When I first got a GBA as a kid this was the first title I got for it, I remember liking it a lot but I'm not sure if I loved it exactly. Going back to it over the past couple of weeks I can see it's a very good game, that makes the most of the GBA's hardware to create an experience that still feels fast and enjoyable, but it isn't without its faults.
On the presentation side of things it doesn't feel that much like F-Zero, there are no character models and Captain Falcon is nowhere to be seen (although a ship referencing him does come as an unlockable later on). The music, likely due to the GBA's lack of audio ability, fails to reach the driving levels of the F-Zero X and GX soundtracks and there's rarely more than 2 or 3 racers on the screen at once which is a world away from the hoardes of racers on the aforementioned games. This is all likely due to the GBA's lack of horsepower however.
Where this game excels is in the most important part, the feel of the racing. The sense of speed is still there, particularly when you use your boost. The cars handle well and taking corners is a joyful challenge. The tracks are surprisingly varied considering the limitations of the mode 7 engine it's built on and there's a decent amount of them once you unlock everything. The game is a little light on vehicles though with only 4 to start with and a few more to unlock. The only complaints I have with the actual gameplay are that I wasn't a fan of the random yellow cars that seem to be driving on the track really slowly for no reason whatsoever other than to annoy you and get in your way and the strange system where to get past a race you have to be in the top certain amount of racers after lap one, and further up each lap until you have to finish in the top 3. If you fail to meet this threshold after any of the laps you automatically lose. There's no table at the end of each race to see how each player is doing and so you have no real rival, you essentially get the same reward for finishing 3rd in every race as you do 1st. The table and being able to smash up your rival to get ahead of him on it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the other F-Zeros I've played for me and their decision to not use this here is a strange on in my eyes.
On the difficulty front I think it's definitely challenging and the hardest difficulty is only recommended for the really hardcore out there (I got frustrated with it pretty quickly). There's definite rubber-banding going on as always although it seemed a lot less obvious (at least to me) than other racing games I've played from this time.
Overall this game excels in the feel of the racing, which is essentially the most important part. However it fails in some of the other areas and does things which I didn't entirely enjoy. It's a great game to pick up and have a race at and I'm sure I'll be doing that often with there still not being a newer alternative for portable F-Zeroing many years later. I just wish there were tables after each race, Captain Falcon was actually in the game, and that the cups didn't take longer than my average bus journey.
Variety in a racing game is a must. Courses need to feel unique, and maintain a steady difficulty curve throughout the game. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity seems to be aware of this in full, but chooses to ignore it at points. Some courses in this game feel unique, standing out in a sea of other courses that blend together. There's certainly a good game here, and I'd recommend giving it a go if you're into F-Zero. However, I would stress that later entries in the series such as F-Zero GP Legend manage to do a far superior job on the same original console, and this game feels a little more dated than perhaps it should, especially when comparing these games side by side.
SummaryAll galactic speed limits are about to be broken! F-Zero® Maximum Velocity has arrived, and the future of racing has never looked so sweet. Brand-new vehicles and Game Boy Advance original tracks await, so whether you're a Super NES® veteran or a race rookies, you'll need some practice laps. And even if you do master the Grand Pr...