Review – FAST Racing NEO (Wii U)

FAST Racing NEO is an anti-gravity arcade racer developed by Shin’en Multimedia with fans of the F-Zero series in mind. The game features a variety of high-speed hovering vehicles designed for use on 16 futuristic tracks in single-player tournaments or competitive multiplayer.

As a huge fan of racing games in general it’s nice to see a new competitor on the Wii U. I downloaded Mario Kart 8 the night I unboxed the console and I’ve beaten and revisited it many times now. I exhausted Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on the PC thanks to Humble Bundle. Many of the other noteworthy Wii U racers are ports from older systems and Nintendo loyalists simply don’t have access to a lot of today’s top racers. I couldn’t help but secretly harbor high hopes for FAST Racing NEO and, many hours later, I’m happy to report that it’s a solid title for Wii U players.

The basic race flow throughout the game involves navigating tracks at breakneck speeds while dodging hazards, collecting boost energy, and phase shifting in anticipation of track boosts. That last mechanic needs some explanation. FAST Racing NEO vehicles have two “phase” modes, which is to say they respond to orange and blue boosts. Changing modes in anticipation of the next track boost is the ever-present responsibility of the player, which adds a unique challenge to an already-difficult control system. The combination of speed and track difficulty requires effective use of hard banking turns, subtle strafing adjustments, manual boosts, and phase shifting, all of which have their own shoulder buttons/triggers assigned. This works best if you have two index fingers on each hand. Mastering this system is a reward within itself, but you won’t get there without scores of crashes because you flew off track, jumped and touched a railing, or ran into a rotating fan blade.

The racing challenges are multiplied by the game’s circuit structure. To unlock new circuits and vehicles, players must earn a top-three point total after four races, none of which can be restarted or continued between play sessions. In a game where one mistake often ruins a podium finish, this pushes the difficulty into brutal territory. This isn’t necessarily a complaint; Wii U racing fans deserve a challenging game that offers the player no special treatment and they certainly just got one.

FAST Racing NEO in-game screenshot

I was very impressed with FAST Racing NEO’s graphics. The visual design of the sci-fi fantasy tracks and vehicles is attractive and fits well. I found that appreciating the detail and realism of the environments breaks up the frustration of frequent crashing quite nicely. 60 frames per second gameplay in single player and two-player split-screen also go a long way to make this a stand-out racing experience.

The sound design is fitting if somewhat forgettable. Races unfold over the expected future-techno/house music you’d really only notice if it were missing. The sound effects are great, though the gameplay only allows for a small variety of whooshes and hums. The announcer will likely earn a lot of eye rolls (which will cause countless accidents). As an arcade racer, some enthusiastic yelling is to be expected, but the frequent excited commentary from what sounds like someone’s dad chiming in eventually becomes grating.

FAST Racing NEO Multiplayer

FAST Racing NEO’s feature set locked in a solid score for the game but could have pushed it even further. There’s a lot of ground to cover and goodies to win for solo players and the game supports just about every type of multiplayer from local split screen to competitive play online. If the game had implemented some basic vehicle customization and upgrading it might have overcome some players’ indifference to which vehicle they use and the replay factor may have risen significantly. Still, there’s no reason players won’t be hover racing happily many months from now.

Overall it’s easy to call FAST Racing NEO one of the Wii U’s top racing games. I’m still having fun with it and I already find myself curious about the possibility of more content down the road. It’s a solid value at $14.99 and would be a no-brainer in the event of a sale. Look out, Mario Kart!

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