Remember when Vanilla Ice released \”Ice Ice Baby\” and pretended it was fresh and unique? Come on Ice, we all knew what was really going on. Fast Racing Neo is kind of like that, but faster, tougher, and less embarrassing to talk about in public.
Fast Racing Neo is new racing downloadable exclusive for Wii U released by Shin’en games. It will run you 14.99, which honestly feels like a steal for the amount of content this game smashes into such as small package. It\’s a suitable follow up to their equally stellar Wiiware title Fast Racing League. FRN imagines a world where tires have been replaced by antigravity and dull black tar is now vibrant neon. If this sounds familiar, well that’s because it very purposely is. When I first drafted this, I wrote that the game is a “Love song to older titles of the same genre, like Nintendo’s F-Zero GX, and Psygnosis’ Wipeout.” Leaving it at that would do this game a major disservice as it has some stellar uniquity and features worth checking out.
Foremost, this game looks and sounds beautiful. I’m very impressed with what such a small team was able to do visually with hardware that is now generally considered “outdated.” Lighting and Blur effects will give a real sense of speed and risk. The soundtrack is a perfect techno-synth mix up that fits the feel of the game. I’ve even spent a notable amount of time listening to it outside of the game while doing other work.
If you’ve played any racing game in the past… ever, you won\’t have trouble getting around this game. FRN gives you a sleek, minimal select screen where you’ll find all of the traditional servings. Four track cup Championship modes with climbing difficulties, Time attack, even a simple and effective online multiplayer function is packed in. (Local splitscreen is also an option, however, I did not have a chance to test it out for the review.) Impressive load times for a game so visually appealing means you won’t have to wait around for the action to start. Simply pick one of 10 vehicles (varying in performance based on weight and acceleration), select one of four cups, and next thing you know you’re powering and boosting at break neck speeds towards victory.
Speaking of boosting, Here’s where things are a bit different.
The game boasts boost platforms. Crazy idea, I know, but these platforms don’t work how you might think at first. The platforms come in two different flavors, orange and blue. This coincides with a control to change your own cars booster color to match at will, and you’re in charge of making sure things match up. If you hit a booster platform with the same color as your vehicle’s color phase you will zip along faster; hit the boosters with the opposite color and you’re slowing down noticeably. In fact, this feature has lost me races where I was leading the pack admirably. Thankfully, mistakes like this feel fair and leave you blaming yourself instead of the game.
A simple control scheme means you won’t have to put a lot of thought into how to get around, and it’s a good thing; this game is simple to pick up, but it can be difficult and punishing if you aren’t focused. Collecting spheres will fill your boost meter, allowing you to speed up at any time, I found saving these for jump landing was key, otherwise you’re going to hit the ground with an infuriating slowdown. Using the left and right triggers will activate the same leaning mechanics as F-Zero, so it\’s crucial to lean when necessary to pull of those tight turns, but don’t over do it, because you might WILL bump into the corner. And in what I assume was a deliberate move by Shin’en, the camera angle is CLOSE. Enough so to limit your peripheral view to a minimal, meaning you have to pay attention to what’s immediately around you or you’re toast. I think I put it best when talking to Antonio about this game before my review. \”It’s one of those rare experiences that will have you forget that you’re holding your breath.\”
Another strong point of the game is the placing system. Other Nintendo racing games like Mario Kart 8 have a major problem of luck and outcome. You have to win 1st place in every race or you cannot win the cup. In a game that has you doing noticeably worse the better you’re placed, that is a major problem. I can’t express the fury in how many times I had to quit on the last race of a cup simply because I wouldn’t win gold. FNR takes a more professional approach of using overall outcome. Using points based on your placement, you might still be able to win a cup if your overall score is better than your opponents.
Nothing is perfect though, and this game has some slight slip ups that are worth mentioning. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks beautiful, and it runs (mostly) at a solid 60fps. But in a game that goes so fast, small hitch ups like slight artifacting and frame rate drops really do stand out. Also, and this is actually already being fixed in a January update, a mini map of the track and your opponents positions would be very helpful. Lastly, the Multiplayer feels a little lackluster and not engaging. There is a stellar leaderboard feature, but it would be nice to get a sense of how my opponents feel during races.
I think it\’s clear how I feel about Fast Racing Neo. Plays great, looks great, sounds great. In a world where other companies have abandoned games of this kind, it’s wonderful to have a talented developer like Shin’en step up and create something that fits so well into the genre.