Stunt Race FX
  • Genre:
    • Racing
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developers:
    • Nintendo
    • Argonaut
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 06/04/1994
    • US 10/10/1994
    • UK 10/27/1994
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/17/2016.

Stunt Race FX is a racing video game published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. In Japan, the game is known as Wild Trax. Initially, the game was going to be titled FX Trax, but the name was changed later on during development. It was originally released in Japan on June 4, 1994, North America on October 10, 1994, and Europe on October 27, 1994. The game was jointly developed by Nintendo and Argonaut Software, both of which previously worked together on another Super Nintendo title called Star Fox. Both the Star Fox and Stunt Race FX cartridges had something inside them known as the Super FX chip, which Nintendo created with the assistance of Dylan Cuthbert from Argonaut. This piece of hardware expanded the Super Nintendo's graphical capabilities so that it could render 3-D polygons. At the time, this was absolutely groundbreaking, especially since the SNES couldn't do 3-D natively. Obviously, Stunt Race FX doesn't look groundbreaking anymore, but it's still a reasonable racing game if you can get past the dated graphics.

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Polygons are what you'll be seeing a lot of when you play Stunt Race FX, courtesy of the Super FX chip. The polygonal graphics on display here are quite a bit more advanced than what was in Star Fox. There are far more polygons being pushed this time around, and this results in far better looking environments. Sometimes, the polygons will even have textures! That's amazing, I know. Most of the polygons are still filled in with flat colors and smooth gradients, though. More importantly, the graphics actually have an impact on game play, because the environments have realistic slopes that players can drive up and down on; this was completely mind blowing back then. Previous to this game, the SNES had to rely on its innate Mode-7 feature to simulate 3-D space, but that always resulted in totally flat environments. In other words, the Super FX chip trumped Mode-7 when it came to 3-D graphics. Unfortunately, these advanced visuals do come at a significant cost: similar to Star Fox, Stunt Race FX runs at a very low frame rate. The game tries to mask this as much as possible, but it's still pretty noticeable.

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The control for this game will make you feel in control. You use the directional pad to steer vehicles, the face buttons to accelerate and break, and the shoulder buttons to make extra sharp turns. Thanks to the 3-D perspective, you can also use the select button to get a few different viewpoints, with one of them being a first-person perspective. Additionally, there are two more things available to you. One of those things is the boost function, which allows your vehicle to get a sudden boost of speed for as long as the appropriate button is held down. However, boosting will drain your boost meter, and once that's empty, you won't be able to boost any longer. The other thing you can do is raise the vehicle's body up off the wheels to potentially jump off ramps. On top of all that, the vehicle you're operating has a damage meter that goes up whenever you run into stuff, and your ride will be destroyed if said meter gets too high. Like Super Mario Kart, you've got limited lives, so dying too many times will lead to a Game Over. Both the damage and boost meters can be replenished by picking up power-ups that are littered throughout the racetracks. It's all rather straightforward, and despite the low frame rate, the controls feel responsive.

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There are a total of five usable vehicles in Stunt Race FX. You start off with three, one can be unlocked, and another is only accessible during bonus stages. For some strange reason, all the vehicles have silly eyes on them. Odd as that may be, it does add personality to the game. Anyway, the vehicles include a Formula One-like racer known as the F-Type, a tiny yellow car called the COUPE, a monster truck that bears the serial number 4WD, a two wheeler vehicle labeled 2WD, and a semi-trailer truck that goes simply by the name of TRAILER. All the vehicles have different attributes, like endurance, acceleration, max speed, handling, and tire grip. Some, but not all, of the attributes are listed in the vehicle selection menu. Each vehicle is designed for players of different experience levels; the F-Type is reserved for advanced players due to its high top speed and difficult handling, while the 4WD is for beginners since it's practically indestructible and fairly easy to control, but is quite slow to compensate. The selection is small when compared to other racing games, but the difference between each vehicle is significant enough to feel like you're playing an entirely different game whenever you switch. Plus, all the vehicles are well balanced.

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Speed Trax is the main single player mode of the game. In this mode, you do the typical thing of racing against other computer controlled racers across various courses. To progress from one course to the next, players must make it somewhere in the top three and not run out of time. In addition to racing the other racers, you also have a timer that counts down, and you're disqualified if it runs out. Completing laps and passing through checkpoints will add seconds to the timer, and whatever you had at the end of a course will carry over to the next race. There are three classes with names based on their difficulty: novice, expert, and master. Each class has four different courses and a single bonus track, for a grand total of fifteen courses. The courses feature fun and varied environments, like a foggy forest, an underwater tunnel, a bustling city, and a track that floats in the sky. Occasionally, you'll spot billboards with cameos from other Nintendo characters, and Arwings from Star Fox will even sometimes fly by. As for the bonus tracks, they come at the halfway point of every class and involve driving an unwieldy semi-trailer truck through flags to win extra lives and additional time. The later classes have extremely difficult courses, but they're all decently built.

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Stunt Trax is another single player mode to sink your teeth into. No other racers will join you on this mode, not even ones controlled by the computer. Instead of racing others, the goal for this mode is to collect stars in an obstacle course. You're also timed here, but collecting stars will extend your timer whenever you pass through a gate. The four courses exclusive to this mode are broken up into multiple segments that are separated by gates, you see. Once a gate is passed, it'll close, preventing you from going back through it. The courses in Stunt Trax are pretty enjoyable, because they have lots of ramps and bumpy terrain. When jumping off ramps, you may have to adjust your vehicle in midair to make sure you land properly, or else you'll take damage. Getting a perfect score on all courses is tough, but it's worth it, because then you'll unlock the Radio Control Tower mode. In this cathartic demolition derby styled mode, your mission is to destroy all the other vehicles by ramming into them. The unique objectives of Stunt Trax and the Radio Control Tower provide a good bit of additional entertainment value to the game.

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Battle Trax is a head-to-head multiplayer mode where two players can challenge each other to a race, be it computer or human. As is the case for most games of this nature, the multiplayer goes with a split screen set up, where each player has their own section of the screen. The problem here is that there's a colossal border separating the two screens, making it extremely difficult for players to see their surroundings. This was likely done to lessen the load on the SNES hardware, since obviously, rendering two screens requires more horsepower than just one. Even if you can get past the split screen issue, this two player mode is kind of barebones, especially since the course selection is so limited. Like many of the other modes, Battle Trax has four courses exclusive to it. It would have been nice if the courses from Speed Trax could be played here, but that's sadly not the case. Super Mario Kart trumps this game's multiplayer more than Donald Trump.

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If you're new to the game, you can hop on over to Test Run, which is a training mode where you'll use the 4WD to do a couple of laps on a special course that isn't available anywhere else. However, if you want to eventually master every course in Speed Trax mode, then there's another mode made just for you. After beating at least one class in Speed Trax, Test Run will be permanently replaced by something called Free Trax. In Free Tax mode, you're allowed to freely play any cleared course from Speed Trax individually, and you don't have to worry about dealing with other racers or a pesky timer. Your best times with each vehicle on each course will be recorded, making this comparable to the time attack mode of other racing games. Practicing to get good times with every course and vehicle combination is actually a fun way to pass the time, pun fully intended. That really comes down to how well designed the courses are and how different each vehicle feels; two elements that are essential for any racing game.

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Even with its horribly aged visuals, Stunt Race FX is still quite playable. The controls are solid, the music is decent, the courses are laid out well, and the various single player modes provide plenty of fun, challenging game play. Besides the drab graphics, the only other thing holding this game back is its overly basic multiplayer, which is a big blow for a racing game. Still, as strange as it might be to say this, the game more than makes up for it with its single player modes. Don't let the gross graphics of Stunt Race FX scare you off, because it's a fun ride.

Word Count: 1,701

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