Racing video games have been a popular genre in the gaming industry dating back to the heyday of the arcades. Back in the 1980s, arcade racers like Pole Position, Hang-On, Outrun and Road Blasters were real favorites among many arcade racing lovers and countless coins disappeared into these machines and arcade cabinets. It was in the 1990s though that advancing technology among home video game consoles led to such arcade classics such as Ridge Racer, Cruis’n USA, Daytona USA, San Francisco Rush and Crazy Taxi all being ported to home consoles and introducing the racing genre to a whole new generation of fans during an age when arcades started diminishing in popularity and more players of video games turned to the home consoles and PCs to satisfy their gaming needs.
I most definitely count myself among the very large crowd that is drawn to the exhilarating genre of racing as I really get a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment out of experiencing the sense of speed that many racing games deliver. There are people out there that get a real thrill from racing cars or just plain driving fast in the actual world, but for me, I’d much rather experience the joy of high speeds from the comfort and safety of my room and through a video game! In addition to relishing in the adrenaline boost that comes from the speed aspect of racing games, I also like to test my skills against the twists and turns of race tracks while either competing against computer-controlled opponents or real people, or even the clock if the particular racing game that I’m playing has a time trials mode. For me, there’s a sense of satisfaction that I feel when I’m able to complete a track with a time that beats my previous best time, or better yet, surpasses a developer’s best time for the track! The aforementioned reasons I listed for why I’m drawn to the racing genre help explain why Fast Racing Neo was a video game that I just had to have as all of the above describe many of the qualities that it has to offer, but there are other important qualities too that put this game near the top of the list for games that I most wanted in 2015.
I can’t help but feel that the racing genre is one of most diverse out of all the forms of gaming genres and I enjoy that variety. From the more realistic racing simulators based off of NASCAR or Formula 1 to the cartoony ones like Mario Kart or Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing to the ones that are identified as futuristic such as F-Zero or Wipeout, I really feel that there is something for everyone and I think that’s part of the reason why the genre continues to appeal to older and newer generations of video game players alike and has spread out across various entertainment platforms. I’m more partial towards the futuristic, fantasy sub-genre myself, although I can and do enjoy the more grounded in reality styled racers, but with Fast Racing Neo being a futuristic, fantasy racer, that aspect of the game made it just all the more appealing to me, and on top of it having the aforementioned qualities that I described in the previous paragraph, this racer was one that I was ready to purchase digitally on day one. While I have more of personal preference of having actual physical software, this being a download-only title wasn’t going to prevent me from owning it!
Developed by Shin’en Multimedia for the Nintendo Wii U and available exclusively through the Wii U eShop as a digital download title for fourteen dollars and ninety-nine cents, Fast Racing Neo draws inspiration from a variety of other futuristic racing franchises, such as Extreme-G, Wipeout and F-Zero while putting its own unique spin on the genre. While I’m most familiar with the F-Zero series, I have played a few games in both the Extreme-G and Wipeout series’, and upon first playing Fast Racing Neo, I felt it was a game that I had once picked up and played before, despite that not being the case. It was a somewhat strange sensation to experience a wave of familiarity from a video game that I had never played before, but I feel this was due to the game incorporating elements from the aforementioned series’ and using those elements to build the framework of how the game looks and plays. I wouldn’t be surprised if others that downloaded this game experienced something similar; sensing familiarity from a video game that they were playing for the first time.
Don’t worry though; despite Fast Racing Neo’s emulation of past futuristic racers, this game definitely paves its own path in more ways than one, so it does manage to offer up a reasonably fresh gaming experience. To put it simply, I couldn’t play Extreme-G or F-Zero the same way as I play Fast Racing Neo, as there are nuances in the gameplay that set the games apart. Admittedly, on the surface, it may seem like a clone of F-Zero or Wipeout, but upon playing this game, I feel it becomes clearer and clearer that the development team brought some of their own ideas to the table while implementing their own vision of how a high-speed, futuristic racer could be enjoyed. The similarities that the game does share with the aforementioned futuristic racers is partly the reason why I enjoy it so, but it’s the mechanics and aspects that Fast Racing Neo does somewhat differently that also add to the appeal of the game.
While having some form of story is uncommon in racing games, in the past, some have tried to incorporate one, such as F-Zero GX. Fast Racing Neo, however, follows the trend paved by most racers and completely forgoes any sort of a story and instead speeds ahead right into the action. There is no backstory to read into, no characters to familiarize yourself with or narrative that develops alongside the gameplay or anything along those lines. Fast Racing Neo really is simply all about the racing! The premise of the game is just that straightforward. The menus are slick and simple, designed for fast navigation, and my impression is this was intended to get me and everyone else that plays this game through the menus as quickly as possible so that I could start actually playing the game almost immediately after starting it up. It’s really streamlined. Pick the mode that you want to play, choose the speed class, select the Championship Cup that you want to compete in, decide on a vehicle and then you really are off to the races of the future!
While I can understand how some people reading this might be disappointed in learning that there is no story or characters, for me, personally, I don’t see that as being a negative here. I don’t feel this type of game needs a story as I don’t believe it would enhance it in any way, shape or form. Considering how this is an eShop downloadable game that was developed by what is known as an indie studio that doesn’t necessarily have access to all the kinds of resources, tools and financial support that larger development studios can draw upon, I feel it was a good move on the development team’s part to devote focus on the core gameplay rather than dedicate time to trying to work a story and characters into the mix. I suspect too that a vast majority of people that purchase this game, like me, are doing so because they’re most interested in racing at unimaginable speeds in futuristic vehicles on tracks that are laid out across a stunning variety of settings, some of which are more grounded in reality while others have a very science fiction feel.
The Nintendo Wii U has received a great deal of criticism since its launch in 2012 regarding its lack of power to produce visually stunning games when compared to other home consoles on the market. I feel that Fast Racing Neo is one of several games on the Wii U that disputes the claim that the Wii U is incapable of running breathtaking high definition software. I believe the graphics really enhance the overall experience, and I like the fact that this game sports vehicles that have high resolution textures and track environments that are diverse and help establish a visually immersive atmosphere for each track.
There are a total of sixteen tracks in Fast Racing Neo and I love how they all feel unique and distinctive thanks to the rich visual settings. One track, for example, is set in a lush tropical jungle with extremely natural and gorgeous lighting as well as various forms of foliage along the edges of and sometimes hanging over the track while another track features an underwater transparent tunnel where different kinds of fish and undersea rock formations are visible, and the sun can be seen illuminating the water in some areas, making the water even more gorgeous to look at. While I feel it’s true that graphics don’t entirely make a game, I do feel that they can add to the immersion of the experience, and I feel that’s again proven to be true with Fast Racing Neo.
The framerate of the game sticks to a solid sixty frames per second, meaning there is a real, incredible sense of speed to be enjoyed. The environments literally become a blur and stretch at the fastest of speeds in this game, and that helps even further convey the sense of high speed and invoke a wonderful adrenaline rush! I definitely feel the development team deserves a great deal of credit for being able to assemble a visually stunning game, by Wii U hardware standards, and maintain a steady framerate with no slowdown, despite the nice lighting effects and weather elements that sometimes play out during some of the courses.
On the subject of weather elements, I really like how the weather and enviromental effects, such as snow, meteor showers or dust particles, aren’t just for visual show, but actually play a role in influencing the gameplay by obstructing one’s view of the course ahead and impacting how I must handle my vehicle. One track set in a frigid, snowy environment, for example, features thrilling formations of frosty ice that adds an additional layer of challenge to that particular race! The way the environments and weather elements impact the races adds a touch of realism to this futuristic racer and adds variety to the array of challenges that a person must face in order to successfully complete all the races.
As far as difficulty goes, be prepared for a challenge! Unless you’re an extremely skilled person, it’s going to be a struggle to win a vast majority of the races! Much like in F-Zero, your vehicle has a boost gauge, but unless you refill it regularly, it’s going to be depleted after so many uses, so while navigating the intricate, curving tracks at high speeds and dealing with the competition, you also have to be quick to maneuver to collect orbs spread out across the track to restore your vehicle’s boost energy. Unless you’re frequently boosting in this game, you’ll be left in the dust!
Of course, if you boost too frequently, you may end up crashing into something or soaring off the track, so you have to learn the tracks well before you can do well in the races in order to know when the best time to boost is and when to avoid boosting. This game isn’t forgiving, either – boosting at the wrong time can send you from the front of the pack all the way to the back, and then it becomes extra hard to regain a position ahead of the competition! Boosting can also be used as a sort of weapon, which I think is cool, because boosting into other competing vehicles will cause them to lose control and speed momentarily, give you the edge. I found out shortly after playing this game that this is almost a necessity in order to get ahead of the competition. You have to be aggressive, but if you’re too aggressive, you could end up costing yourself the race!
A fairly distinctive concept that I like that also adds to the challenge and strategy of this game is how on each track, you’ll notice there are orange and blue strips. By pressing a button, I’m able to initiate a “phase switch” and alter the color of my vehicle. The idea is to make sure my vehicle is blue when passing over a blue strip as it will give me a free boost, but if my vehicle is orange at the time or I drive over an orange strip while my vehicle is blue, it will drastically cut my speed. It’s necessary to utilize these strips to win races, so it adds an additional element of difficulty and requires a player to divide up his or her attention so that he or she can quickly respond to initiating a phase switch ahead of a colored strip while still dealing with the competition and remaining in sync with the curves and flow of the track.
It feels like Fast Racing Neo isn’t just demanding one-hundred percent of my attention – it’s like it’s expecting me to give even more of that, and it while it’s true that it can make races very frustrating and tense, it’s also true that the races deliver a really wonderful sense of accomplishment when claiming first place. I feel very rewarded when I come in first in this game because first place is quite hard to claim, even on the simplest courses and slowest speed.
Thus, on top of avoiding colliding into walls and properly cornering to save time, collecting orbs for boosting and boosting at the right time, it’s a necessity to match up the color of one’s vehicle with the colored strips and objects on the track in order to gain extra speed and momentum, all while the game is moving at a very fast speed. Not an easy feat! But a necessary one, because some tracks feature literally impossible jumps unless the player lines up his or her vehicle with the proper color.
Still, I love just how incredible some of the jumps are in this game and it’s not often that a game leaves me breathless over just how cool something was that I just experienced, and I’ve had more than a couple of those exhilarating moments with Fast Racing Neo. That’s why no matter how angry I get at the game, or myself, for screwing up at some point in the Championship Cup that I’ll currently be competing in, and thus having to start the cup all over again, I’ll still want to try again because of the amazing adrenaline rush that I’ll feel while pushing myself to play perfectly at high speeds in vibrant and dynamic environments. One might not think a pure racing game that lacks a story and characters could invoke emotional responses, but this one does, for me, because the difficulty that it offers in order to fully complete the game can invoke both aggravation and rage at how demanding the challenge is and a wonderful sense of gratification and accomplishment upon successfully completing one cup at one speed class of the game before moving on to the next one.
For those seeking an even more intense and demanding challenge, and quite honestly it’s a challenge that I personally may not overcome for a long time, if ever, there is an unlockable mode called “Hero Mode”. Not only does beating this mode require first place in every race at the fastest speed class, but additionally, Hero Mode takes a page from F-Zero’s gameplay book and ties the boost and shield gauges together, so as you boost along the track, you’re depleting your shield gauge at the same time. This essentially forces players to be even more attentive and skillful than in Championship Mode.
If that somehow wasn’t enough of a challenge, the tracks are even mirrored, too, so you might be like me – not only struggling with the added difficulty attached to boosting depleting my vehicle’s shield, making a destructive crash even more likely, but also, you may also be fighting against instinct and memory telling you to go right up head when in reality, the course is mirrored, so that right is now a left! If you’re reading this review and you’re someone that feels games are just too easy nowadays compared to how they once were, Fast Racing Neo may prove that games that demand your absolute attention and require refined skill as well as quick reaction times still do exist!
The difficulty factor will likely drive away some players from this futuristic racer. It really does put one’s reflexes to the test. I myself have turned the game off in frustration on more than one occasion because of just how demanding this game is and how it allows so little room for any mistakes, that a player simply has to master the mechanics of the game as well as pretty much memorize the courses if he or she wants to stand a chance at beating it. As there is no retry option upon doing poorly in a race, one mistake can cost a player the entire cup, and that has happened to me more times than I can remember.
This is one of the hardest games I’ve played in some time, and honestly, it may be too hard for a lot of players to enjoy. You pretty much have to be perfect every moment of every race to hope to finish first. I have to say too what all of this does is make for inducing a somewhat strange feeling in me while I’m playing the game. The sense of thrill that I get from pulling off perfect turns and extreme jumps across huge gaps feeds into the stress and tension that I feel while playing, because I know if I don’t continue to play well, I’ll lose the cup, yet oddly enough, just as how the thrill of doing well adds to the pressure to continue to do well, the pressure feeds right back into the sense of thrill that I feel while overcoming the challenges presented by the tracks, the environmental factors and the competition as well.
Fortunately, there are other modes to choose from if the main single player mode becomes too frustratingly difficult. Aside from Championship Mode, which is what I consider to be the main single player mode, there’s also a Time Attack Mode which doesn’t feature other racers and offers a variety of times to beat, which can be a helpful practicing tool to get better at the Championship Mode since it allows players to grow more comfortable and proficient with the controls while better learning the tracks and the unique hazards that some of them present.
There’s also the aforementioned Hero Mode. Multiplayer is divided up into local and online. Local is limited to four players, but online goes up to eight, and you can choose to only play with registered friends or play against strangers worldwide. Playing online can sometimes be easier than going up against the sometimes almost too perfect and too aggressive computer-controlled vehicles, but I’ve come across some really talented and skilled people from other parts of the world that put even the toughest computer controlled opponents on the highest speed and difficulty to shame, and it just leaves me wondering how some of these players managed to get just that good!
Vehicles aren’t really all that unique and are almost pretty much interchangeable, unfortunately. That’s one of the few shortcomings that really stick out in Fast Racing Neo in my view. While there are differences in top speed and acceleration stats among the vehicles to differentiate them to an extent, after trying out each vehicle several times, I’ve come to the conclusion that these differences just don’t seem that noticeable and have that much of an impact on how I play the game, and neither does vehicle weight.
I can see though how some players may argue that’s a good thing, especially since this game features online multiplayer, as that means players won’t all be picking the same one or two vehicles because of their superiority over the others and instead, this allows players to pick the vehicles that most appeal to them aesthetically, but a part of me still kind of wishes there would be something more that separated the vehicles besides their admittedly really distinctive and visually appealing designs and ever so slight stats.\
Just as other aspects of this game draw inspiration from other futuristic racers, it does so as well with its soundtrack, too. Those that couldn’t get enough of the kind of music in Exteme-G or Wipeout or F-Zero will likely find the soundtrack of Fast Racing Neo to be positively pulsating with its electronic music compositions. There are portions of the soundtrack that I’d identify as techno, whereas other compositions are more along the lines of rock and then, too, there’s the blending of the two genres into techo-rock hybrid style of music. This is the type of game that’s meant to get the pulse racing and the soundtrack is designed to enhance the adrenaline rush of racing at speeds that make the world around you blur, and I do think the soundtrack does a good job of doing this.
The surround sound music comes through with great clarity, boasts a definite degree of arcade quality and there’s a nice variety of music spread out across the sixteen tracks. I think the development team went with the appropriate music genres that best fit a futuristic racer and managed to deliver a soundtrack that only enhances the pulse-pounding feel of the game and further drew me in to the intense gameplay.
As mentioned earlier, Fast Racing Neo isn’t limited to a single player experience. While most players will likely invest many hours in the single player modes, as I have, in order to unlock all the tracks, speed classes and vehicles, hours will also be put into the multiplayer modes, be it local, online or both. I have played the splitscreen multiplayer with friends and family, and it’s definitely intense just like playing against the computer-controlled opponents! Whereas the computer-controlled opponents provide intense races due to sheer proficiently, playing against real people can be intense too due to the fact humans are likely going to be a lot more unpredictable than computer-controlled opponents!
I think others will notice though, as I did, that the gameplay isn’t quite as fluid and the graphics just aren’t as sharp in multiplayer mode as in single player. It’s likely just too much for the Wii U hardware to handle. The game is still a blast to player with multiple people, but it would have been even more amazing if the framerate would have been able to hold at the 60fps like in the single player modes and if the visuals would have been just as immersive, but I would rather have a slightly less smooth and fluid multiplayer mode that also has toned down visuals than no multiplayer mode at all!
Naturally, the online multiplayer mode doesn’t suffer from the same constraints as the local multiplayer mode. After all, with online multiplayer, just like the single player modes, the hardware only has to render one screen and handle inputs from one controller, whereas local multiplayer requires two or more screens and two or more controllers registering inputs, so unsurprisingly, that’s going to tax the hardware more.
With online multiplayer, I always worry whether or not there will be lag while playing, because lag can ruin playing online against others, but I’ve been very pleased just how smooth and responsive online play has been with Fast Racing Neo. It’s a very good thing too that there is no lag either to slow down the game or hinder the controls, because that would ruin playing this game online, since what fun would there be in playing a super fast racing game at super slow speeds due to lag? Also too, there can’t be any sort of a delay in controller input either because of lag since this type of game requires precise timing and reflexes to navigate the complex tracks, obstacles and compete with opponents at blinding speeds. Thus, I’m very pleased with how optimized the online experience is here.
Just as the single player mode is designed to get players into the action as soon as possible, so is the online multiplayer. Upon starting the game, I’m usually racing against some online players in a matter of minutes. That’s because of how streamlined the process is. All I do is decide whether I want to play against registered friends or against anyone from anywhere. Up next is vehicle selection, and after that, I decide which track I’d like to compete on. The game only provides three randomly chosen tracks at a time to choose from, and even if the game gave me the option to select any track I wanted out of all sixteen, it’s not like I’d be guaranteed that choice anyway since other players could be choosing other tracks. The game determines what track the race will be held on by randomly picking one among the ones selected by everyone in that particular lobby. Sometimes, there will be seven others in the lobby in addition to me, but the online race can and does sometimes start with fewer, depending on how many people are playing the game online at a given time.
In addition to really not being able to directly select a track online, you’ll find that you can’t select which speed class you want to race in, so you could end up with, say, the slowest speed class which would be subsonic or the fastest speed class which would be hypersonic, or perhaps even smack dab in the middle speed class, supersonic. The online multiplayer is definitely a bit more restrictive due to taking some choices away from the player, like track selection and speed class choice, but it no doubt succeeds at dropping players into races at supersonic speeds!
With Fast Racing Neo being voted as the Wii U eShop Game of the Year by some online publications and with the game receiving widespread critical acclaim from both professional game reviews and fan reviews, I know that I’m not alone in loving this game. While that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect game that couldn’t be improved on, for an eShop game that retails for just under fifteen dollars, the amount of polish and content is impressive in my eyes. The visuals in this game alone stand out as being better than a number of retail Wii U games that cost double or more and are rendered at beautiful 720p, while the sixty frames per second deliver such a stable, smooth gaming experience that, again, a lot of other retail, higher-priced Wii U games simply don’t match
For just under fifteen dollars, I personally am not just satisfied, but also pleased, with the total number of tracks being sixteen and the total number of unique designed vehicles being ten. Plus, between the offline and online multiplayer modes and the truly incredible high degree of difficulty attached to even the slowest, “easiest” cup in Championship Mode, there’s a lot of replay value to this game. Unless you’re a really remarkably skilled player, don’t expect to beat this game in a week or even two or three. Hero Mode alone may be unbeatable for some players due to how challenging it is.
i ask myself fairly frequently why I continue to play this game again and again when it makes me want to throw my controller at least a few times per gaming session due to how hard it is. After all, games are supposed to be fun and help relax a person, right? Thing is, I do have a lot of fun playing Fast Racing Neo. I love the speeds that the vehicles race at. I love catching glimpses of the alien worlds and gorgeous visuals as they blur past me. I love seeing just how good some other players are online and testing my skills against them. Despite how difficult the game is, it’s hard to describe just how good it feels when I do make progress and clear a cup that I’ve challenged dozens and dozens and dozens of times before
The degree of frustration that I feel when a single mistake forces me to restart an entire cup is worth it to endure several times over if it means I will get to experience an amazing sense of accomplishment when I finally do place first in the overall standings in the cup. It’s me knowing that I got better through practice that makes the whole experience very rewarding. There are some that will download Fast Racing Neo and try it a few times before closing the software because it’s just too hard and they aren’t having any fun, and never open the software up again, and that’s fine. This game really isn’t for everyone. For those that have patience and love a good challenge though, and feel a great sense of accomplishment from beating games that are unforgiving to those that mistakes, Fast Racing Neo is one of the best games out there and is one of the best games in a long, long time.
Fast Racing Neo is a futuristic racer that I can enthusiastically recommend to Wii U owners; especially for those that have others to play with locally or those that have a stable enough internet connection to compete online. Having others to race against either in the same room or online will unquestionably add to the overall replay value of the game.
i believe even the single-player experience alone is worth the relatively low digital price tag of the game for those that crave the mind-blowing speeds and mind-twisting track designs of futuristic racers. It delivers such a wonderful sense of exhilaration while testing a player’s ability to navigate treacherous tracks with obstacles both a part of the track or related to the weather of the area in which the track is set all the while dealing with relentless computer-controlled opponents and being quick to adjust the phase frequency of one’s vehicle to match the color strips throughout the course
There will be times you will get so frustrated that you will want to shut off the game and never touch it again, only to later feel the need to try again and become better at racing at supersonic speeds in pursuit of that incredibly gratifying feeling of at last claiming the top spot in each championship cup. Fast Racing Neo is easily one of the finest futuristic racers to date and well worth the fifteen dollar digital price tag!