Review: F-Zero X Expansion Kit (64DD) - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Friday, August 24, 2018

Review: F-Zero X Expansion Kit (64DD)

by Danny Bivens

The expansion that makes one of the best N64 racers even better.
With the inception of the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive, a lot of really cool ideas were thrown on the table. One of these was the ability to add additional content to cart based games with the release of a special disk that would be used in conjunction with the cart. Obviously, with the numerous delays and the short lifespan of the 64DD, this concept was never fully realized. In fact, only one game was ever released in this fashion. This was the F-Zero X Expansion Kit.

The F-Zero X Expansion Kit was released on April 21, 2000. As explicitly indicated on the cover of the game, the cart based F-Zero X is needed in order to play. The Expansion Kit offers just what the name suggests - additional content to an already stellar racer. On top of the two most notable inclusions, Course Edit and Create Machine, the Expansion Kit offers two 64DD exclusive cups that add twelve more courses to the game. Not only that, but the newly added audio tracks are in stereo. The audio tracks that were found on the original cart are all still in mono. It should be noted that while the 64DD disk is inserted, players have access to all content from both the original F-Zero X and the Expansion Kit.
Create Machine is one of the new modes added with the Expansion Kit. With this editor, players are able to modify their own futuristic race cars. Up to 100 machines can be created. With this mode, you’re not creating a racer from scratch. There are three creation segments - Machine Parts, Machine Design and Settings. With Machine Parts, there you are able to adjust three areas of your car - the front, rear and wing. There are seven options under each area (21 parts in total) each varying in size and design. The weight of the car is determined by the parts you choose.

After setting the parts of your car, the Machine Settings let you add racing stripes (five different designs total), various emblems (eight total) and adjust the color. The color can be modified for not only the car itself, but also the stripes, cockpit and number. There are 64 colors to choose from, so there are quite a few color combinations that can be created. Once all of that is completed, you’re able to fine-tune the settings of your car, more specifically the body, boost and grip. Perhaps in an effort to keep things fair, you are unable to completely max out the stats of your car with an A rating across the board. To actually use your creation in races, you have to assign your car to one of the many pilots in the game. The developers also made super charged alternative versions of machines for Captain Falcon, Samurai Goro and Jody Summer. Overall, the Create Machine mode is a bit lacking, however, the creator tools are easy to use and you can make some pretty slick looking cars in a matter of minutes.
The Course Edit is clearly the main star of the Expansion Kit. Here, you can create intricate courses in a matter of minutes. Up to 100 courses can be created and saved directly onto the disk. Starting out, it’s best to set four points on the creation grid to produce a basic loop or a figure eight. Adding points is done by moving the cursor with the joystick and pressing A to place it. If you don’t like where it’s placed or if you’re given a prompt that it’s not possible to connect the points, you can simply press B to delete your last action. The D-pad is used to change the viewing angle, the C-buttons change your viewing position and R and L zoom in and out respectively. A total of 64 points can be placed on the course. Adding more points is beneficial for inserting further customization options.

A lot of adjustments and design options are at your disposal. Clicking the “Create” tab shows all of the items you can modify. Under the basic “Course” option, on top of creating points, you are able to move the starting line, center your course on the grid, reverse the direction the racers will drive or clear the grid completely. Under the “Point” and “Move” section, there are a lot of options to change the physical structure of your course. After choosing the area you want to adjust with the Z button, you can alter point placement on the grid, width, height, add banks and a whole lot more. Even with just these two sections there are a lot of ways to make the courses unique.
But that’s not all. The last sets of options allow you to change what your course looks like visually. Under the “Design” section, you can build various road types (with or without guard rails), tunnels, pipes, half pipes, cylinders, spaces and even loops. These options even go a step deeper and let you change various visual elements within them. For example, if you choose a tunnel, there are four different types of colors/textures to choose from. Adding on to that is the next creation tool, labeled “Parts.” From here, you are able to stick in a variety of elements to the road and surrounding area - energy charge areas, speed boosts, dirt, slippery areas, jumps, drops, gates and even buildings and signs. Similar to the previously mentioned design section, there are between three to ten options per part. Up to 16 buildings and/or signs can be placed per course.

To put the finishing touches on your course, the editor also allows you to choose from a variety of background options. There are ten “scene” elements (what appears under the stage) including the likes of a futuristic city, an expansive forest, water, lava and more. There are eight sky elements that can be selected as well. You’re even able to choose from 14 different music tracks to use as background music for your creation. You can do a test drive at any time. Players are also able to share their tracks with other Expansion Kit owners. From the editor, you simply need to go to “Copy” and then hot swap between the disks when prompted. You can also throw six of your created tracks at a time into the Edit Cup. You can swap them at any time that you choose.
The course editor is simple and a complete blast to use. If you know a little bit of Japanese (mainly katakana and a little hiragana), you’ll be creating courses in no time. An informative and helpful “Hint” option can be clicked during the creation process which gives players more information on what each specific button does. Even if you have absolutely no knowledge of the Japanese language, trial and error could you through this in a somewhat time consuming manner.

One thing that needs to be brought up here has to do with performance. While playing through races, the game runs incredibly smooth and feels and looks identical to playing F-Zero X off of the cart. However, when accessing some of the 64DD exclusive content and modes, there is some noticeable lag. This is apparent when you load up any of the 64DD exclusive cups or tracks or are loading up the music in the Course Edit mode. After a brief jitter, things do come into place. To be clear, this is no way effects the gameplay at all. It’s just something that couldn’t be overlooked.
When it comes to must own titles on a platform, the F-Zero X Expansion Kit is the best the Nintendo 64DD has to offer. Adding the ability to create customs tracks, cars and your own cup, the Expansion Kit adds even more replay value to a game that was already fun to revisit. Not only that, but the creation tools are just fun to work around with - especially the course editor. Obviously, the barrier of entry to this game is quite high (the DD will set you back quite a bit and they’ll both only get more expensive over time), but if you’re one of the lucky few to own the DD, this is a game that you need.

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