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officially i give this an 8.5/10 which is more like 4.25 stars but whatever.
it contains pretty much all the base ideas later games in the series had (and maybe a few more). a bit dumber than SH2 in terms of story but also maybe a bit scarier. some very stupid sewer sections and you have to do optional bullshit you can easily miss to get the good ending. i hate running away from pterodactyls and hopping humper guys. still impressive everything they managed to accomplish with a PS1 game though
my thoughts on this game are so complicated that i don't think i could summarize here. it's such a weird and unique big mainline release in some ways. and yet it also just reinforces the inherent limitations of Mario as a character and like... global corporate mascot for the world of videogames. stuff like the New Super Mario Bros series or 3D Mario Land/World games may have fun or interesting design on a granular level but they don't really try and be anything more than what they are. and in some ways that makes them kind of bland, and safe. ofc Nintendo always releases more experimental side projects involving characters connected to the Mario universe, i.e. with WarioWare or with Mario Maker. but with this game it really seems like Nintendo tries to infuse some of that weirdness from their offshoots and shoot for the moon (pun intended i guess) and get weird and poke fun of the conventions of Mario a bit in a big mainline Mario game. and in doing so i feel like it ends up being this strange, uneven thing that i think the climate of the Switch release in 2017 and the general awed tone about Nintendo coming out of the smash success of Breath of The Wild kind of distracted from.
some of the environments bring back the surreal feeling of Mario 64. the feeling of new possibility, and that the unexpected is possible that older Mario games had sometimes creeps in from time to time. the Sonic 2006-esque New Donk City is def the highlight of the game for me, as well as the industrial forest area with the surf music that also looks like a 3D Sonic level and the two tiered structure. why does Mario suddenly feel like a 3D Sonic game in some places? who knows! it occasionally shows imaginative, anarchic glimpses of what we saw the most of in games like Mario 3, before it had really solidified what Mario was and wasn't. but then other levels (i.e. the beach one) are just your standard boilerplate Mario settings that feel like they could be in any modern 3D platformer. i don't really like the linear nature of the stage progression either and wish they did something with an actual hub world, even though i guess they sort of tried to by having secrets you could later access that connected stages. i also don't know what to make of the very self-referential nature of this game, from them bringing back Pauline from Donkey Kong to the castle in Mario 64 being its own dedicated bonus area that you're supposed to return to. it feels kind of like Nintendo's attempt to be self-reflective about the legacy of the franchise in a way that i didn't exactly expect to see in a mainline Mario game. so... points for that definitely. but ofc it doesn't go beyond a certain point with that, which invariably leaves me feeling a bit puzzled and with more questions than answers.
tl;dr There's A Lot Going On Here, and some of it works and some of it doesn't. and i'm not sure what to make of it all.
(text copied from something i wrote in a thread elsewhere)
i remember when F-Zero X came out it seemed like no one i knew really knew about or played the game. my friend who owned a gazillion n64 games did not own it. i got it heavily discounted like a year after it came out at Funcoland and even the dude at Funcoland was like “yeah this game didn’t sell well at all” and slagged off the game a little. perhaps the barren dreamscape quality of the game, due to them having to drastically scale back world detail in order to have a smoother experience, contributed to that. but i played a ton of it. it was like Extreme-G (another n64 game my friend owned that a lot of people don’t really remember) in terms of the speed but like wayyy better executed. i read about the 64DD expansion in a magazine and was real upset it was never released here cuz i desperately wanted a track editor. i’m not even sure how much i like the OST (prefer the original SNES OST guess) but that sort of cheesy guitar stuff hits a particular feeling of wistfulness from the gaudiness of a bygone era that things like the opening theme for the tv show Red Dwarf also inspires. you can imagine a warbly degraded version playing off of a VHS tape. it’s very of a particular time and era i guess.
anyway it took me forever but i eventually did beat all cups back in the day. that's when i had a lot more time to devote to the same handful of games and didn't have a massive unplayed library and a life to live. also i'm glad there's gradually been more tolerance and acceptance for the sort of low-poly low-detail dreamscape fog worlds of the N64 era as its own sort of look and feel in the last five years or so. i wouldn't say F-Zero X is this utterly timeless experience but it's still fun and fast (and hard) and worth playing regardless.