F-Zero Maximum Velocity (GBA)
A Blast From the Past.
By - Jason D'Aprile

F-Zero originally appeared on the Super Nintendo to showcase the system's pseudo-3D graphics. Far from being just a shiny tech demo, however, it was actually one of the coolest games on the system, and one of the best sci-fi racers you could get. F-Zero's Nintendo 64 revisal was another technically impressive racer that sacrificed some graphic quality for sheer overwhelming numbers of competitors. The game shoved an incredible amount of racers on the track at once, and like the original, was blisteringly fast, and incredibly fun. Now on the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo has returned to its roots with an updated version of the original SNES game, and the results are top-notch.

F-Zero (GBA)

Game Type: Racing
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Multiplayer: 2-4 players
Platform: GBA

Buy F-Zero
A direct sequel to the original, which this looks like an almost straight port of, Maximum Velocity takes place 25 years after that classic racer. The concept is simple -- pick a driver, then take to the Grand Prix circuits to try to become the best. There are 10 hovercraft to choose from, but as usual, most are locked from the start. Each craft has its own strengths and weaknesses, and these differences are quite noticeable in gameplay, so finding the right racing machine to suit your play style is imperative.

The original F-Zero was something of a finesse racer. It took lots of practice, good memorization skills, and a rather fine sense of control. On the Game Boy Advance, however, that sense of difficulty is taken to a whole new level. Even just making it through the novice circuit is a challenging task, and the middle- and upper-grade competitions are often insanely hard. There are four different world themes, each with five tracks (along with a bonus track), and each of them is brimming with hairpin curves, track obstacles and some harsh competition.

You'll need to use jumps, speed boosts, cornering breaks and power rechargers perfectly just to survive, and placing first or even second place (or at all) can be incredibly difficult. The L and R buttons are side brakes that make tight turns easier, but they also slow you down, so learning to handle your chosen hovercraft precisely and memorizing the tracks is the only way to win.

For all the frustration in the game, there's no doubt that it's a fun and slick sci-fi racer. The graphics are sharp, colorful and extremely fast, with no frame hits. The track design is harrowing, and even the audio is very well done -- fans of the SNES version will recognize the sound effects and tracks right off the bat.

Rounding the whole package out is a keen eye on multiplayer. Four players can compete thanks to the Link capabilities of the GBA, but more impressively, they can compete with only one cartridge. The downside of this is that Nintendo has only one specific track for Single-Pak links. So, if you want to race with your friends on the other tracks in the game, everyone must own the cartridge.

It seems that every new racer on the Game Boy Advance is using the same engine -- from Mario Cart to Hot Wheels -- but F-Zero still manages to have a unique flavor and feel to it. Any fan of the original game will love this latest iteration, and those who want a fast and extremely challenging arcade racing experience would be hard pressed to find something better, especially for a portable system.

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