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Fast RMX showcases Switch's technological leap over Wii U

Massively improved resolution, faster performance, better visuals.

By John Linneman. 11/03/2017

With a launch line-up dominated by Wii U ports, it's difficult to escape the impression that Switch is effectively a handheld version of its last-gen console, albeit built from very different core technology. Since we first went hands-on with the games, the question we've had here at Digital Foundry is pretty straightforward: just how much of a technological leap does Switch actually represent over Wii U? Once developers get to grips with the hardware, what more should we expect from it? Shin'en Multimedia's Fast RMX suggests that Switch has much, much more to offer.

Yes, it's a remake of an existing Wii U title - Fast Racing Neo - but it's most certainly not a straight port. There's commonality in assets, for sure, but what's clear is that the developers have retooled the technical design of the rendering technology to get more out of the Switch hardware. And with this sense of technical innovation, Fast RMX continues a tradition established by a range of spectacular launch titles - all of them racing game. Ridge Racers on PSP, Project Gotham Racing on Xbox and F-Zero on the Super NES all set out to showcase the technological credentials of a new piece of hardware, to spectacular effect. As perhaps the most beautiful portable game ever released, Fast RMX combines fluid performance, impressive visuals and addictive gameplay into a fully featured package.

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That package features everything contained in the original Fast Racing Neo - and more. All of the original circuits are present, combined with all the DLC. On top of that there are six new tracks as well - the entire package crammed into just 835MB. Shin'en has a well-deserved reputation for pushing Nintendo hardware in new directions, and in Fast RMX, the team is clearly on a mission here - to extract as much as possible from Switch's mobile Tegra technology. The end result is a substantial increase in visual quality, effectively confirming that Nintendo's new console is capable of so much more than Wii U.

The first major enhancement is resolution. On Fast Racing Neo on Wii U, Shin'en employs a temporal upscaling of sorts, transforming a 640x720 image into a 1280x720 one. Wii U's scaling works but shimmering and combing artefacts are prevalent, giving the impression that the game is running at a lower overall resolution. On Switch, Fast RMX ditches the temporal upscaling technique entirely and instead makes the jump to an adaptive resolution feature, where the game dynamically adjusts rendering resolution based on GPU load.

In docked mode, the game jumps regularly between 900p and 1080p - or even lower in very select circumstances - while portable mode drops the resolution ceiling to 720p where minor drops in pixel-count can also occur, mostly in pre-race fly-bys. From what we understand, there is a small issue with the current firmware on Switch which causes a slight drain on GPU resources - once corrected, we're told that Fast RMX should sustain a full 1080p in docked mode. There's no anti-aliasing as such but the higher average resolution and lack of flickering artefacts on Switch result in a much cleaner presentation.

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The presentation itself has been refined as well - the faster GPU featured in the Switch allows the team to implement a more robust atmospheric light scattering system. On Wii U, a simple screen-space approach was used but with RMX, each scene benefits from improved lighting precision and quality. Tracks have a new sense of richness that was missing from the original.

One of the tracks even adds dynamic headlamps to the vehicles during the race - a feature that was not possible on Wii U due to GPU constraints. The weather effects are also enhanced while the windscreen raindrop effect is reworked to appear more realistic than before. Between the improved effects, much higher resolution and enhanced lighting, the world of Fast RMX is more vivid and striking that its Wii U predecessor.

Fast RMX offers support for HD rumble and might just be one of the best examples of the new feature seen in an action game. The vibration effect is well suited to the on-screen racing and really enhances the sensation of playing the game. The effect was created by transforming frequency bands of the original sound effects across multiple vibration frequencies. The frequency bands are then equalised to get the final sensation. The end result is that the mix of sound, vibration and visual stimulation work together to great effect.