Released by Nintendo
as a technology follow-up to StarFox
, the Super NES
release Stunt Race FX
took the FX Chip
technology from the space shooter and used it to create a series of polygonal race tracks and vehicles. Play modes include a standard race with running laps against opponents and a timer, a stunt mode for pulling off wild driving tricks, a versus mode for two player action, and a test drive / free drive mode for just random driving around. Unfortunately what could have been an amazing game is bogged down by poor graphics and gameplay.
One of the more unique aspects of Stunt Race FX is the vehicles. Unlike other racers where the player is asked to choose a specific driver, in this game the vehicles are their own drivers. Each one is seemingly alive and comes equipped with eyes in place of headlights. The eyes can be seen wandering when the camera turns unexpectedly. There are five vehicles in the game: the pick-up truck, the coupe, the F-1, the motorbike, and a trailer truck (for use in bonus rounds only). Each one handles differently (the pick-up has a strong body, whereas the motorbike will shatter with hardly any effort) and players are advised to find a vehicle their comfortable with. If a vehicle hits a wall while speeding along, it will shatter into individual polygons and take several seconds to rebuild itself. Fortunately there's red crystals on the track that can negate certain damage. Likewise blue crystals refill the boost meter that is used for, that's right, a boost of speed. Steering your chosen vehicle is what makes this game such a nightmare. The control pad steers a little, while the L+R buttons steer a lot. Using them both in tandem (L button + left on the pad, for example) results in a near ninety degree turn. Unfortunately the little turns are not enough and the big turns are too much. Half the time my vehicle would either miss a turn or slam into a wall. If the control were tighter, the game would be much more enjoyable. The X button causes the chasis to leap up from the wheels of the vehicle, although there is no real place that requires this function in the game. It should also be noted that while the car is in "jump" mode, it becomes even more difficult to steer.
As for the tracks, each mode has it's own unique set of race courses. Speed Trax (the normal race mode) features three sets of four tracks. Each track has a certain gimmick, such as the half-pipe in the Aqua Tunnel or the falling rocks in Sunset Valley. King's Forest features a blanket of fog that obscures the road and Big Ravine is experiencing a storm. The goal in this mode is to complete four tracks and come in at least third place in each one before time runs out. More time is awarded at each checkpoint and remaining time at the end of a race is added to the time remaining on the next track. After the second track an optional bonus round is available where players must steer the trailer truck around a small course in order to gain bonus time and extra cars. Stunt Trax includes courses that have forty stars scattered around and the object is to collect as many as possible. In order to collect them all, however, you will have to pull off some fancy trick driving that is hindered by the poor control of the steering system. Battle Trax is a 2-player race over four tracks, while Free Run allows you to choose any completed Speed Trax track and drive around at your own leisure. The game keeps track of the best times in all modes.
Much as StarFox had a semi-controllable camera angle, so does Stunt Race FX. The Select button moves the camera between the three camera settings: close-up on the rear of the vehicle, backed off of the rear, and just in front of the vehicle. Unfortunately each camera mode has its own disadvantage that makes it difficult to see what's going on near you. The entire game is made up of polygons, from vehicles to tracks. Due to this there is little detail to be seen and there can be significant slowdown in busy areas of the game. Worse yet, the Battle Trax mode puts each player's car in a small window that takes up maybe 20% of the screen, making it even harder to see the race. The music is upbeat and peppy, but it's not very memorable.
Stunt Race FX could have been so much more. I bet it could have turned out spectacular on the Nintendo 64 instead of the underpowered Super NES. Nintendo clearly had fun making this game though, as there are numerous cameos from characters such as Mario, Kirby, and an arwing from StarFox around in the skies and on billboards. The game was never very popular back in the day and is relatively easy to find at used game shops and such. Nobody ever really speaks of it though and it's pretty much regaled to the ashcan of Nintendo games. I'd imagine that the game could be revived for current consoles, but after the bad taste it left in my mouth I'm not so sure I'd like to see that happen.