Friday, June 21, 2024

Developer: Nintendo EAD Publisher: Nintendo Release: 10/10/94 Genre: Racing

When Star Fox released it made a big splash. 3d was still relatively new on consoles and it was a good shooter in spite of its technical faults. Stunt Race FX was the next title to use the still new Super FX chip and garnered attention immediately. For the longest time my perception of Stunt Race FX was negative. My only experience with the game growing up was with demo units in Sears that had broken controllers. Not realizing this I thought the controls were unresponsive and together with the framerate that the game was unplayable. Playing it now I found a game that is pretty decent for its time and offers a glimpse at the future of racing games at home. But as with all forward thinking ideas it has its flaws, some of which ruin the experience.

As the second Super FX title Stunt Race FX released at an interesting time. 3d racing games were redefining the genre in the arcade with the likes of Daytona USA and Ridge Racer sporting a level of visual prowess unseen at the time. Mode 7 paled in comparison but at least allowed for more advanced racing games than were possible on the 8-bit systems. Stunt Race FX tried to bring some of that magic home and succeeds somewhat. But outside of its charm it is not a title that I would recommend to anyone today.

Stunt Race FX is a simple racing game with multiple modes of play. Speed Trax is the main campaign and has three classes: novice, expert, and master, each with four tracks. Battle Trax is the multiplayer mode, and Free Trax is the practice mode on courses you have unlocked. Stunt Trax challenges you to collect stars to unlock the demolition derby mode called Radio Control. There are three cars to pick from, a 4WD truck, a coupe and an F-1 vehicle. These are noticeably heavier cars which is a deliberate choice to limit the game speed and for control reasons.

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Right away Stunt Race FX impresses for a home console title. The entire game is polygonal allowing for more advanced track designs than your typical sprite based racing game. There are hills, bumps, sharp turns and overpasses that give a sense of depth. Track side detail is extensive with billboards, deer crossing, sea life in the underwater tracks, occasional traffic and fan service like Arwings at every turn. Even though the cars are simple in their design they exhibit personality thanks to the great animation. Unfortunately the game’s framerate is bad and affects nearly every portion of the game in some way.

Stunt Race FX runs at a very inconsistent framerate that is instantly noticeable. It targets 30 fps but never comes near that number. If I had to guess it is anywhere between 10-15 fps range. Despite that low number the gameplay is tied to the framerate and so is playable although less than ideal. When it is consistent it can feel smooth but any time there is heavy geometry or a crash it dips in to the single digits. As I said before this has an impact on the gameplay as there is notable input lag. That second of delay eventually starts to get annoying even though you can learn to work around it.

It is a shame the technical performance affects the game so heavily. There is a decent amount of content between the various modes. Even the stunt mode has its own set of original courses. The bonus game in the middle of each class challenges you to drive trailer truck around an obstacle course. If (and I do mean if) you can complete it you unlock the trailer in normal gameplay. If you think the lag is bad on the other cars this takes it to another level. I know its possible but I’ll be damned if I even came close. The framerate and controls make the higher levels extremely difficult and it sucks knowing that it is the game’s fault and not your own when you fail. I eventually got good at the game but that time was better spent in a different racing game regardless of this one’s charm.

In Closing

Stunt Race FX is a decent showcase of technology but not a game anyone should play today. You will have to tolerate some jank to appreciate what it has to offer which is not much. There are better racing games on the SNES deserving of your time and money. Stunt Race FX is nothing more than a novelty now.

6 out of 10

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