Checking the Score: F-Zero X

While many point to how lifelike the next blockbuster action title is or how gorgeous an artistic indie darling is when it comes to evaluating a game, these visuals would lose their impact without a stirring soundtrack to score them. From the chip-tunes of Super Mario Bros to the Gregorian chants of Halo, video game music brings players closer to immersion and fantasy. Much like how a movie’s soundtrack sets the tone for dramatic scenes, game music also helps players connect emotionally with the story.

Checking the Score is a monthly feature devoted to these crucial compositions which are literally the soundtrack to our gaming lives. Delving into what makes them impactful, the process of composing them and the intricacies of each score, our aim is to put a spotlight on the aural backbone of gaming.

F-Zero is one of those series’ from Nintendo that has for whatever reason been allowed to languish for years now. On the heels of the SNES classic F-Zero came F-Zero X on Nintendo 64. At the time, Nintendo clearly saw a bright future in the series as they even released a Japan-only expansion on the ill-fated Nintendo 64DD, which included a course editor and new tracks among other things. While we still don’t have a new game in the franchise, Nintendo recognizes the broad appeal of this racing game and just released it on the Nintendo Online Expansion Pack subscription.

From the very beginning, the connection between F-Zero games and their soundtracks have been strong. The signature of the music in each title is undeniably “F-Zero” in tone. It also helps that most of Nintendo’s other games have a completely different sound in comparison. Nintendo games are usually fantastical or whimsical in nature. Not so much rock tunes, aside from in the case of this series.

The very moment you pop F-Zero X into a Nintendo 64 (or load it via Nintendo Online’s N64 library) you’re greeted with an energetic track. The “Title Screen” track is simply awesome and so innately linked to the series. The sound signature is bold as can be; just the type of song to hype an equally engaging gameplay experience. Not every song on the soundtrack is memorable, but this one absolutely is. The guitar solo remains in the minds of many to this day.

Once you’ve successfully completed a track in F-Zero X you’re greeted with the “Goal” song. There’s something fun about this whole thing. It seems to celebrate with you upon crossing the finish line (provided you did well, at least). The guitar riff is unmistakable and there’s no doubt a great many kids played air guitar to it after completing a challenging track. This is another classic song alongside the already classic game.

“Fall Down to the Scream” is another excellent song on an already awesome soundtrack. This one in particular allows the composers to flex their incredible skill and produced a track that goes hard from start to finish. The only downside about songs like these is that they’re super short and presented in mono format to fit within the constraints of a N64 cartridge. It would be a real blessing to see Nintendo release the uncompressed audio.

No one can talk about F-Zero music without bringing up the track that accompanies Mute City. In this iteration of the game the song is called “Endless Challenge,” and it’s endlessly listenable. This may in fact be the fan-favorite version of this track throughout the games. It captures the spirit of the series, is a completely rocking track and tons of fun to race along to. There are many great songs in the series throughout the years, but this one stands above the rest.

F-Zero X remains a joy to play today. Yes, the racing gameplay is fast and frantic, but that’s far from the only reason people love it. The soundtrack plays a huge role. As soon as any of these songs kick in, players are immediately amped up. It helps to create a truly enthralling, white-knuckle racing experience despite the game now being over twenty years old.

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