Quick Retro Review: STUNT RACE FX (WILD TRAX)

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Stunt Race FX (or as it was known in Japan, Wild Trax) was yet another collaboration between Nintendo of Japan and British game developer Argonaut Software, following the Game Boy game X (yes, it's just called "X") and Star Fox/Star Wing for Super Nintendo/Super Famicom. You could say Stunt Race FX is a companion game to Star Fox as both games were developed with the Super FX chip which created polygonal graphics. Even several sounds and graphics seem like they were ripped directly from Star Fox. For Nintendo, Stunt Race FX was a more experimental title on the "B" or "C" priority list. The game didn't have the glamour of being a console launch title like F-Zero had, it didn't have the marquee value of Mario Kart, it didn't even have the generic consumer appeal of Top Gear. It existed in its own vacuum. Let's take a look at Stunt Race FX and ponder why it never took off.

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Stunt Race FX has our goofily designed vehicles burn rubber for that coveted checkered flag all the while performing wacky stunts. I've always loved the designs for the vehicles and the tracks. They're all quirky and fun. We got the Formula One racer, the Coupe, the Monster Truck and the Motorcycle. If anthropomorphic cars seem trite, remember, this is before Pixar's Cars and even the Chevron Cars series of advertisements. Argonaut Software ahead of the curve. The polygon graphics allow for a feeling of elevation, bumps, and grooves that didn't really exist among Stunt Race FX's peers or predecessors. Since this was before analog controls, oversteering with the shoulder buttons in conjunction with the d-pad offers you tighter and looser turns. It's a good thing that developers gave us this option because the physics and handling of the game don't hold up.

As much as I like Stunt Race FX for its charm, it's a pretty flawed game. One thing that irks me when I boot up the game these days, is how damn big and intrusive the HUD is. It takes up about one third the entire screen. If you've ever played Star Fox, as much of a landmark that game was, that game has issues with stability and handling. That lack of stability is evident in Stunt Race FX and as a result, has aged the game terribly.

Besides the controls, the most important component of a racing game, for me is the illusion of speed. In the classic racing games, it's an illusion created by backgrounds, foregrounds, sprite rotations... all that fun stuff. The poor framerate and stability of Stunt Race FX, unfortunately, shatters this illusion of speed. Just like there are some fanmade patches to fix the framerate of Star Fox, I can't help but feel that Stunt Race FX needs some extra-circular work in order to make it shine.

Despite selling over a million units internationally, Stunt Race FX seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Nintendo doesn't even give them game token references like they do their other series and it hasn't ever been re-released. Even as 16-bit games have become ludicrously expensive, the game has no real value because nobody really wants it. If we're looking for a Nintendo game with quirky vehicles an emphasis on stunts, consider the closest thing Stunt Race FX has to a successor would be ExciteBots: Trick Racing for the Wii. If there was ever a game that could benefit from being remade or revised, it would be Stunt Race FX.

Stunt Race FX is fairly common and it shouldn't wreck your wallet picking up a copy.

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You know, come to think of it, I like the name Wild Trax better than Stunt Race FX. Verily, verily I say.