Way back when, Nintendo introduced a racing game for the Super Nintendo, a racing game that many regards as one of the better racing games to ever be released. It was a gem for its time, a game that spawned multiple sequels and even served as inspirations for several other games such as Wipeout and Extreme-G. That game was F-zero, and even while the title went on to do many great things, we haven’t seen a follow-up to the racing title since F-zero GX.
Thankfully we have companies like Shin’en who have stepped in and have crafted a wickedly fast racing title that has its roots firmly dug into the spirit of F-zero. But the main question I know many fans of F-zero is, and make no mistake as there will be countless comparisons between Fast Racing Neo, however, I have to add that the game actually reminds me more of Wipeout, especially on how it plays and the track layouts.
You’re able to play the game with either the Wii U gamepad and pro controller, however, after playing with the two I definitely give the edge to the pro controller. Thankfully you aren’t required to use the gamepad for anything once the game starts. The control scheme is actually a little more complex than I would have liked for a racing title such as this as well. You have several essential buttons; Accelerate, Brake, Left / Right lean for those tight corners (and for flying through the air) and Switch Phase. Now that last one is important if you want to win races, so let’s go over that. During a race, you’ll notice either a yellow or blue strip and there are many of them littered around the tracks you’ll be racing on.
At first, your thought is to drive right into them, but that’s wrong. Instead, you have to have the save color as the strip enabled and that’s where switch phase comes in as it will switch your ships “phase” from yellow to blue and vice versa. This then allows you to access that strip and once you do that you’ll be rewarded with an added speed boost, but fail to do so and the long the strip, the slower you’ll go as long as you’re in it. There are also orbs that are scattered around the tracks, picking them up helps fill out a boost meter which is located on the bottom left of your screen. Once you have some juice in the tank so to speak you can use the boost to speed across the course to help improve your lap time or use a well-placed boost to slam into the back of another racer and send them spinning out of course.
Speaking of the tracks, the racing courses throughout the game are amazing. See in this title you just don’t race, but you have to race and also avoid environmental elements on the tracks as well. Some tracks feature elements that can hinder your race or put a complete stop to it, from active fire pits that spit fire, waterfalls that obscure your vision, parts of the track that are suspended in the air by a crane that sways back and forth. and more. Hell, there’s even a course where a giant four legged mecha and running wild and smashes its legs onto the course, at times right in front of you.
While that seem like something that enhances the gameplay, that’s not completely true as some of the included gimmicks will and do tend to backfire, to the point where it may discourage you from playing the game. That aside, there is a huge variety of tracks and some are easily some of the best graphics I’ve seen on the Wii U outside of the house of Nintendo, definitely, have to give props to Shin’en there.
If you’re worried about the AI racers being a pushover, don’t…because they aren’t. Even in the starting league, which is the slowest, the AI controller racers are still a hassle. They overtake you with ease if you don’t pay attention, they ram the hell out of you if you don’t get out of their way and they’ll even knock you out of the sky should they take off of a ramp at the same time as you. They’ve had me cursing their names while trying to avoid being placed last in multiple races. Heck at one point I took off flying through the air and one of the racers smacked me right off the course, sending me crashing to my doom. Darn, those AI racers!
Graphically the game is beautiful in motion, the tracks are detailed as are the vehicles models. Running at a rock solid 60 fps, the game doesn’t skip a beat. Your vision blurs as you hit a boost strip or active your own boost, with the effect resembling something out of a sci-fi movie after a starship hits it’s hyperdrive and all the stars go speeding by. Colorful, vivid and entertaining is one way to describe how the game is in motion, and you’ll love it. However, if you simply sit there instead racing, you’ll sadly see the ugly side of the title. Jaggies and blurred textures are common places, as the graphical fidelity of the title was sacrificed in order to get that 60 FPS. It’s a compromise that we see often when it comes to Wii U games, but thankfully it doesn’t detract from the game’s charm unless you’re someone who can’t play a game unless it has an insane amount of AA and running at sub-1080p. But it’s a racing game, why would you be slowing down to look at the scenery?
Sadly while this game does remind me of F-zero, there are no F-zero inspired racing themes in the game. The music goes a fairly good job of providing a fast and uptempo futuristic vibe, I found much of the music pretty generic. The in-game sounds are a different story and the game does a good job of indicating when you’re hit, boosting, and even the backdrops have their own side effects such as the waterfalls that are running down over a certain course. Make no mistake, the audio is decent, but I just wish the music was a little more memorable, but I’m a huge video game music guy so it’s likely just me.
Between the Circuit Mode, Time attack mode, Hero Mode and Online mode, there’s plenty to do in Fast Racing NEO, especially with the Hero mode. Hero mode, which is easily my favorite mode, is opened up after you complete several objectives and changes up the game by introducing several challenges; You must finish first in each race to unlock the next, you now have a shield meter instead of a boost meter and the races are notably harder. I’m willing to bet that that shield change up is a direct node to F-zero, as you were one given one vehicle and if you blew up well it was game over.
Hero mode is definitely for the most hardcore racers out there, so if you don’t think you’re up for it, please for the sake of your controllers, don’t play this or risk it melting your face off and tossing said controller across the room.
Multiplayer, is where this game really shines, as it supports both local and online co-op racing and the game still retains it’s 60 frames per second while going so. After testing the multiplayer I do have to mention that the game doesn’t allow for private lobbies as of yet and anyone on your friend’s list can join your game. I would have liked an option to invite friends instead but I still rather this vs not have any online capability at all. But you have to try 4 player split screen local co-op, it’s amazing and the perfect party game.
* Copy of Fast NEO Racing was provided by Nintendo of America
Gotta go even faster!
The team over at Shin’en have crafted a fast and futuristic racing title in the vein of F-zero and Wipeout. I would go as far as to say that Fast Racing NEO is definitely a nod or an homage to those past racing giants. Even still, Fast Racing NEO has it’s own set of features and tricks that make it stand out on it’s one, from the beautiful and attractive backgrounds that will ultimately make you crash if you pay attention to them instead of the track, to a mechanic that rewards players that have split second reflexes.
With the addition of multiplayer options as well as a smooth 60 frames per second, makes this easily of the better Wii U racing out there, maybe even a little better than a certain racer that features a certain plumber.