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Retro Review Weekly: F-Zero X + Expansion Kit for Nintendo 64/64DD

December 30, 2018
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Welcome to Retro Review Weekly, the series where I review a retro game weekly. It’s so stuck in the past that we’ll have to wait until goo-gone is invented before we can get back out of it.

The Nintendo 64 was the top underdog back in the Clinton years. The PS1 dwarfed every other console of the fifth generation in terms of sales, but the N64 was the only one that had any kind of identity outside of Sony’s juggernaut. Ask Joe Whatsagame what an N64 is, and you have a pretty good chance of getting an answer. Ask Joe about the Sega Saturn, 3DO, or Atari Jaguar, and you’ll get a few confused looks. Nintendo maintained popularity through a colorful assortment of first party offerings that challenged what cartridges could do. F-Zero X was one of Nintendo’s best arguments for Sony customers to come back to them. Not only was it a sequel to an SNES favorite, but it showed that the N64 could keep up with (and even surpass) the PS1 on a technical level. It’s undoubtedly one of the N64’s aces in the console war hole.

 

F-Zero X isn’t a complicated game. It’s a racing game on anti-gravity tracks, so it’s possible to not turn hard enough on a curve and go flying off, or ditto for loops. The most unique mechanic is the boost system. After you complete a lap, your health bar turns green and now doubles as a boost meter. You’ll more than likely need to boost at some point, so it becomes a game of comparing how much health you can afford to knock off versus how far ahead you can get. It’s pretty much the same concept of the SNES game, but with a few new modes and more cars to choose. But what makes this game even more impressive is what’s going on under the hood. The game maintains a rock solid 60FPS, admittedly at the sacrifice of higher quality textures. They don’t look bad at all, just a bit basic. The music is a jamming rock soundtrack, something thought to be impractical on the limited space of the average N64 cart. The art is in a hand drawn comic book style, which again, shows that the N64 could display such images without the use of a CD. It all comes together in one great up-to-four player experience that’s both difficult to master and equally fun to do so.

 

F-Zero X is a classic on it’s own, but there’s actually a little more to this game than most people know about. About a year or so after the release of F-Zero X, Japan got an updated expansion called “F-Zero X Expansion Kit”. This was released for the Nintendo 64DD, a little known add on to the console with only a handful of games. F-Zero X was the sole survivor of dozens of planned expansions to cartridge games, including The Legend Of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Pokemon Stadium, and Mario Party. It’s a crying shame so few have played the DD expansion to this game, because it’s the definitive way to experience F-Zero X. It adds two new cups titled “DD-1” and “DD-2”, each with six brand new courses. There’s a car edit feature where you can Frankenstein a car from pre-existing parts, colors, and customizable stats. But the meat and potatoes is the course creator. You can design your own track with an extremely advanced, simple to use interface that is similar to what the developers used to create the original courses. You can create whatever free form tracks you want, with whatever music, backgrounds, and assets the game has to offer. You can save up to six courses for your own special “Edit Cup”. This ramps up the replay value to 11, if you are the creative type. Even if you’re not, it’s easy enough to use to where you can at least make a circle with your own choice of music and skyline. Either way, it’s nothing short of tragic that an authentic, hundreds of dollars 64DD is the only way you can experience this joy yourself.

Without the expansion disk, F-Zero X is awesome. It is a tech demo in a lot of ways, but never does it feel like one, which is part of why it’s still a classic today. It has an identity that resonates with fans even now, 20 years after its debut. With the disk, it’s quality elevates. The lasting appeal of the game triples when you have practically unlimited courses to play and create. It’s like if New Super Mario Bros. U got DLC in the form of Super Mario Maker. The core game hasn’t changed at all, just adds theoretically infinite replayablity. I wouldn’t say it’s worth the hundreds of dollars to play, as few things are worth that much money, but I would say F-Zero X is a better game with it. Either way, you’re in for a treat.

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HautDeForme is a collector, a self proclaimed historian, and most of all, a player of video games. When he’s not writing about that, you can find him writing music for no particular reason and advocating for the localization of Mother 3, whether people listen or not.

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HautDeForme

HautDeForme is a collector, a self proclaimed historian, and most of all, a player of video games. When he's not writing about that, you can find him writing music for no particular reason and advocating for the localization of Mother 3, whether people listen or not.

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