F-Zero is a franchise that is sorely missed on the Wii U. It seems that Nintendo has forgotten all about its futuristic racer and have moved on. Fortunately, developer Shin’en is attempting to fill that void with FAST Racing NEO. While it has a rather generic name, the action and over fun is anything but. This might be the next best thing to having an actual F-Zero title on the Wii U.
One of the first things you will notice about this indie racer is its bare bones presentation. There isn’t a fancy story or a flashy opening, just standard menus and one mode to begin with. Once you select your first vehicle and Cup however, FAST Racing NEO hits you over the head with some nice visuals and outrageous speed. I was blown away when I first began that it took some time for everything to truly sink in. Once I got used to the sheer speed and familiarized myself with the controls, I was having some great fun!
At first, you will notice that the CPU opponents are not pushovers, and can present a steep learning curve. Don’t expect to come in first on your initial run, as you most likely have to race the same tracks a few times to get a better place. Your vehicle is equipped with a boost that you can use to speed by opponents, or knock them into walls or obstacles. You can replenish the boost by picking up boost pellets that are scattered on the course, but you have to be quick as opponents will try to grab them as soon as they appear. Boost pads placed on the course help a bit, but you simply cannot just drive over them to activate. The boost pads have different polarities, Orange and Blue, and you must match this color by pressing the L button. If your ship and boost pad do not match, you will slow down to a crawl. Sometimes the different boost pads are placed in a sequence where you have to change polarity in quick succession in order to prevent a sudden slow down. Combine this mechanic with the ruthless opponents and super fast speed, and you are in for one hell of a challenge.
Placing third or better will unlock new cars and the next track in the championship and gives you access to them in Time Attack mode to sharpen your skills. Once you get really good at the Championship mode, which will take a while, you can try out the Hero mode. This mode is a test in patience and skill, as your Boost meter is also a shield meaning that once wrong move can cause you to unexpectedly explode. To add to the challenge, you MUST place first place on each track to progress. I haven’t gotten far in Hero mode, but the overall fun and excitement of this game makes me want to keep trying, and I will! There is online play included which is a plus, but it seems not many folks are playing which is a damn shame. I did manage to get a few online races going though, and each one was smooth and lag free. I just wish more players were online.
Despite its initial presentation when you begin, the visuals here are stunning. Beautiful backgrounds and even some neat weather effects are present as you boost at insanely high speeds. The cars all look great and each one has a unique design that makes you want to unlock and try them all. Sound effects and music are ok, but nothing outstanding. Standard engine sounds and techno music are surrounding you at all times, but it does not get annoying. Control takes some getting used to at first, as you have to be quick and precise. Your ship is a bit touchy, and a slight tap can send you into a wall if you are not careful. Mix that with having to quickly change polarity for boost pads, using your on-board boost and leaning into the many turns can lead to some mild hand cramping. After a short time, though you will get used to everything.
If we cannot have an actually F-Zero, FAST Racing NEO definitely is a great substitute. This is a fun and challenging Wii U racer that will keep you entertained for a long while, and an outstanding experience especially for a relatively unknown indie studio. If you enjoy F-Zero, or other insanely fast racing games in general, than you must download this right now. Even new players who have never experienced a game like this will have a good time with FAST Racing NEO. This is one not to be missed, highly recommended.