F-Zero GP Legend GameBoy Advance Review
It's unfortunate that F-Zero GP Legend's newest addition over the previous GBA entry is an in-depth story mode, supposedly following the plotline of the new F-Zero anime. I say unfortunate because it's such a garbled mess that it's literally laughable. I think the best word to describe it would be "bewildering." However, the game itself, while being a bit repetitive, is rather enjoyable.
You begin your quest as the brash young hero Rick Wheeler, competing in races in between somewhat confusing cut scenes. As you advance his storyline, other characters become available and you can race your way through their plotlines as well. The idea is for some mysteries to remain unsolved until you unlock more characters and then you get to see the events that transpired through their eyes, and all is made clear. The end result is a jumbled mess of 8 different storylines that often never get resolved, and frequently and inexplicably lead to racing. You'll be racing to get an antidote, to get your memory back, to save a doctor who apparently got kidnapped at some point, and plenty more.
Thankfully, F-Zero's racing shines as brightly as ever, which makes overlooking the amazingly bad story an almost easy task. GP Legend isn't attempting to remake the wheel. Tracks still feature mines, huge jumps, lava pits, recharge strips, boosters, and all the other F-Zero conventions, but regardless of how similar the gameplay feels, it's still a blast to play. The best thing about the game's tracks are that they feature many 90 (or more) degree turns, requiring gamers to actually use the brake. It makes the racing experience much more satisfying, as you slowly pick up which turns require varying degrees of braking, leaning with L or R, or simply skillful cornering. Slamming on the brake and turning hard at just the right moment to make an inside pass on a tight corner will probably never get old. However, the extreme consequences for missing a turn will ensure that gamers get plenty good at it.
The effect that crashing into a wall has on your craft is my only other major gripe with the title. All the SNES-style F-Zeros have always featured some slightly odd physics, with cars "bouncing" off one another as well as the outside barrier, but GP Legend seems to take this to an extreme. Clipping the edge of a turn will send you flying off in the opposite direction, and you'll sometimes bounce back and forth 5 or more times before getting yourself straightened out. Although it frequently happens to AI racers as well, that doesn't make it any less frustrating. I found myself crawling around corners to avoid a wall bump that would inevitably turn into a catastrophe.
In addition to the story mode, GP Legend features a full Grand Prix mode as well, with selectable AI and track difficulty, as we've come to expect from the series. The final set of tracks that are unlocked are a nice bonus for long-time F-Zero fans as well. Actually, all of the game's different areas are pretty cool. The 20+ tracks feature lots of variation in their design; enough so that by just looking at the overhead map, I can recall how each one plays. Some are high-flying affairs with lots of jumps and boosts, while others feature hairpin turns that require plenty of technical driving skill. There's also a Training mode that allows you to explore the tracks pressure-free, Time Trial, single or multi-pak multiplayer, fully editable controls in the setup menu, and to round out the package, a new Zero Test mode.
Zero Test plays out much like the license tests in Gran Turismo. The mode features four difficulty classes, with each class posing more difficult challenges. These challenges are very quick affairs, usually requiring gamers to navigate one or perhaps a small handful of turns, sometimes in 10 seconds or less. Bronze medals can be earned on the first or second try for the first couple of classes, but silver and gold are much harder to come by and require considerable skill. Thanks to the 40+ total tests, F-Zero nuts will be busy earning gold trophies for a long time.
F-Zero GP Legend features all the modes and options a racing fan could want, solid track design, and challenging gameplay. What keeps this score from being higher is the horrendous nature of the story mode, some wonky physics during collisions, and a general feeling of having played this game before. If you're ready for a new F-Zero experience, then GP Legend is a very good purchase. It's not perfect, but it will definitely satisfy your need for speed.
What's Hot: Good ol' F-Zero racing action is back.
What's Not: Story mode is pointless and boring.