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Stunt Race FX

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Released: 1994

Genre: Racing

Format reviewed: SNES

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Argonaut

Submitted by: Craig Hawkins

It's like The Wizard Of Oz. As the camera pans around your ride at the start of the opening circuit, you realise there and then that you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. You're in a better place now.

You're in the Super FX-powered world of Stunt Race FX: a world of speedy, stunty thrills, a world of 16-bit fully 3D polygonal racing. Watched over by Shigeru Miyamoto, it's a typically twee Ninty answer to Sega's pioneering Virtua Racing coin-op.

The showroom of anthropomorphic vehicles, replete with eyes for headlights, are endearing rides. In the best Nintendo traditions the roster of selectable vehicles cater for all needs. F-Type satiates the appetites of wannabe Nigel Mansells, 4WD handles like a drunken grandfather of the models in Excite Truck, while Coupe is the Mario-style all-rounder of the garage.

The real stars of the game are the flamboyant, undulating tracks. Horses gallop across a dusty savannah, dolphins leap over a half-pipe to announce an imminent subaquatic enclosure and fog slowly lifts from the King's Forest. Heavenly drives among the clouds on Sky Ramp and a midnight spin around a metropolis lend their weight to a complete visual package that ticks all the eye candy boxes.

Boost and power crystals populate the tracks to be fought over. The four modes of play – Speed Trax, Stunt Trax, Battle Trax and Free Trax – provide genuinely exceptional variety and longevity. Nintendo rammed the boot to breaking point with its patented brand of magic.

The relatively small game window won't impress modern gamers, even without taking into account those repugnant black borders Nintendo loved inflicting on us Europeans. The two player mode in particular suffers in this department. Time has also rendered the frame rate a little archaic, but the grace of the gameplay shines through any technical shortcomings.

A franchise to rival Mario Kart could have been built on these foundations, but it wasn't to be. Beyond incidental cameos in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the game has been consigned to history with no indication of even a Virtual Console outing. For shame.