F-Zero X A Guide to the Advanced Technique of Floating
Written 2003 by Jim Mitchell
This guide assumes the reader already understands how to play F-Zero X quite well, and thus presupposes a working knowledge of many advanced techniques: sliding, boostsliding, railsliding, double-tap dives (DTD), True Diagonal Dives (TDD), etc.
So, what is "floating" in F-Zero X? It is an advanced technique which involves pointing one's car (preferably the lightweight Twin Noritta using slider settings) upwards and boosting constantly to gain height. Of course, floating around in the sky isn't the ultimate goal of using this technique; the purpose of floating is to gain an otherwise unattainable amount of height, in order to do otherwise impossible dives. These dives typically will crush the speeds attained with other maxspeed techniques, and are occasionally helpful as an ideal entrance into a third lap when attempting to achieve a fastlap record.
The scope of this guide is limited; there's a lot more to F-Zero X. But I suggest that understanding and practicing the "floating" technique is worthwhile. As you'll see below, a player who cannot perform the floating technique will be unable to seriously compete for a quite a few marks.
About This Guide
The basics of floating are pretty straightforward, and I have tried to cover them in a straightforward way. For the person who has never even attempted the technique before, I want this guide to provide a clear explanation of how to float, and also to point out why the technique is worth learning. The section on getting started immediately below is designed with just such a person in mind.
While the basics of floating are simple enough, the nuances of floating are quite complex. I presume that most players who will be interested in the floating technique are already fairly well-groomed F-Zero X players - players interested in details rather than hand-waving outlines. It is my hope that this guide will aid others in understanding the often subtle and slowly acquired details of the technique which make for truly great results.
This guide will certainly turn out to contain mistakes, and despite my efforts to be thorough, I have no delusion that this guide is exhaustive. I appreciate feedback and will do my best to correct errors as they are uncovered, as well as add new information that is relevant. I'd also be grateful for any criticism which aims at helping me clarify the guide's descriptions of techniques/strategies for others.
Although this guide contains no "tutorial" images or movies, I refer to publicly available materials whenever possible. If anyone already has or creates videos of the floating technique in action, let me know and I'll do my best to add a link to the video(s) in this guide. Also, as a note of introduction, all marks given in this guide are in terms of the NTSC system.
How to Get Started
Always use a car on slider settings for floating; never attempt floating with anything less than settings all the way to the left. If you're trying to float with "jumper" settings, you're working on a somewhat different and not-so-advanced technique: sinking.
For best results while learning, the car ought to be kept rather straight and steady while floating upwards. If each boost does not add to the car's height, then the car's angle is vertical angle is incorrect and needs adjusting. Additionally, if you start drifting to one side or another, you'll probably begin to lose height. (Below I explain that in particular situations advanced players may have good reason to make some mid-air turns or "drifts" while floating upwards).
In any case, when floating one gains more and more height by boosting in the air, preparing for an otherwise impossible dive. From the floating nose-up position in the air, the next step is to do a big dive (a DTD or TDD, depending on the situation). In the next section, I discuss how to do these dives. Also, check out the specific track strategies listed in a section further down this guide (For learning purposes, I recommend practicing the floating technique on DF2 first).
The floating technique does take practice before one can do it consistently. At first, it may seem difficult to point the car up enough without pointing it up too much. After lifting off, holding "down" on the stick for too short or too long a period of time will cause the car to sink. Once you've found the correct angle, just leave it there and boost without ceasing. One key to floating is finding the correct vertical angle - not pointed upwards too little or too much - quickly after leaving the track. Once you can get this upward angle, floating starts to become pretty intuitive move. To see the correct upward angle in action, I suggest watching the videos of Jimmy K. Thai which involve floating: "JKTRedCanyon1Maxspeed2995" and "JKTRedCanyon1Backwards" in the F-Zero Central N64 Videos Folder.
The Basic Elements of Floating-Dives
The "takeoff" refers to where the car leaves the ground and begins to float - whether by driving off the edge of the course, over a hill, or by lifting off of a virtually flat area with enough speed. Here are the principles that you need to know for the takeoff:
(1) The greater the speed of the car before taking off, the higher the car will lift off the ground. (2) The more the car is angled or turning while lifting off, the less height will be gained. (3) The lower the weight of the car, the greater the height of the takeoff.
Also remember that finding the correct vertical angle as quickly as possible after takeoff is important to floating well.
The Floating Path
A straight path gains the most amount of height per boost. However, advanced players will occasionally want to drift to the right or left while floating, for a few reasons:
(1) To aim for a particular portion of the track. (2) To cut off a section of the course when attempting a fastlap record. (3) Because at least some drifting is required in order to perform a good TDD. (4) To change the angle of a dive. (5) To change the timing of a dive, so that a boost can be added at an ideal time.
In the track strategies section below, I indicate where I think drifting is helpful.
Diving From the Air
You basically have two diving options once you've floated up into the air: doing a DTD or a TDD.
First, consider the DTD. As you probably have guessed, you can't just start a DTD with your car's nose pointing straight up in the air. There are two ways to do a DTD from the air:
(1) DT-R and hold right+down for a half-second to get the car pointing at an ideal diving angle, and then DTD down holding up+right and repeatedly tapping DT-Z for the duration of the dive. This DTD dives down and lands approximately 90 degrees (more or less depending on how well you get the angle) to the right of the car's position in the air. I refer to this as a "DTD-Z" or "DTD using DT-Z".
(2) DT-Z and hold left+down for a half-second to get the car pointing at an ideal diving angle, and then DTD down holding up+left and repeatedly tapping DT-R for the duration of the dive. This DTD dives down and lands approximately 90 degrees (more or less depending on how well you get the angle) to the left of the car's position in the air. I refer to this as a "DTD-R" or "DTD using DT-R".
Note that both of these DTD methods technically involve using "air control" to position the car at a good angle, and then do the DTD. If you try to do a "straight" DTD from a floating position without doing the moves to get the car properly angled first, it will not go nearly as fast. Hence, when reading specific track strategies below you come across "DTD-R", don't forget to DT-Z for a good angle first - and vice-versa for DTDs using DT-Z.
As a rule, TDDs are only used in situations where one cannot get enough height for a 2000+ DTD. There are two ways to TDD:
(1) TDD to the right: After gaining an adequate amount of height, begin to drift to the right as much as possible without car beginning to sink on the last height-gaining boost. Then, just before the car begins to sink, quickly move the analog stick to the right and then quickly to the exact left-down position all in one smooth motion while boosting in the middle of switching the two joystick positions.
(2) TDD to the left: After gaining an adequate amount of height, begin to drift to the left as much as possible without car beginning to sink on the last height-gaining boost. Then, just before the car begins to sink, quickly move the analog stick to the left and then quickly to the exact right-down position all in one smooth motion while boosting in the middle of switching the two joystick positions.
Once you've gotten a feel for doing the TDD, there's on more thing to know about getting the best TDD speed: Make it a TDDDT. That is, add double-tapping to the TDD once it is rapidly gaining speed (DT-Rs for a TDD to the right, DT-Zs for a TDD to the left). This can add those crucial km/h to your speed. Note, if your TDD angle is incorrect, adding DTs to the TDD will only decrease your speed.
Choosing a Car for Floating
What characteristics ought the ideal car for floating possess? First, it should be lightweight. Second, it should have a great boost. Lastly, it should have poor grip.
The Twin Noritta is typically the best car for floating. After all, no car weighs less and no car boosts as well! The combination of these superlatives is powerful. However, there still are some disadvantages with which the informed floater ought to be familiar. First of all, the Twin Noritta has a very poor body. There are situations where you may opt for another car, simply because the Twin Noritta cannot withstand unavoidable high-speed wall smashing. Another disadvantage of the Twin Noritta is that it does not gain as much speed from DTs during DTDs as heavier cars do. Typically, this consideration is outweighed by the advantage of the Twin Noritta's light weight gaining more height will floating through the air. However, there are certain situations where additional height causes problems (e.g., diving too far and missing the track), and what is needed is simply a better DTD speed. In such cases, the heaviest car which is able to achieve the ideal height is best - because the heavier the car, the more speed gain per DT during a DTD. A final disadvantage of the Twin Noritta is its C grip. This grip will hinder boostsliding a bit when attempting to gain some speed for a takeoff, and will also negatively affect the speed of the car's TDD (although, all factors considered, the Twin Noritta is usually the best car for doing a TDD to achieve a maxspeed record).
The Wonder Wasp is occasionally useful as a "tweener" car, which slides better than the Twin Noritta yet not as well as the Blood Hawk, boosts better than the Blood Hawk yet not as well as the Twin Noritta, and has a better body than the Twin Noritta yet does not have nearly as good of a body as the Blood Hawk.
The Blood Hawk possesses a much better body than both the Wonder Wasp and the Twin Noritta. It is still light enough to float reasonably well, and is able to gain a lot of speed for takeoffs with its boostslides.
Surprisingly, Night Thunder may actually be the best car for certain floating situation(s). Despite the car's heavy weight, it still slides and boosts well...and the main reason it may be useful is that it has the toughest body out of the cars with real floating potential. In other words, the Night Thunder might be helpful if you just can't seem to stop crashing upon landing some post-floating dive. However, there is no doubt that the Night Thunder is challenging to keep floating properly - it wants to sink much more than the other cars discussed here.
Of course, there are others cars that one could choose for floating. Some of them may be rather good choices. For example, the Mighty Typhoon (C-A-D) might be useful (although, as far as I can tell, there are no situations where using the very similar Wonder Wasp wouldn't be a better choice). Other choices, of course, are just plain silly. No one picks a Black Bull for floating. According to my own experience, the cars listed above are really the only serious candidates for floating use. For whatever it is worth, I give my car recommendation for each particular track below.
Where Floating is Useful - Specific Track Strategies
Devil's Forest 2
Car recommendation: Twin Noritta.
A good place to begin practicing floating is DF2. Boostslide to the left around the end of the curve before the tunnel, and keep boosting until you hit the zipper in the tunnel. Your takeoff should keep a straight racing line, but this line should be headed a little to the left. Aim to be traveling 1100 km/h when taking off. Next, float for four boosts over the humps, gaining more and more height. Then DTD-Z down to the lowest point of the sharp turn below. You may want to drift slightly to the left on the last one or two floating boosts in order to position the car so that the dive will land at just the right spot. 3000 is possible using this strategy, and it is obvious that the standard maxspeed strategies on this level simply don't compare.
Car recommendation: Those new to floating would certainly do best with a Twin Noritta here. Once one is very comfortable with the floating technique, I recommend using the Blood Hawk for the best speeds (2100+). Twin Noritta may still be best car with some tricky air maneuvers, but it is difficult to land the Twin Noritta at high speeds without crashing in this situation. The Blood Hawk can do a faster DTD once given that multiple cars can all reach the same height and thus all have the same maximum distance to dive.
Near the end of the course, do a boostslide around the hairpin turn, straighten up with one or two DT-Zs. Smoothly steer into the right refiller, collecting all of your energy back. Hold 'down' just after the refillers, and you should lift off if you are going fast enough (aim for 1240-1260 km/h). Float up for three boosts, drifting slightly left during the last second boost, drifting a little more left during the last boost, and then do a DTD down using DT-R.
Car recommendation: Twin Noritta.
At the beginning of lap two, boostrailslide and boostslide to hit the first zipper going around 1270-1300. Then steer clear of the second zipper, and do a boostslide without touching the walls as you normally would. If done correctly, this should time things so that you can do one more boost through the right refiller which will end just as the refiller ends. Of course, this means that up to this point you have a maximum amount of speed. You should leave the refiller going 1200-1230, and with 100% of your energy in tact. Next, boostslide using the zipper (similar to lap one when racing for course time). Resume boosting about one boost before the zipper in the loop, and keep boosting all the way to takeoff. Takeoff in the middle of the track, and keep boosting three more times while floating virtually straight but very slightly to the right. On the third boost, drift right and prepare to do your best TDDDT for a maxspeed record.
Floating is also the key to getting an excellent Mute City fastlap. Even the very best "normal" fastlaps done with a Blood Hawk on slider settings pale in comparison to the potential of the fastlap using floating. The key factors for getting a good fastlap on MC are as follows:
(1) Cut off as much of the track as possible with your floating path (2) Do the fastest TDD that you are able, but more importantly land at the highest cruising speed that you are able (3) Begin the TDD as soon as possible after the timer begins rolling for lap three (4) Use as much boost as possible before takeoff, but save just enough so that you will enter the refiller as your energy finishes depleting
Otherwise, just drive the best MC lap that you can - which means hugging rails, smooth turning, and constant boosting. If you fiddle around with the key factors above in mind, you may well beat my own best lap (0'19"308). But here's how I got my time:
Begin lap two just as described for MC speed above. Exit the refiller going 1200-1230, boostslide using the zipper...but this time, wait until about a half of a boost before the zipper in the loop before boosting again. Keep boosting until takeoff, at which point you should steer pretty hard to the right. Boost once drifting quite a bit to the right, straighten up for the next boost, and finally drift to the right again for a third floating boost which will be preparing for the TDDDT. During the third boost, lap three will begin. Do the best TDDDT you can, and aim to land right on top of the zipper to give you one more free boost. Finish the lap with your best driving.
Doing the TDDDT at the right time and at the right angle is tough. You want to cut off as much track as possible, but if you drift too far to the right, you'll simply fall through the track when you dive. You don't want to wait too long before doing the TDDDT, but if you do the dive too early, again, you'll fall through the track. With practice, you'll get a sense of about where the "barrier" which you can't break without falling through the track lies.
Car recommendation: Blood Hawk. The car's good boostsliding helps with this strategy.
Since this strategy is difficult to describe, I highly recommend watching Jimmy Thai's excellent video of this strategy in action. See "JKT-Sil2-speed" in the F-Zero Central N64 Videos Folder. Drive going reverse through the refillers, boostrailslide left at the end of refillers, and in the same boost going directly into a boostslide left. During this boostslide, try to leave the track after going over the top of the first little hill on the left (from the reverse-driving perspective). Now once in the air, in one fluid motion, boostslide hard to the right, attempting to smoothly land on the contours of the track, cresting the other small hill, and boostslide on up into the air - continuing to boostslide to the right in the air for just a moment. These two boostslides effectively change your direction back to facing the correct way. Next, straighten up the car and float for one or two boosts drifting slightly left, being careful not to head too far to the right (as you will fall through the track). End with a DTD-Z, rocketing towards the starting line.
Car recommendation: I used a Blood Hawk for this one. Twin Noritta or Wonder Wasp may be better, unless too much height causes one to overshoot the course entirely.
On the third lap, boostslide around the curve just before the jump plates begin. Hit the first jump plate near the right side and headed to the right a bit. Begin floating from this first jump, using two boosts in the air. DTD-R down, aiming to hit right before the final jump plate. If you land right in front of the final jump plate as desired, then you will just have a second to DT-R and head of to the right as sharply as possible before popping back up into the air. Do another DTD using DT-R down to the track below. You should probably land near the left railing beyond the refillers section. At 3000 km/h, you will most certainly crash. But since you are on the third lap, there is a good chance (given the angles of the walls) that your crashing car will be able to rapidly bounce around all the way through the finish line, thereby securing your speed record.
It is noted that there are other ways to achieve 3000 km/h on this course. I still favor the method described here.
Mute City 2
Car recommendation: Blood Hawk, with Night Thunder in a close second place. Both of these cars can withstand some damage (though you'll be wishing they could withstand more on this course), both get a good takeoff speed with their boostsliding abilities, and both DTD well. Also, consider the Twin Noritta. Though I cannot ever seem to avoid the destruction of this car at the end of a high-speed dive on this course, perhaps the best speed records could actually be achieved this car if one somehow managed to avoid a serious collision.
Using regular sliding to get as much speed as possible beforehand, boostslide around the turn just before the jump plate. Keep boosting, and head off a bit to the right when you hit the jump plate. Continue boosting and floating upwards for about three boosts in the air. DTD-R down...and try to live through the landing. This is the strategy that I used. Alternatively, if you can head off to the left a bit from the jump, float for three boosts or so, you may then use a DTD-Z for the dive down. Again, trying not to crash when you land... While floating on MC2 is fairly easy to perform, it is still difficult to beat the standard no-floating DTD speeds of 2400+.
Car recommendation: Twin Noritta.
Boostslide into the tunnel going as fast as possible (1150+) and do a tunnel dive into the refiller area going 1450-1500. Next, turn a bit to the right and hold 'down' to begin a floating sequence of three boosts in the air, ending with a TDDDT into the tunnel. Although the car simply goes through the top of the tunnel, it will land on any other sides. The key here is aiming the TDDDT so that the car lands exactly in the middle of the tunnel; if the car hits any of the sides of the tunnel, the TDDDT will be stopped prematurely.
Jimmy Thai was able to grab the speed of 2995 km/h by DTDing with a heavy Night Thunder, and subsequently taking a single slam into a wall, leaving him with little health to spare. You can see his helpful video here: "JKTRedCanyon1Maxspeed2995" in the F-Zero Central N64 Videos Folder.
I believe it is possible to nail a 3000 on this course by using a lighter car. Perhaps a Blood Hawk could do it, even with a strategy similar to Jimmy Thai's where a hit is taken. But it is possible to avoid hitting walls upon landing altogether. So I suggest that an excellent DTD from a high-floating Twin Noritta is the best bet for landing a 3000.
In the second lap, hit the third zipper and do a straight DTD using DT-R to the course below exactly as is done when attempting a record course time on RC. You should land going 1700+ km/h. Quickly hold left and DT-Z around the turn, attempting to retain as much speed as possible. Hit the zipper while heading off of the track going a bit to the left, being prepared to hold 'down' as soon as you leave the track. Float for two boosts, and DTD-R down to the refillers below. Try to land in the right refiller with a cruising speed of 1800-2000 km/h, and head slightly left before you leave the track. Now float with a straight path (although headed slightly left already) until you have entered the next lap, and are hopefully high above the course if you have done well thus far. DTD-R to the lower section of the course below and attempt to avoid the walls.
The technique for landing without a collision is as follows: Keep floating on further past where Jimmy Thai turns to DTD down by about one boost. Make sure you turn hard to the left, and do a great DTD. If you do it correctly, you'll come down at an angle where you barely miss both the wall to the left and then the wall to the right. Then hit the brakes hard and finish the course to collect your maxspeed.
A similar floating strategy may be used for to enter lap three for a fastlap on Red Canyon. There are some differences from the RC speed strategy, though. When attempting a fastlap, you need to dive as soon as lap three begins and waste no time floating in the air. You also need to land with as much cruising speed as possible to carry throughout the rest of the lap. Of course, you still have to finish the lap with top-notch playing.
The great floating ability and great boost of the Twin Noritta make it the best car for this fastlap strategy. However, the stronger-bodied Blood Hawk may be helpful if you have trouble crashing or running out of boosting energy.
Car recommendation: Heavy cars just can't do the strategy used for this speed. Use Twin Noritta. Perhaps Wonder Wasp ought to be considered also; it is a little bit heavier and has a slightly inferior boost, but is able to gain more speed for takeoff from boostsliding.
Do a regular slide around the first curve at the beginning of lap two. Do the best boostslide that you are able around the second curve (shooting for highest speed possible) and immediately drive off of the left side of the track at a fairly sharp angle as soon as the walls end. Doing a boostslide-boostslide combination at the outset of this strategy provides more speed for a better takeoff. However, it seems to leave the player a bit short on energy for the final TDDDT. So it seems best to me to limit oneself to one boostslide.
Next, float for three boosts, drifting slightly left on the later two boosts, and do your best TDDDT to the left onto the track. Of course, aiming to actually hit the track is a bit tricky - especially since there are no walls, which means you may get thrown off of the track upon landing (and must subsequently maneuver back, perhaps with another floating boost).
Where else might floating be used? Well, many other places. I won't go into all of the possibilities here, since the results of all other uses of floating are either (1) attainable by other non-floating means or (2) not yet performed by any F-Zero X player to my knowledge.
For example, it's much easier to reach 3000 km/h on Rainbow Road using floating. Just start by leaving the track and lifting off before the railings begin just before the finish line - take a few boosts in the air, then DTD down. Hitting 3000 won't be a problem; aiming the dive and landing safely are your only concerns. You may also want to float on Fire Field for 3000.
I suspect that partially understood techniques like floating are really on the cutting edge of what will bring about future F-Zero X WRs. Will someone be able to pull off a new speed record on Port Town 2 using floating, perhaps? How about a new fastlap on Sand Ocean? Maybe even a new speed using floating dive on Silence? Jimmy Thai has mentioned that it is possible to completely change directions in mid-air without losing height, using some form of airsliding. Indeed, if techniques which radically redirect the floating path of a car are mastered, there is much more yet to be done!
I owe a debt to the many F-Zero X players who have gone before me and taught me much of what I pass on here. In particular, I'd like to thank Jimmy Thai for his many helpful online conversations in which he took the time to explain many of the subtleties of F-Zero X to me.