The largest criticism levied at the Nintendo Switch and its launch has been the drought of titles – a perception that the console currently has few games worth playing outside of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While such critiques aren’t entirely unfair, it would certainly behoove owners of Nintendo’s new console to take a look into the eShop once they are done exhausting the Kingdom of Hyrule. Nestled amongst fan-favorites such as Shovel Knight sits a downloadable game titled Fast RMX. Developed by Shin’en, Fast RMX is a blistering racing game that is somehow managing to slip under the radar, which is a shame, because although it is essentially an enhanced port of Fast Racing Neo for the Wii U, Fast RMX easily delivers on both fun and the promise of the Switch, itself.
For clarification: yes, Fast RMX is the latest entry in an already existing franchise. Fast Racing Neo released on the Wii U in December of 2015, itself a sequel to a previous WiiWare title, Fast Racing League. Although the franchise has received generally favorable reviews in the past, they have released to little fanfare. Thus, Fast RMX steps into the arena, launching alongside a brand new console and a bare field in terms of direct competitors. At its core, Fast RMX is a glorified remaster of its predecessor, sporting enhanced visuals as well as a consistent 1080p resolution (in docked mode) and 60 frames-per-second. Additionally, Fast RMX includes all of the content of Fast Racing Neo and its DLC whilst also adding more of its own.
It is worth drawing attention to the fact that those enhanced visuals have made for quite an attractive game. Artistically, it is immediately apparent that Fast RMX is aping the presentation of the F-Zero franchise: fast, futuristic vehicles, near-nauseating motion effects and vibrant, neon colors abound. While the Switch is docked, Fast RMX runs at a crisp and clear 1080p; it looks nice – with some fancy new lighting effects – but its previous life as a title on underpowered hardware is still apparent.
Nothing outside of the art-style is going to be blowing anyone away, here. Removed from the dock, however, Fast RMX suddenly becomes, perhaps, the most graphically impressive racing game ever playable on the go. Although the Switch’s built-in screen is only capable of displaying at 720p resolution, there is no noticeable change in how Fast RMX looks or performs between docked and portable modes – which is still a nice little magic trick.
The presentation, of course, isn’t the only aspect of Fast RMX to lovingly evoke F-Zero. The core gameplay is similar to that classic franchise: flying cars that move in excess of 600+ km/hr. The controls are quite simple, and translate well to the Switch regardless of what kind of controller set up is being used. Although there are some minor changes that occur if you are using a single Joycon over the Joycon Grip or a Pro Controller, the basics stay the same: the stick steers the vehicle, the shoulder buttons drift left and right, and the face buttons control basic functions like acceleration and braking. The main rub here is that pressing the ‘X’ button (if using a full controller) initiates a “phase shift,” which changes the color of the lights under the player’s hovering car from blue to orange and vice-versa.
As players race along the game’s many tracks, they will encounter strips on the ground of the same color; the idea is that players should “shift phases” to match the color on the ground to earn them a speed boost. It’s a dead-simple mechanic that can get surprisingly hectic to manage in particularly intense races, incentivizing both quick-thinking and track-memorization. The shift mechanic is, of course, accompanied by more traditional inclusions. There’s a “boost bar” that is filled up by collecting floating orbs during the race; there are numerous course hazards; etc. These inclusions all make sense and combined with a surprisingly difficult AI, make for a package where the moment-to-moment gameplay of each race is fun and exhilarating.
Content-wise, Fast RMX is more of a mixed bag. In terms of courses, the game includes everything from the Wii U version plus its DLC, in addition to six more, making for a total of 30 tracks. This makes for a long campaign, consisting of 10 cups of three races each. Each track is quite different from the last, presenting a good deal of multiple pathways and a variety of hazards. If the player performs well in each cup, placing 3rd overall or above, they will unlock a new vehicle from a pool of 15, each with different handling and stats.
Outside of this, the game offers ‘Hero Mode,’ a higher difficulty variant where the boost bar doubles up as a shield gauge, which protects the player from various course hazards – a nice risk/reward game-type. It likely won’t take most players very long to unlock all of the vehicles, however, and the three speeds that can be selected for races simply don’t feel all that much different from each other, meaning there isn’t a lot here to bring people into the single player over and over again. The developers have announced that there are future content updates in the works, including Time Attack and Online Friend Support, but neither are present at the time of review.
Speaking of online support, the current implementation of online multiplayer is quite simplistic. It simply drops the player into an online match against total strangers with no way to communicate. It’s sort of a disappointment and makes one wonder if standard inclusions such as lobbies and friend-invitations are being held off until the Switch develops its own online systems more fully. Thankfully, Fast RMX’s bevy of local multiplayer options is its true saving-grace. The game can be enjoyed either via splitscreen or via a local wireless network.
There is a seamless joy to playing on the couch with a friend, Pro-Controller in hand, and then taking the game with you when the fun is over – popping off the Joycons and jumping right back into it with the next person you can talk into playing. Perhaps those kinds of scenarios speak more to the strengths of the Switch itself, with its plethora of viewing and control options, but there is no mistaking the fact that Fast RMX is one of the better early-executions of the concept.
Overall, Fast RMX is a blast, especially for the low cost-to-entry on the eShop. It may not fully satisfy those who have been clamoring for a new F-Zero for so many years, but it certainly comes closer than any other game that springs to mind. While the game’s content might not be able to hold certain players’ attentions for lengthy periods of time, Fast RMX’s capacity for fun multiplayer, especially at the local-level, makes it an easy recommendation.