Boxed Away: An F-Zero GX Retrospective
For a company with such an impeccably rich back catalogue, Nintendo is often surprisingly hesitant to delve into it. Sure, the classic titles from the NES and SNES library have received 347 ports to every system imaginable, and the N64 has seen a respectable rehash of its most renowned hits, but one system seems to be regularly left to the annals of history – the Nintendo GameCube.
Enter – Boxed Away:, a GameCube retrospective series.
To pay respect to the purple lunchbox, each fortnight I’m going to be taking a look back at a different GameCube game, focusing on titles that have never received a port or remaster to more recent consoles. The GameCube library has countless forgotten masterpieces, as well as plenty of oddities and hidden gems, and unless it featured Zelda it’s probably still stuck there. Heck, even Mario’s only outing still took almost two decades to get another look.
It’s unclear when or if we will ever see Gamecube games released via Nintendo Switch online, some type of Virtual Console or maybe even a Mini-Classic release, so in the meantime, we’re going to talk about them until Nintendo remembers they exist.
There’s no better place to start than the granddaddy of all GameCube titles lost to history. The list of neglected Nintendo franchises includes illustrious members such as Advance Wars, Wario Land, Earthbound and many others, but perhaps none hurt more than F-Zero and its most recent console entry F-Zero GX.
Why? Because this game slapped so hard.
F-Zero GX remains something truly special to this day. Released towards the end of 2003, this white-knuckle thrill ride was the love child of a burgeoning relationship between Nintendo and Sega. Developed by then-Sega subsidiary Amusement Vision, who was responsible for the Super Monkey Ball series (which you can be sure we will cover in a future article), it featured insanely fast arcade racing action which remains unrivalled by anything in the hovercraft racing space.
The sense of speed they managed to achieve here is unparalleled. Everything moves at a blistering pace that requires a sharp recollection of track layouts and ninja-like reflexes to successfully manage. In Grand-Prix mode you’ll be up against 29 other races, and despite the insanity, the framerate holds at a miraculous 60fps with nary a hitch. Amusement Vision was undoubtedly capable of some otherworldly sort of magic, and it still looks gorgeous in 2021.
One lap around the track moves fast enough but hit lap two and the tantalising “you’ve got boost power!” will be ringing through your ears as you slam on the boost and start to tear around the track at breakneck speeds. The speed at which you are driving with boost activated makes the zips around the tracks in titles such as WipeOut or FAST Racing NEO look like 50cc Mario Kart in comparison.
The fact that your boost and shield are pulled from the same energy bar adds another level of tension to each nail-biting race. You’ll want to throttle the boost to get ahead of the pack but push it too far and you’re one bump away from burning out. Those moments where you just need to not touch any walls until you can hit the next energy strip never lose any intensity despite their frequency.
It all works so well thanks to the precision controls. Each vehicle controls so satisfyingly with a solid heft but incredible manoeuvrability. The implementation of air-breaks using the triggers allowed some added drift as you flew through the crowded tracks. Attacking moves such as the ram and spins were also perfect for chicanes and hairpin turns. Despite the speed, every movement was so responsive that you always felt in perfect control.
Special mention should also go to the tracks, which feature all manner of crazy twists, turns, and drops, as well as some beautiful scenery to boot. It’s all rounded out by a banging soundtrack featuring outstanding original techno tracks and some excellent remixes of classic F-Zero tunes. The entire thing is truly a delight for the senses.
It was also pretty bonkers. Alongside the Grand-Prix mode is an inventive Story mode, filled with some wonderfully camp CG cutscenes featuring the colourful whacky characters that inhabit the F-Zero universe. Across nine chapters Captain Falcon faces some crazy scenarios including the memorable task of racing Samurai Goro through a canyon whilst dodging a cavalcade of falling boulders. It was also tough as nails, providing a serious challenge for those wanting to see the story through to the end.
I absolutely adored this game, and regularly dig it out for a playthrough with friends. It’s a tragedy that it remains trapped on one of Nintendo’s worst-selling systems with no easy means of access for anyone who missed out the first time around. Given the game’s lacklustre sales numbers and Miyamoto’s seeming reluctance to create another entry in the series, it seems unlikely that we’ll get a new entry anytime soon. Sure, there was an F-Zero minigame in NintendoLand, but that also had a Balloon Trip minigame and I don’t see that getting a revival either. Fans have had to satiate their hunger with a tribute track in Mario Kart 8, but it’s of little consolation given what’s being left to the history books.
F-Zero GX is undoubtedly the poster child for lost GameCube games. Hopefully, whenever Nintendo finally decides to shower some GameCube love upon us in one form another, this game will be right there alongside it. It truly deserves it.
Do you have a suggestion of a GameCube game you’d like to see us look back at next? Drop a comment and let us know!