Speed Racer is the world’s first non-interactive sci-fi arcade racing game. There’s not a single element of its homicidally epic race scenes (which take up about half of the film) that you haven’t experienced in a game. The rollercoaster track design is pure F-Zero GX/Wipeout. As for the race choreography itself, throw together GX's velocity, Ridge Racer's physics-breaking drifts and Mario Kart's knockabout combat. Then mix thoroughly, sprinkle in a few magic mushrooms and heat to boiling point.
No-one in Speed Racer drives in a straight line. They pull Ridge Racer-style 90 degree powerslides on the straights and they tackle every corner with a 1080 spin, whether technically attached to the track or not. Ripping a page straight out of F-Zero’s combat book, those spins are also the primary component of the film’s “car fu” battling, alongside a Mario Kart’s worth of cartoony in-car weaponry and defensive tech, not to mention spring-loaded bunnyhops as standard.
And did I mention that the frequent occurrences of carsplosion that result from all of this are preceded by the unfortunate driver being safely ejected in a large spongey bubble, referred to in the film as a “quick-save”? And that the opening race, in which Speed chases the lap record of his deceased older brother, is depicted by his racing against a literal ghost car. Oh poor Speed Racer. You do want to be a game so much, don’t you? So much it hurts.
And there’s more. Although imitating the original SR anime’s visual style, the film’s hyper-saturated colour palette vomits the essences of the Mushroom Kingdom and classic blue-sky Sega in equal measure. The stunning cityscapes look like preview footage from an unreleased Ratchet & Clank game. Race-scene dialogue is built around nothing more than competitive throwaway one-liners. The vast but largely faceless background cast all look, feel and behave just like generic NPCs. There’s even a first-person vehicular gun turret sequence. All it’s missing is loading screen between reels.
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