by Marty Demarest

It's no secret anymore that videogames are big business. They're even starting to make aesthetic gains, helped by some impressive technology and intelligent game designers. So it should be no surprise that the best games tend to come from the companies that have been in the business longest. Not only have they been around the block, technologically speaking, but they owe their success to the techno-artists who work for them.

Nintendo and Sega are really the only two companies that still operate with this degree of prestige and success. Unfortunately, since Sega stopped making console systems, and Nintendo's GameCube isn't making headlines, the two venerable institutions are sometimes passed over by newer gamers. And that's a shame, because games like F-Zero GX (Rated: T), which is a joint venture, represent some of the pinnacles of video games.

F-Zero GX is a racer, which isn't necessarily the most glamorous type of game these days. But a good whirl around a track is a time-honored gaming tradition, and it's hard to imagine it getting better than F-Zero.

The first reason for F-Zero's excellence is the graphics. It will take you several hours before you stop being distracted by the neon-lit, futuristic environments zooming by. And by then, you'll have learned that this game is as much about memorizing racetracks and strategically manipulating your car as it is about speed. Using the excellent GameCube controller, you'll use all of those strange features -- like drifting, sliding, spinning and even attacking -- that tend to be ignored in most racers. There are head-to-head races to play with friends on split-screens, and a ludicrously over-the-top pro-wrestling-style story to work through. Let's not even get into the variations in gameplay caused by the 30 racers and 20 tracks. You can even build your own racer, and can use Sega's F-Zero AX arcade game to unlock special features on your GameCube memory card.

Of course, Mario Kart Double Dash will be out in a few months, and that game's excellent cartoon mayhem and accessible franchise will likely capture more gamers than F-Zero. And F-Zero is occasionally clunky in the way it makes you go in and out of the main game between some races. But for anyone who takes video games seriously, it's worth spending some time with F-Zero. It's eye-candy for smart gamers.

Publication date: 10/09/03

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