F-Zero Climax

Buckle your safety belt, you're about to test drive your own racing tracks.


The Lowdown

Pros: Same great racing action with an excellent build a track mode.

Cons: It feels and plays more like an expansion pack than a brand new game.

Purchase at Play-Asia
F-Zero Climax is the third F-Zero game to land on the Game Boy Advance. The last game, F-Zero GP Legend (better known as F-Zero Falcon Legend in Japan) introduced a story mode, racer customization and lots of cutscenes. Instead of continuing the series in the anime direction, F-Zero Climax is a more back to basics futuristic racing game.

F-Zero Climax does away with the license tests from the past game. Instead you can jump right into the Grand Prix mode. The Grand Prix mode should be familiar to anyone who played the original F-Zero or for that matter any other racing game. There are three courses to run through with five different stages each. The courses are really well designed and have varying degrees of difficulty. For instance, the first track on novice is relatively straight, compared to the later tracks that have tons of twists and turns. You'll have to learn to drift using the L and R air brake buttons fast to conquer the tight turns in later tracks. You'll also have to master the two types of boosts in the game. The first one is your standard boost seen in F-Zero GP Legend. You'll gain a huge amount of speed to move forward, but you'll use up some of your energy. The standard boost is the best way to get ahead on long straight sections. There is a new boost in F-Zero Climax, the spin boost. Using this boost your ship will spin wildly out of control and you'll be able to knock rival ships into walls. The spin attack is a neat trick to use, that adds a new element to the game.

One thing that some people complain about the F-Zero series is the level of difficulty in the tracks. Instead of mastering how to race, you'll be memorizing all of the obstacles on the track. F-Zero Climax does force you to memorize the position of the dash strips to quickly speed up and the pink healing plates to recover damage on your ship. You'll also need to remember where all the driving hazards like ice, bombs and jump pits are. F-Zero Climax requires you to react fast and also know the layout of the tracks hands down because the AI will have no mercy on you. If you want to shoot for the gold or just dream of completing all of the tracks on a difficulty higher than novice, you'll have to master F-Zero Climax. All of the computer controlled racers will have a huge advantage over you because they run the race track almost perfectly.

Once you tackle all of the challenges of the main game you can take on the game's survival mode. Survival mode is F-Zero Climax's answer to the story mode seen in F-Zero GP Legend. However the cutscenes, branching story and charm are all lost in the survival mode. The game gives you challenges from beating a race in a certain time to swerving through a twisted track. The mission mode isn't as deep as the story mode was in GP Legend, but the challenges are much tougher.

The greatest feature in F-Zero Climax is something that fans have been waiting for a long time, a full track editor. You'll be able to make large tracks, simply and quickly with the track editor in the game. First you can choose a piece of road horizontal, vertical or one of four turns. Once you pick a piece you can pick a tile size for the piece and alter the obstacles by hitting the R and L buttons. The limit on your tracks is that you have 255 points to spend. Each piece is assigned a different number of points, large pieces can take an upwards of 10 points while small ones take single digit points away. Even though you have a limit on how big your racing track can be you'll have enough points to create a really hard track or a track with really long areas to accelerate on. The best part about the track editor is that you can share tracks with your friends by copying down the password for the track you made.

While the F-Zero games have never been the best looking on the GBA they have been a hallmark of the dated Mode 7 technology. F-Zero Climax still manages to use the mode 7 engine to as best as the GBA can handle, but it doesn't look as great as it could. F-Zero Climax reuses many of the tile sets from GP Legend and Maximum Velocity. Even though F-Zero is a classic, we still want to see some new graphics every now and then. The ships like the tile sets are also reused. The music in the game is the same old MIDI music that we've seen from all the other F-Zero games. It's nice to hear the classic tunes, but new songs would have really made a difference.

F-Zero looks, sounds and plays the same as every other F-Zero game in the series. So why bother to pick it up? Well for starters if you liked any of the F-Zero games, the track editor alone makes this game a worthwhile purchase. Also if you haven't played any of the F-Zero games this is a solid racing title to pick up, even if the learning curve is steep. Even when you master the game there are expert level challenges and plenty of characters to unlock. Compared to many of the other racing games for the GBA, F-Zero Climax is still one of the best in the genre.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1

The most important menus are in English and the controls are easy enough to figure out.

US Bound?

Seems likely that F-Zero Climax will be released in the US, but a year later.

Overall

In many ways F-Zero Climax is the pinnacle of racing games on the Game Boy Advance, even though it is more of the same.