Review: FAST Racing Neo (Wii U)

Fast and furious, or slow and somber?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 12/16/2015 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Beautiful graphics; brilliant track and vehicle designs; thumping soundtrack; stiff challenge
Poison Mushroom for...
Resolution is a little low; difficulty might be too much for some players

I have a thing for Shin’en Multimedia.

The developer has been dropping solid games on Nintendo platforms as far back as Iridion 3D on Game Boy Advance in 2003. What the company has been doing on Nintendo’s downloadable services since the days of Wii, however, is what really came to make me love Shin’en. Jett Rocket, Art of Balance, and the original FAST Racing League are some of the best games to have ever been produced for the eShop, WiiWare, and DSiWare. Knowing that Wii U was suffering from an enormous, F-Zero-sized hole in its catalog, Shin’en has dropped the sublime FAST Racing Neo onto the console so fans can experience all the downloadable sci-fi racing they could possibly ever want. Buckle up, folks; this is easily one of the best titles on the Wii U eShop.

Let’s cut to the chase (a pun!)– this game is gorgeous. FAST Racing Neo is a level above just about any other title that has been released in either digital or physical form on Wii U that wasn’t made by Nintendo. Every one of the 16 racks has a stupendous layout, with incredible corkscrews and jumps, tricky curves, and a smorgasbord of background details to take in. Whether it’s the sight of enormous sand worms wriggling towards the race track, or towering futuristic skylines, FAST is a masterpiece of art direction. The game also blisters by at 60 frames per second, with only a hint of slowdown that pops in once in a great while. If there’s one caveat to all this visual wonderment, it’s that it came at the cost of the screen resolution. There’s a notable slight graininess to what’s on screen; nothing that hurts the overall package, but it’s there and can’t be ignored. Other than that nitpick, this is a title easily up there with the likes of F-Zero and WipeOut when it comes to aesthetic polish.

The F-Zero comparison that I’ve made more than once here has been intentional, but don’t let it completely color your perceptions of FAST Racing Neo from a gameplay standpoint. Yes, this a futuristic racer with blinding speed, and yes, the controls of each craft require precision control to maneuver around each track. What makes the game different is its boost system. Each ship can be shifted between two different colors (blue and orange) at will during a race. Boost pads littered around the road are color coordinated, requiring split-second switches from blue to orange in order to be activated and send a ship launching forward. Along with the pads, there are also energy power-ups on the tracks that can be collected in order to unleash a manual burst of boost at will. Utilizing each is essential to being successful in races, especially because opponents will be taking advantage of both, themselves. It’s a clever twist that makes the game unique and lends it an additional layer of strategy that I wholly welcomed.

FAST Racing Neo is a tough game, to be sure, but a fair one. Learning to steer each craft (all of which have different specifications to take into consideration), along with acclimating to the boost system, comes naturally after only a race or two, but mastering both… well, that takes some practice. Practice that will be a thrill to partake in, but know that many of these courses can be a real test, and that’s on the lowest difficulty level. Completing the game’s different cups will eventually unlock Hero Mode, which makes even a single collision a potential disaster of explosions and dashed hopes at the finish line. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to cut their teeth, this is an old-school challenge that will delight.

Online multiplayer and local split-screen are both supported in FAST Racing Neo. I found that the local multiplayer was serviceable, but as with any game of this kind, the speed and imagery is better suited for a full screen. It does in a pinch, with no real notable hitches to the gameplay that I experienced in my play-through, and the bigger your television the better. Online was very solid, though the lobby wasn’t particularly brimming with people to play when I got on. I did experience races with multiple opponents, but there were times when I took on one or two, alone. That’s common sometimes for even Mario Kart 8, though, and hopefully as more people download the game it will be less of an issue in the future. The framerate didn’t dip during my online sessions, which was a definite plus (and a respectable feat!).

Enough waxing poetic, because the longer you’re sitting here reading this, the more time you’re not spending heading to the eShop to download FAST Racing Neo. It’s a stunning title that any F-Zero or hyper-fast racing fan will want to play. Shin’en continues to be a developer that delivers the goods almost each and every single time it goes up to the plate, and I really hope that this is a series fans can continue to see more installments of in the future. Be sure to download FAST Racing Neo and all these other great titles that we just compiled for your shopping pleasure in our holiday buyer’s guide!

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