Review: FAST RMX
Published by Jack Taylor March 27, 2017
You gotta go fast in this blindingly quick Nintendo Switch launch hit.
It's nearly impossible to talk about the FAST series without also mentioning F-Zero, so let's get it out of the way right now. FAST RMX wants you to think it's easier than F-Zero - it's not. It's brutal. It's also bloody beautiful, and unlike F-Zero, it's had more than one new entry since 2004. (Sorry, we love F-Zero, but sometimes you just have to let go.) The series has been a mainstay of Nintendo's home consoles, making its debut on WiiWare in 2011 and joining the Wii U lineup in 2015 - a retail version also launched last year - so it feels right that FAST RMX should be one of Nintendo Switch's standout launch titles.
FAST RMX is an enhanced, more put-together version of FAST Racing NEO, featuring all 15 vehicles from the game and its post-launch Neo Future Pack, and all 24 tracks as well as six brand new additions. Originally, those were split into six cups of four tracks each; this time around, the 30 tracks have been shuffled around a bit to create 10 new cups, each with three tracks instead. This is a really pleasant change to the formula; the game keeps a record of your best cup and track times, and shorter cups mean greater replayability. It's no effort to spend less than 10 minutes playing a cup, and your latest improvements are clearly shown on the cup select screen, which is a neat little inclusion.
If you've played any other racers recently, the controls for FAST RMX should sit pretty comfortably with you, although full control customisation is available if you want to amend the default control scheme. This uses A and B to accelerate and brake respectively, ZL and ZR to lean left and right, R to use your boost energy from orbs collected on the track, and X to switch between your vehicle's two phases. Simply put, phases are seen visually when your vehicle is lit up blue or orange, and this corresponds with boost strips and jumps seen on all the game's tracks. If you're in the right phase when you go over a boost strip or a jump, you'll be successful; if you're in the wrong phase, the boost strip will only slow you down, and jumps won't work, potentially dropping you in a pit. The default controls are pretty comfortable after a short while, but button mapping is always a welcome addition. You can also play with a single Joy-Con, though you might want to re-map the boost button - clicking the control stick can be a little awkward.
Each of the vehicles you can pick from has four key stats - acceleration, top speed, boost, and weight. A vehicle's weight ties into its maneuverability, with lighter machines being easier to control, though also easier for others to knock about a bit. There's a good selection of machines to pick from, although at the start you're stuck with Cebra Genetics as your only machine, and you'll need to place well in cups to unlock the rest of them - one of which is a speedy blue number called Fulcon Capital. Who knows where the idea for that one came from?
There are three modes to be sampled in FAST RMX, with the Championship mode being the most prominent. This features the ten different cups we mentioned earlier, playable in three difficulties - Subsonic, Supersonic, and Hypersonic - which provide higher speeds the harder you go. It's hard to tell if the AI if any tougher, but your reflexes will definitely need to be on point. Complementing this mode is Hero Mode, which is far more like F-Zero in that your boost energy also doubles as shield energy, so running out will cause you to crash and burn. You can build this back up by collecting orbs or running over boost strips, but you need to keep an eye on it - and you also need to win the race. Unlike in the championships, where you can progress with a top-three finish, you'll only "win" a track by coming first, and the game tells you how many attempts you needed to get there. We're surprised at the lack of a Time Attack mode, but this is due in an upcoming update, so we're not going to complain.
The third mode - and our favourite - is Multiplayer, which features split-screen for up to four players as well as local or online play for up to eight people at once. Playing this with friends is a hell of a lot of fun, and the same is true when you're playing online, which is generally seamless apart from some minor jumping-about by other players, though it doesn't detract from the fun in any way. What can be a bit of a pain is that, on rare occasion, your end position might drop for no apparent reason - we've found this on a couple of occasions where we've made a last-minute overtake, maybe from second to first place, yet for some reason have still ended up second on the leaderboard. It's not the end of the world by any stretch, and we'd expect this only happens online and not in local play, but it can still be frustrating for some.
Part of the reason we consider multiplayer to be the best mode is that you're playing with other humans, because the game's CPU players in single-player mode can be a bit too ruthless at times. It's almost as if they don't make a single mistake sometimes, taking every shortcut they can find and becoming almost impossible to catch up to after somehow storming past you. It's far from a dealbreaker - there aren't any CPU favourites in cups, so placing high overall is still pretty doable - but it can be annoying when you're not doing anything wrong, only for the computer to push all the way to the front out of nowhere. The fact that you slow down quite a bit when you get hit from behind doesn't help matters, and if your machine has low acceleration, you can find yourself falling behind quicker than you can recover. In all honesty, we'd like to see the CPU brought down a peg or two in the lowest difficulty, just to make the game a little friendlier for any players who are new to the series.
Whichever mode you're playing, though, there's plenty to be said for the game's presentation. Visually, it's hugely impressive, with gorgeous graphics and simple, minimal menus throughout. There are a couple of options to tinker with in case you want to make the visuals a little sharper, although whether this affects the gameplay is probably down to personal preference, and we found the high-speed gameplay easy to keep up with in any case. Another option that we like - that we really like - is the use of HD Rumble, which sends vibrations from the two Joy-Con right through you whenever you hit something or crash out. There's also an impressive soundtrack in tow, and though you might not notice it much while you're busy doing 400 miles per hour, there are some fantastic tunes in there. Cameron Crest and Antarctica are definitely two of our favourites from the selection.
As a bigger, better version of its Wii U predecessor, FAST RMX takes a bunch of tried-and-tested content and mixes it up into a fantastic new package. Aside from the misstep with the CPU racers - which we hope might be addressed at some point - it makes for an incredibly fun racer with plenty of replayability, and a brilliant, if currently simplistic, online offering. The ability for two players to play comfortably with a single Joy-Con each might be a perk of the Nintendo Switch itself, but it's a great benefit to this game by letting anyone join in easily. Shin'en have pulled it out of the bag once again, and while the word "definitive" gets thrown about quite a lot these days, this experience is genuinely deserving of it. It's one of the best futuristic racers of the current generation, and makes for an incredible Switch launch title for any racing fans.
FAST RMX is out now on Nintendo Switch.
The Nintendo Channel would like to thank Shin'en Multimedia for providing a copy of FAST RMX to review.