Developed by Sega's Amusement Vision, F-Zero AX is the arcade counterpart release to the GameCube's F-Zero GX. F-Zero AX runs on the Triforce arcade hardware that was cooperatively developed by Sega, Nintendo, and Namco. The Triforce hardware was designed to allow for connectivity between arcade machines and the GameCube home console. In the case of F-Zero AX and its usage of the Triforce connectivity features, there are exclusive race tracks, cars, and car parts that can be unlocked in F-Zero GX by playing F-Zero AX with your GameCube memory card connected to the arcade cabinet. It was later discovered that these exclusive F-Zero AX unlockables could still unlocked on GX without playing AX, but the process involved completing the game on the hardest difficulty modes which proved prohibitively difficult for many players.
Progress on F-Zero AX could be saved via the F-Zero License Card. Typically players would have to spend double the machine's set price to play in order to print one via the in-cabinet card printer (if the machine was set to $1.00 per play, it would cost $2.00 to play and have a card printed). The card would save the player's user ID, racing stats, time attack scores, and allow them to generate a code to input online to upload their information to an official online leaderboard. The License Card also allowed players to create custom vehicles, unlock vehicle parts, and to save that information for later use. The license card only needed to be printed one time and from there the player could reuse it on any subsequent plays at the normal game pricing.
There are two modes of play in F-Zero AX. The first mode is Race Mode which puts the player against 29 other races in a standard race to the finish of three laps per course. As the race progresses, a timer counts down and the player must keep hitting checkpoints to add more time to the timer. If the timer runs out before the player can finish all three laps, the game ends. Should the gamer complete all three laps before the time runs out, they will proceed to the next race. In Race Mode your object is to finish in first place and before the timer runs out, but your overall time of completion is not important.
The second mode of play is Time Attack. In Time Attack the player's vehicle is the only vehicle on the track and the object is to finish each track as quickly as possible. Players do not have to content with AI opponents and the object is simply to improve on either the player's own completion times or against the best times posted on the arcade cabinet or online. Players who purchase the License Card were more likely to play Time Attack than those who had not.
Controls and gameplay are nearly identical to what is found in F-Zero GX for the GameCube with the exception that AX introduces checkpoints and a counting down timer. This timer was not present on F-Zero GX. Players have access to a gas button, a brake button, an attack button, and a boost button. The boost button gives the player a temporary boost in speed, but they are limited in use. Attacks are ways of nudging AI opponents into the walls, each other, or in so me instances completely from the track where they will be disqualified from the race.
The F-Zero AX arcade cabinet came in three different styles. The most common style is the Standard cabinet, which is a typical sit-down racer cabinet. The second style was a bit less common, and it was referred to as the Deluxe cabinet. The Deluxe cabinet is shaped like Captain Falcon's iconic vehicle and it is significantly larger than the Standard cabinet. The Deluxe cabinet also has built in hydrolics that cause the seat to rock back and forth as the player turns the steering wheel during play. The third style is extremely rare and is only known to exist in Japan. This third machine is called the Monster Ride cabinet, and it features three servo motors to create movement in multiple directions during gameplay. All three cabinets offer an identical experience in regards to content, difficulty, and GameCube connectivity.
Each style of cabinet can be linked to allow for Versus Play between human racers. Despite running identical software, the different styles of cabinets do not connect with each other, however. Standard must be paired with Standard, Deluxe with Deluxe, and Monster Ride with Monster Ride. It's assumed that this was for safety reasons as there is quite a bit of size difference between each cabinet style.
Below are the characters that are present in F-Zero AX. Each character drives its own unique race car and has different strengths and weaknesses in regards to top speed, acceleration, boost ability, and durability.
- Captain Falcon
- Dai Goroh
- Dai Sen Gen
- Don Genie
- Dr. Stewart
- Lily Flyer
- Princia Ramode
- Samurai Goroh
- Terry "Digi-Boy" Getter
Place in the F-Zero Franchise
F-Zero AX is basically the same as F-Zero GX in regards to the overall F-Zero timeline. AX is basically an additional circuit (referred to as the AX Cup) of races in the same overall tournament taking place in F-Zero GX. This is confirmed as the unlockable content in F-Zero AX fits seamlessly into the F-Zero GX experience. Officially F-Zero AX and GX are the fifth and sixth releases in the franchise, however.
F-Zero AX is quite rare and aside from a few additional Japanese imports over the years it initially came to North America and Europe in very limited numbers. Due to the scarcity of the machines, entire websites were created by fan communities to help each other track down arcades where the game could be played. Some estimates put total imports of the English version of the game at under 20 machines for the entire United States, but with the addition of Japanese version imports of the years the number is certainly a bit higher. Still, to find an F-Zero AX in working condition is a very rare site, even in the most prominent arcades.
In 2012, however, a complete ROM of the game was discovered hidden within the source code for F-Zero GX, and is playable through use of an Action Replay cheat device.