The F-Zero series has often dished out a steep challenge to players, and in GP Legend the uninitiated will be given no quarter unless they dig in their heels and learn the ropes. Players will be expected to tame every brutal hairpin, memorize each risky shortcut and etch sweet boosting spots into their brain if they are to succeed.
Yet, even though this Game Boy Advance classic comes with a steep learning curve, the thrill felt when nailing a perfect run and blurring across the finish line in first place hasn't become diluted by age. Earning victories during tricky story missions or besting the gauntlet thrown down by the game's Grand Prix mode demands patience and real skill.
The standard racing modes include Time Attack runs to help players shave seconds off their best time, while a selection of 48 Zero Test challenges exist to specifically improve your cornering and Blast Turn manoeuvres. Earning gold in these bite-sized missions may feel unattainable at first, but you'll improve with a few attempts.
GP Legend's true challenge comes not from opponent aggression or AI, but the supreme track design itself. These fiendish courses are slowly introduced to you in Story Mode, which focuses on the courageous Rick Wheeler as he pursues mysterious felon Zoda across the galaxy.
New plot threads are unlocked as you meet other pilots throughout the narrative, and although the writing might not bowl you over, it's still great to see the races given some context. Some may find the dialogue hammy and others won't mind at all, but either way there are some neat endings and twists doled out along the way that series fans will appreciate.
Mainstay Captain Falcon pop up here and there, as does his insane nemesis Blood Falcon, who cackles and hams up every chapter he's in with deranged menace. Elsewhere, combat pilot Jody Summer battles to avenge the death of her brother, while Samurai Goroh yells and clenches his fists at every opportunity. Rest assured, anime fans will love it.
Competitive races are doled out alongside single missions, such as beating Zoda to the finish line before he skips town, or reaching a location before a bomb goes off. Some of the time limits in these events are utterly savage – such as a teeth-gnashing showdown against Captain Blood in Port Town. Success demands that you hit every section with as much boost as possible and exert near-perfect cornering. Expect to hit 'retry' often.
This brings us neatly back to gameplay, which will be familiar to fans of the overarching series. Boosting returns, but can only be activated after completing the first lap in race events. Only then can a tap of both shoulder buttons activate your thrusters, but in a neat turn of risk/reward play, this also depletes your power bar. So basically you can either go faster or run the risk of blowing up. It's a great mechanic.
Speeding over green pads will recharge your power bar, so knowing the right stretches to boost at full pelt before topping up can really help you manage resources. The AI isn't overly aggressive but do expect to bounce off other craft like a pinball and lose some power if you make contact. The same goes for the track barriers, which really need to be avoided if you want to keep up with the pack.
Between sliding across ice on frozen planet White Land to dodging explosive mines in Fire Field, there are so many factors fighting against you in your pursuit of first place, so track memorisation is a must. Shortcuts exist, but in some cases they demand the player make tricky jumps in order to get ahead. Miss solid ground and you can expect to go careering below in a fiery wreck.
If the story missions become too gruelling, there's always the option of tackling Grand Prix mode across a variety of difficulty tiers, which helps scale up the challenge as your skills improve. Before long you will be snaking your way around eye-watering turns and hazards in an unblinking state, where your muscle memory kicks in and nothing can break your concentration.
That is the true F-Zero experience - the same one that has held up since GP Legend hit Europe in 2004, and indeed when the SNES classic tore onto our shores in 1992. That the format remains endearing is testament to the developer's gripping, yet savage design.
Viewing GP Legend's sheer speed on your Wii U GamePad or television is more palatable than playing on the GBA's tiny screen, so it could be argued that this is a step up from the original in terms of functionality; that said, like other GBA titles on the Wii U VC the multiplayer component is excluded. Nevertheless, with hours of content and gruelling challenge this is a stellar F-Zero experience.