Developed by Shin’en exclusively for Wii U, FAST Racing Neo is a mind-blowing experience. The dev team has overclocked this game’s engine to the point of insanity, crafting a title that is exploding with white-knuckled joy. It’s very existence makes me question Nintendo’s apparent unwillingness to produce an F-Zero title for the console. FAST Racing doesn’t do much that other futuristic racers haven’t done, but it fills an obvious void on Nintendo’s oft-dismissed console.
FAST Racing Neo chose the correct word to put in all caps. The game is definitely a racing game, and it’s definitely got a space-age feel to it that makes the word “neo” appropriate, but never has the word “fast” been so unbelievably fitting. On the surface, the game appears to be a complete rip-off of F-Zero…and it mostly is. The game makes little effort to hide this fact, using car with manufacturers named Fulcon Capital (almost an anagram of Captain Falcon) and Ziro Industries, and sporting tracks with themes shamelessly ripped from F-Zero’s rotting corpse. Anybody expecting a transcendent, deep, magical racing experience probably won’t find it here, but the reason the game consistently draws the comparison to F-Zero isn’t just because it’s a clone, but because it’s every bit as fun as any game in that franchise.
FAST Racing generally controls like any standard arcade racer, but it throws a couple of other things into the mix. Instead of having standard boost panels, the game forces you to react quickly to different colored boost panels as you zoom down each of the game’s 16 tracks. In order to take full advantage of these panels, you must change the color of your car to match the color of the panel, something that is easier said hypothetically than done at 1000 miles per hour. Drifting is also easier said than done, as you will frequently find yourself smashing into the barriers and other cars as you attempt to take sharp turns at breakneck speeds. The game also sends you flying into the air on occasion, and even attempts to mimic other racing games by offering multiple paths to explore and obstacles to avoid. These inclusions are excellent and help to greatly extend the replay value. The control itself is as tight as one would expect from a high-speed racer. It is often too easy to overcorrect due to the hyperspeed physics, so practice will be necessary to really get the hang of the game. Once you have mastered the controls and the tracks, the game continues to pose a challenge in Time Trial and Hero Mode (known around my house as “This Game Is F***ing Impossible Mode”).
The game is gorgeous. It has that stereotypical sterile, simple look possessed by any number of futuristic racers, but it’s also a beautiful game that looks fantastic for a Wii U indie title. This approach works because the game is tearing along at 60 fps (and 600 mph) and you can’t notice any subtle imperfections that may or may not be present in the textures. While racing, the game pumps out a solid soundtrack that will have your head bobbing, even during tense, hairpin turns. The slick presentation is simply unrelenting in FAST Racing Neo, and it makes for one hell of a ride.
There are several different modes to choose from, including a single player Grand Prix mode called “Champion”, as well as the standard Time Trial, Multiplayer, and Online modes. Multiplayer mode runs very smoothly and had only one or two frame rate drops. I was only playing with one other person, and I have heard about issues with the four player mode, including the disappointing case of the GamePad rendering all four screens at once instead of one big screen. In what situation would anybody ever want to play off-TV with three other people? I didn’t have a problem with the internet connection creating lag in the Online mode, although it wasn’t always easy to find a lobby full of other players, unless of course I opted to play with friends. If we all give awareness of the game’s excellence time to spread, though, we might have ten thousand more people playing FAST Racing Neo online at any given time over the next few weeks. Not to editorialize too much, but it’s a shame that games like this will undoubtedly not get the attention they deserve simply because they are exclusively on Wii U.
The fact that FAST Racing Neo even exists in its current form is incredibly impressive. Shin’en did a spectacular job creating a beautiful, fun high-speed racer that filled a huge void on Wii U. The wait is over, racing fans. FAST Racing Neo, despite being an indie game, provides mostly everything you could ever want out of a racing game. The lack of cars and tracks really makes this feel more like a classic arcade racer than a AAA release, but this is an indie that is definitely worth returning to repeatedly anyway. Buckle up and grab your GamePad.
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