Retro Review: Stunt Race FX (Super Nintendo)

Review-Stunt-Race-FXBack in 1994, Nintendo released their second Super FX enabled game on the Super Nintendo, Stunt Race FX. A racing game that, like Star Fox, was co-developed by Argonaut Software and featured full 3D polygon graphics not normally seen on 16bit systems. Unlike Star Fox though, Stunt Race FX seems to be barely mentioned within social media sites, and certainly not in a favourable light. We at RetroCollect wondered why, after all, Stunt Race FX is a superb game.

Stunt Race FX features four main game modes, Speed Trax, Stunt Trax, Battle Trax and Test Run (which becomes Free Trax, a time trial option once completing each GP). Speed Trax is the standard GP mode. Stunt Trax is a four circuit obstacle course. Battle Trax is the certainly tacked on two player mode and of course Free Trax is the superb time trial option. You start the game with three cars. 4WD is the monster truck, coupe is the small but maneuverable sporty car and F-Type is the light but fragile racing car. Two other vehicles are available to use, the ultra-fast but wild 2WD opens up upon completion and the heavy and difficult to drive lorry is used in the bonus levels. There are a total of twelve racing circuits in GP mode with three additional bonus tracks. Four stunt specific circuits with a bonus RC mode and four two player courses. Clearly, the game is jam packed with content.

The Best Bit: The Physics

The main area the game excels could initially be one of its biggest downfalls, the handling, it’s very difficult to control but much like Mario Kart and F-Zero, Stunt Race FX has been tuned to almost perfection in this area. The weight of each vehicle has been finely honed so there is a huge difference when driving each one. The 4WD is weighty but the big tyres make is very grippy. It also turns in slowly and is overall a very stable vehicle to drive. 4WD is clearly the best vehicle for the Stunt Trax mode. The Coupe is lighter and features more responsive handling. It initially feels better than the 4WD but has a weaker body so takes more damage on collisions and has less overall grip. The F-Type is the fastest car but has the slowest acceleration and the weakest body. It handles superbly due to the aerodynamics of the body and a master driver will be able to throw this car around corners and keep it at a high speed. 2WD throws another change in there. It is easily the best vehicle to use if you can master the very difficult handling. Being essentially a motorbike, it is all about balance and offers a completely different feel to the others.

As stated before, the physics are outstanding and not just in how the cars feel, also in how they connect with the road. Banked corners cause the cars to wander to the top. Hills cause them to lose speed or gain going down. Water and half pipes play havoc with handling and cause you to veer all over the place and jumps need precision landing in order to avoid damage and maintain speed. No other 16 bit console racing at the time has this depth in physics, an area Stunt Race FX should be lauded in and does not seem to be.

Review-Stunt-Race-FX-Screenshots

The Worst Bit: Frame rate

Another reason the game is perhaps not too fondly remembered is a more technical one, the frame rate...

Apart from the initially tricky handling, another reason the game is perhaps not too fondly remembered is a more technical one, the frame rate. Indeed the frame rate is quite low, and it does certainly affect the control of the cars directly however practice will negate this. It’s worth nothing that once all tracks are unlocked, playing the game in time trial mode will speed the frame rate up because the system does not need to cope with AI. Virtua Racing was released on the Mega Drive in early 1994 and featured a faster frame rate and more responsive gameplay. However, Virtua Racing featured just three tracks and very simplistic physics: the handling felt very linear and there wasn’t any real weight to the car. Certainly had Stunt Race FX been clocked a little higher in CPU speed, it would have destroyed Sega’s fun but limited arcade game.

One saving grace, perhaps unfairly so is the ability to mod Super FX games. Stunt Race FX can be modified using a very simple method. You can upgrade the crystal oscillator contain in the cartridge to gain a few vital frames per second and speed the game up a touch. This greatly improves control response and helps a game that is undeniably dated today from a visual and control response standpoint. Guides can be found all over the internet regarding the installation of this simple but recommended modification.

Stunt Race FX (Super Nintendo) Gameplay

Conclusion

Stunt Race FX was received pretty well by critics, naturally scoring well in Nintendo magazines in the UK. Sadly no sequel was ever spoken about by Nintendo, certainly not in the public eye and we can only assume sales were poor or perhaps they just didn’t know where to take a possible sequel. It’s a pity as it really is a fantastic racer, very ambitious and loaded with the usual Nintendo flair in terms of gameplay and presentation.

Link: Find Stunt Race FX on eBay

Link: Overclocked Super Nintendo Cartridges


Last Updated ( 09 May 2015 )  

Comments 

(Link to this comment) TheGebs24 2015-05-14 19:24
I remember playing this for the first time. I didn't really take a shine to it especially due to the frame rate dip as you mentioned.
I believe the chap who lead the development on this was Giles Goddard and considering his previous work with Argonaut (Starwaing) I expected a little more.

Cheers, Gemma

www.juicygamereviews.com/
(Link to this comment) GuyFawkesRetro 2015-06-01 11:21
Ah, another Giles Goddard & Co game that suffered the terrible fate of Nintendo interfering and meddling with the final out come. I actually imported this a year after the PAL version came out (had both), the game plays quicker on 60hz but still suffers on a serious 'slow-down' FR level. Shame.

:sigh:
(Link to this comment) Marsmite 2015-08-11 21:47
Look at those graphics! If only Super Mario Kart and F-Zero had that chip!
(Link to this comment) evoxpisces 2015-09-17 19:47
This is an underrated game in my book. Ahead of its time, but holds up somewhat poorly today. If you can stand the ridiculously low frame rates, it's actually a very fun game.
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