grand Prix Legend


SYSTEM: Nintendo Game Boy Advance


EMULATORS: VisualBoy Advance, vGBA, etc.




Review made from the European version

Marked shots from Gamespy; Screenshots taken using VisualBoy Advance 1.51






When the Super Nintendo launched in 1991, the most spectacular of the launch titles was easily the original F-Zero. This futuristic racer made use of Nintendo's Mode 7 programming to give the game a semi-3d feel and an incredible sense of speed. Although it lacked the depth of other launch titles like Super Mario World and Pilotwings, F-Zero was defintely more than the "Mode 7 tech demo" detractors made it out to be. What made F-Zero so revolutionary was that through Mode 7 and a number of interesting gameplay features (boosts, mines, jumps, etc.) F-Zero managed to stay exciting and escape monotony unlike many racers before it.


Nintendo turned F-Zero into a franchise in 1995 with the release (online, no less) of several Japan-only Super NES expansion packs. F-Zero X (1998, N64) followed, and with the launch of the Game Boy Advance in 2001 came the release of the dissapointing F-Zero: Maximum Velocity. While not a bad game in and of itself, Maximum Velocity was only an upgraded port of the original F-Zero. It contained many outdated gameplay elements and made little use of the GBA's power.


And now we reach 2004. With the (relative?) success of F-Zero GX on the Gamecube and the F-Zero: Falcon Densetsu anime airing in Japan, we have a new GBA F-Zero game. Luckily, it's everything both GX fans and old-schoolers could have hoped for.




Overview: F-Zero GP Legend is once again a Mode 7 racer with essentially flat tracks and hand-drawn vehicles. You still race 5 laps around futuristic tracks in your floating hovercraft, and you still have a power meter that goes down as you hit barriers, cars, or obstacles. Anyone nostalgic for the Super NES days will be instanly pleased. However, the game includes numerous features not found in the original (and Maximum Velocity) including but not limited to:


1. 30 cars per race

2. ability to damage other cars

3. game link multiplayer (also in Maximum Velocity)

4. Story mode

5. more modern power-for-speed boost system.


Just like F-Zero X, you now race against 30 other cars. Although you will rarely find yourself below 8th or 10th, this also means that the Grand Prix Mode now has a points-tally system that determines the champion over a series of races. Also taken from F-Zero X is the boost system, which lets you sacrifice power (which also goes down as you are damaged) for as much of a boost as you want. Maximum Velocity alloted you one lousy boost per lap.






Graphics and Sound: F-Zero GP Legend fundamentally still uses the graphics engine from the Super Nintendo F-Zero. The tracks are still flat (imparting some old-school charm, but it might turn off anyone who thinks Final Fantasy VII is 'old school') and the mines, jump plates, etc. still look the same, but cleaner and with more detail (backgrounds especially) thanks to the GBA's power. GP Legend runs at 60fps nonstop and gives a great sense of speed, especially compared to Maximum Velocity. The biggest change is to the racing vehicles themselves. With new sprites and artwork, the hovercrafts come across as retro-futuristic, as if they were designed by someone from the 1950's imagining the 2200's. The Blue Falcon looks like an angular Cold War-era fighter jet (now with one engine instead of four) while there is a hint of '59 Cadillac in the tail fins of the new Dragon Bird. Each machine is detalied with moving rudders, vents, etc. even more so than on the n64. The machines' exhausts take cues from F-Zero GX, with changing colors, flames ,and lightning bolt effects accompanying boosts and starts.


The sound is standard quality GBA music and effects but works well. The original F-Zero engine howl is preserved intact and sounds terrific. The background music is mostly remixed N64 tracks (which themselves were remixed from the Super NES) and the original tracks are available as well. Most are nothing special and often repetitive (especially in Story Mode), but you might find one or two stuck in your head hours later, especially if you're in the mood for old-school techno.






Control: F-Zero GP Legend preserves the basic control scheme from Maximum Velocity but adjusts it to compensate for new features. The control pad steers your hovercraft while A is the throttle and B acts as the brake. Unlike in past F-Zero games you will find yourself actually using that B button to handle sharp turns. Just like driving for real, you will find yourself having to find the outside line, turn in early, plan ahead, and accelerate out of the apex. Pulsing the throttle by rapidly the A button also helps, but is no longer a key technique (as it was in Maximum Velocity). Pressing L or R during a turn leans the vehicle to help it steer tighter, and two rapid taps on a shoulder button triggers the side side attack in the button's respective direction. Finally, ram in both L and R at the same time to boost. Various obstacles on the track, such as repair pits, jump plates, rough, land mines, and magnetic traps will all affect your machine's control, as well as the vehicle itself. In a triumph of gameplay design, each vehicle handles differently and is rated in three categories: Body, Boost, and Grip. A lightweight racer like the Twin Noritta really feels different from the heavyweight Iron Tiger. (As a general principle, lightweight machines will accelerate faster but have lower top speeds. They will also change direction faster but by the same token be more likely to skid or slip. By contrast, heavyweights will have higher top speeds and be more forgiving, even if they are not as useful in the hands of an expert.) You can also adjust each individual machine's balance for acceleration or top speed before each race.


All told, the control is intuitive but remarkably complex for a GBA game, leading to my one gripe. With so many functions to worry about while the player is dodging mines at 900kph, the developers had to get around the fact that the GBA really only has 4 buttons. Cramming three separate movements onto the shoulder triggers means that sometimes you'll end up having situations where you do the wrong motion or have to choose between two equally useful actions (such as boosting just out of the apex of a sharp turn). This only gets frustrating late in the game, and even so it doesn't destroy the experience. But you'll end up having a few obscenity-worthy moments, especially in Zero Test (see below).






Gameplay: This is where GP Legend really stands out. It has tons of features that will keep you engaged for at least 10-15 hours of play. In addition to the traditional F-Zero grand prix points race, training, and time attack modes, GP Legend also has two new modes: Story and Zero Test.


F-Zero GP Legend's story mode is based on the Japanese Falcon Densetsu anime but works well as a standalone story. In it, you take control of one of eight pilots and his or her machine and play though five or six missions, each with respective cinema cutscenes. Finishing a story mode might unlock a story for another character, a new track, or a hidden vehicle. Although the actual writing of the story is cliched at times and the soundtrack repetitive, the artwork is cool and the racing experience is still second to none.


Zero Test is rewarding but for the hardcore only. Remeber those obscenities I warned you about? They show up here in great quantities. Zero Test is a Gran-Turismo like liscense mode where you time attack certain sections of a selected track in a preselected machine. Winning unlocks new vehicles, but the gold medal times are often near impossible. Earning them requires repetition and maneuvers sometimes made difficult by the control scheme. Finally making the gold is rewarding, but may not be worth the pain and suffering for casual players.


The most rewarding aspect of GP Legend, though, is the process of earning new vehicles. 34 unique hovercraft can be played in total, and each one feels different and is beautifully animated. Stuffing 34 machines into the GBA cart is an accomplishment and a racing fan such as myself will be in heaven for days, trying to find that perfect car and its perfect balance setup. Each vehicle also has a driver whose anime-style portrait gives the hovercraft personality. This makes the game all the more exciting and stylized.






Overall, F-Zero GP Legend is great. The few minor points are barely noticeable when admiring your 34-car garage or racing through Port Town at the speed of sound. This is by far the best racing game on the GBA. It's a worthy companion to F-Zero GX and a worthier offspring of the original F-Zero. Years from now both GP Legend and the SNES original will be remembered as classics.


Control: 8.5 out of 10

Graphics: 9.5 out of 10

Gameplay: 10 out of 10

Sound: 8.5 out of 10


Overall, F-Zero GP Legend earns an 9.25 out of 10 and a grade of A, or, if you like it, a :P


Review by DarkMage479, August 13, 2004

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thanks guys, i was hoping my first review would go well


I just wish more people would reply.... :P

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