It’s no secret that F-Zero is a dead franchise. And… I don’t think Sony is going to do anything with the Wipeout series anytime soon, either. So it’s up to the indie studios to keep the engines of fast-paced, futuristic racing games running.
Thankfully, Shin’en has actually been iterating on a spiritual successor series of their own for quite a while, with Fast Racing League on the Wii and Fast Racing Neo on the Wii U. Nintendo may have retired the Blue Falcon decades ago, but Shin’en has proudly taken up the mantle of that vehicle’s racing number. With such a talented studio at the wheel, I think this quirky subgenre is in good hands.
What sets Fast RMX apart from its peers is its color-switching mechanic. With the press of a button your speeder alternates between Orange Phase or Blue Phase, so indicated by the color of your thrusters. If you move your orange vehicle over an orange boost pad, then your vehicle will speed up. However, if it glides over a blue boost pad, it’ll slow down. The same can be said in reverse. So not only do you have to stay on the track, you have to time your phase changes very precisely in order to truly outspeed the competition. It gets especially important for the later courses where you even have to jump over gaps or outrun skilled rivals.
In addition to swapping colors, you need to manage a boost meter and use it at just the right time. By running into glowing orbs you can refill your meter, which requires careful maneuvering in order to grab all of them. Your ship goes very fast (hence the name, I guess), and if you don’t take the time to master the controls and the track layout, you’ll be slamming into walls and running into hazards.
At first the controls for Fast RMX didn’t quite make sense to me, but thankfully the game allows you to remap the buttons however you like. After a few input adjustments, I was driving spaceship racers like I was born in the 51st Century. Once again indie studios are running laps around Nintendo for including features so basic as button remapping within individual games.
Strangely enough, I struggled to adjust more to the visuals than to the controls. By that I mean, the game looks beautiful, of course, but when you boost you get this… tunnel vision effect where everything else blurs around you. It makes it rather difficult to tell where you’re going. My eyes finally adjusted once I practiced the tracks several times in Time Trial mode. After that, I could finally appreciate all of the detail that these environments offered. As my vehicle caught the reflections of neon city lights or the glow of a nearby star (no idea why they’d build a track so dangerously close to a star), I wondered how Shin’en managed to make this game work on such limited hardware. It looks more like a PS4 game than a Switch game, and it remains that way in handheld mode.
The design is where this game truly shows its merits. Fast RMX sports about 40 total tracks, and they all feel unique. It’s not just a spaceport — it’s a spaceport where you have to dodge asteroids. It’s not just a cave — it’s a mine shaft where you have to avoid rockslides. Give it enough patience, add in a dash of memorization, and you too will be banking through tight turns, leaping over gaps, and shifting between boost pads like Captain Falcon himself.
Like most Racing games, the primary Single Player experience is the Grand Prix mode, where you participate in a several Cup challenges. If you can at least make it to 3rd Place at the end of the Cup, you can unlock the next one, as well as more vehicle options. Additionally, you can participate in Hero Mode, which evokes the tension of a true F-Zero game. Here your boost meter is also your HP gauge, so you can’t deplete it entirely without blowing your ship to pieces. It’s a great next challenge once you’ve played through all of the Cups.
Of course the game offers multiplayer as well, in the forms of Splitscreen Local or Online Matchmaking. Online races worked well enough for me; I didn’t have any problems with lag. The hardest part was finding enough people to play with in the first place. Unfortunately I don’t think many gamers are playing Fast RMX online anymore. I found a handful of matches during weekday evenings, but none of these races were filled.
While I adjusted to the game’s blur effects and controls, my one constant problem with Fast RMX was the rubberbanding of enemy vehicles. For those unfamiliar, rubberbanding is what happens when opponents in last place get a speed boost so that the racers in front don’t get too much of a lead. It’s an artificial way to make the game more tense. I understand that a more casual game like Mario Kart would give this sort of mechanic, but Fast RMX doesn’t need this; the tracks alone provide enough challenge. The rubberbanding means that you’re always one mistake away from ending up in Last Place, just as you thought you had the race in your pocket. Thankfully, the enemy AI isn’t incredibly skilled, so I was able to make up time even with my mistakes and land a decent-enough ranking.
Even though I have a few criticisms, I still enjoyed every play session of Fast RMX. It’s fun to go fast, and this game knows that. If you’re an F-Zero or Wipeout fan and for some reason you haven’t bought this game, you won’t be disappointed. I think that even people who play other kinds of Racing games would like Fast RMX thanks to its unique mechanics, impressive visuals, and solid track design. It’s a refreshing challenge from other Racing games on the Nintendo Switch.