So I’m not sure about you all, but I’m pretty disappointed that it’s the year 2015 and the closest thing that we’ve come to in regards to levitating transportation is a hoverboard that is not even available for the masses. Even though I don’t know how to Skateboard, I still want to hover like the past predicted! But you know what I can do? Drive a car!
The idea of a flying/levitating car has danced around in the imagination of Sci-Fi fans for some time now. Guess the closest thing to simulate that is to play a game about them. So what game can you play on a Nintendo console that has floating cars, break neck speeds and takes place in the future? Well, it’s not F-Zero, well on Wii U anyway. No, this is Fast Racing NEO, a futuristic racer made by the indie company Shin’en as a sequel to their Wii Ware title “FAST Racing League”.
I remember catching my first glimpse of this game while at the Nindie Event the night before PAX Prime 2015. Front seat amongst a room full of eager Nintendo fans and there it was. Blasting techno music, smooth gameplay and probably one of the fastest racing games that I’ve ever seen! However, too much speed can sometimes cause/hide mistakes. Does Fast Racing NEO give us the futuristic racer that we’ve been looking for or should we pump the brakes with our wallets on this one?
Jumping right into gameplay, seeing as though there is no story to be had, there are no characters to choose from but rather vehicles. Each vehicle has a balance of two stats, top Speed and acceleration. No braking, or handling here, just pure speed.
The racing premise is similar to that of Mario Kart. Depending on your place, you’ll be rewarded points. Get the most and you win. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? However unlike Mario Kart, there are no items to give you the upper hand. Rather, there are boots orbs that when collected can fill up a boost gauge that can be used to blast through the competition! Or if you’re like me, straight into a wall causing you to crash like a majestic near sighted gazelle.
Along with these boost orbs, are two different colored boot panels. This is where we see the largest gimmick with Fast Racing NEO, the phase system. You can alternate between Blue and Orange with a quick tap of the button. Touch the corresponding color on the track and you’ll get a fantastic boost in speed! Touch the wrong color and you’ll be stopped to a crawl like that scared driver who saw the first flake of snow on the road.
Phasing took some adjusting, but eventually my reflexes sharpened and I was blasting through race tracks in no time! The speed aspect is something that I have to gush about a bit. When you boost or phase on the right track, you feel like a speeding force to be reckoned with! There were times that I caught myself leaning forward on my couch getting fully immersed in the game. And even through these fast speeding moments, the frame rate stayed at the promised 60 FPS.
When it comes to stages, each have their own personality and feel to them. Deserts, Stormy Oceans, Space Stations, Volcanoes, the whole nine yards. What was exciting, was how unpredictable each track was. Some would have hazards such as rotating fan blades and fire spouting vents on the first lap, while other would only reveal giant robot drills on the second. This kept me on my toes throughout my playthrough. While other racing game tracks have a simple motif, I never knew what to expect when the race started. Pure excitement from lap one to three! However, that excitement can be quickly followed with frustration.
The Championship mode is your go to spot for unlocking more tracks, vehicles and the painfully difficult Hero mode, but we’ll get to that later. Like most racing games, the difficulty is split up into three modes. For Fast Racing NEO we have Subsonic, Supersonic and Hypersonic league. While this looks like Easy, Normal & Hard, this roughly translates to “Normal, Hard and HAVE MERCY”. If there’s one thing that this game is, it’s difficult.
Now this isn’t difficult as in, a gentle climbing hill as you progress throughout the game. No, this one will leave you in the dust on the first track. While playing the Subsonic cup, which is supposed to be the Novice difficulty, I barely and I mean by the second, got in the top three places. Granted this added a level of excitement to each race, but again, this was the Novice difficulty.
While you play through the cups, you’ll eventually unlock more vehicles as well as the other higher more challenging cups. You’ll need these better vehicles if you plan on standing a chance against the computer or when playing online. In fact, if there’s one thing that I will applaud the game on, is the online mode which I played a few tracks with others who I’m sure were devs of the game. Now for some perspective, I’m currently in the State of Washington, while my opponents were all the way in Germany. Granted I was concern for inevitable lag and choppy gameplay, this was nowhere to be found. Even while online, the game still played at a gorgeous 60 FPS as if they were in the same room with me.
But lastly, we come to Hero Mode. Where do I even begin with Hero mode? It plays much like the Championship mode but there a few changes. Your boost meter is now your vehicles life force, if you crash its game over and you must place first in each race. If you’ve never contracted road rage, trust me, this mode will be the birth of it. I would approach this mode with extreme caution as to me, this breaks the threshold of a fun challenge to pure frustration.
Frustrations aside, is Fast Racing NEO something worth your time and $15? For playing with a group of friends whether online or on the same couch, absolutely! The game is gorgeous, smooth and exciting. However if you’re playing alone, just be prepared for the inevitable challenge that comes with this futuristic racer.