The rule of thumb for any console release is to cover as many bases as possible. You ideally want a shooter, a big adventure, a racer and a smattering of lighter, more playful experiences. The Nintendo Switch’s launch line up doesn’t necessarily check all those boxes, but it does have a futuristic racer that it can call its own in Fast RMX.
The clue is really in the name; Fast RMX is a remix of Shin’en’s Wii U racer Fast Racing Neo that arrived on the platform back in 2015. In true game remaster form, its main appeal is in souping up the graphical fidelity of the game, going from 720p to 1080p on TV, and bringing a popular game to a new platform, all at 60fps. Of course, there’s also playing in handheld mode which runs near flawlessly – I only found one or two noticeable hiccups in frame rate, and the feel of dynamic resolution scaling during pre-race panoramic views.
As a remaster, it’s a rather generous bundle, with the original game’s sixteen tracks joined by a further eight from its DLC pack, and then six new tracks just for this release. In all, that’s thirty tracks spread across ten cups in the Championship mode.
With such a crowded roster, it can be hard for some tracks to stand out from the crowd, but some are simply phenomenal. Iceland has you predominantly racing along a long tube, giant robots stomp across the track in Kamagori City, and the torrential rain as you cross near blind jumps in Storm Coast is fantastic.
Some of the layouts are great, with multiple routes, but others boil down to being large loops with just a few corners and long, wide straights. There’s not the same kinds of technical racing that was at the core of the Wipeout series, you just keep your finger on the go button, don’t worry about knocking into the barriers and use the sideways shifts to turn a bit harder.
You have to try and keep your speed up by boosting regularly, with little balls of energy neatly laid out in lines for you to try and pick up to charge up your boost meter. There’s also orange and blue strips and jump pads which boost you forward if you have your ship’s Phase attuned to that colour – your thumb will naturally come to squish the A button with the tip ready to nudge X and switch back and forth. Sometimes these stretches of boost are isolated, other times they come in quick succession, forcing you to quickly tap back and forth.
It’s a nice twist to the racing, giving it a hint of the rhythm action genre or the shield switching bullet hell of the classic Dreamcast shoot ’em up Ikaruga. In lieu of power ups and weapons, these boosts let you bump other racers into a spin from behind, often accompanied by the announcer yelling some cheesy line of encouragement.
The game keeps you on your toes with fast and persistent AI, even on the slowest Subsonic tier. Sometimes it feels unfair, with just a single mistake early on resigning you to fighting your way back through the ranks with the race leader impossibly far away. Curiously, though higher speeds ought to be more difficult, the fact that you can wall brake – something the AI seem to do as well – and that you’ve learnt the tracks actually keeps the difficulty fairly level.
Despite having a wealth of content, the game also manages to feel empty and restricted. RMX shakes up the content from Fast Racing Neo by reorganising races into ten cups of three – this does help with the difficulty somewhat compared to the Wii U game – but it’s all races, all the time. There’s no time trails at launch – something Fast Racing Neo has – no elimination mode, no head to heads, none of the variety that it’s peers and inspirations grew to incorporate. You could call it arcade-like or retro, but I call it limited.
One additional mode does exist, and it’s strange, because Hero mode feels to me like it should be the default gameplay. Your aim is to take a track you’ve unlocked and beat it with a flipped layout, but energy is now handled differently, used for both boost and as a health meter. It’s something that should feel familiar to the fans of the genre, and it actually makes the racing even faster, with the coloured track elements increasing your boost meter and letting you push harder if you need to. It also means that you try to stay away from the energy sapping barriers a little bit more, adding in that technicality that standard racing misses.
What’s even more baffling than the lack of modes is the way that content is gated off from you. There’s no arcade where you can simply pick a track and dive into a quick race, and you can’t skip ahead to try out faster speed tiers if you think you can handle it – they all share the same ten cups. You even have to have done a track or cup at a specific speed class in order to then be able to race it in split screen or custom online. It’s just a bit bizarre and I can’t think of another racing game that restricts content like this.
Match made multiplayer is a different matter, and you can race on any track. Unfortunately, it’s beset by lag. It’s not too big a deal, I find, with contact having minimal impact on your race, but it’s also not too pleasant to see racers skittering across the track. Hopefully this can be addressed in future, as Nintendo’s network improves.
Fast RMX is practically a must buy, but it’s a purist take on the genre and damn difficult without many, if any of the bells and whistles of other racers. That said, if you’re looking to scratch a certain F-Zero or Wipeout itch on Switch it’s absolutely worth a look.