Review Context: I was a huge fan of arcade racing games back in the 90s when arcades were a thing. This statement is more sincere if you see my N64 collection. It has become scarce, sadly, but I can only hope the genre will make a return, but not getting my hopes up.
Date of Playthrough: December 11, 2015
F-Zero has been one of those Nintendo franchises that lies dormant with the occasional easter eggs in other games since the company doesn’t know where to go with it. While fans were clamming for a new F-Zero, Shin’en released Fast Racing League for WiiWare and got praise through word of mouth. Now with Nintendo’s backing by showcasing the game during the E3 edition of the Nintendo Treehouse, buzz has never been higher for this small German company. Can Fast Racing Neo improve on its processor, or will you go back to your rock until Nintendo announces a new F-Zero?
If you haven’t played any of Shin’en’s other games then this will showcase how a small team can have visuals that you would think was done by a triple A studio. The colorful yet realistic visuals will have you forget you’re playing the game on an “inferior console.” Shin’en has stated that making games on Nintendo’s system gives them a challenge to get the most out of the console. Each track has a life of its own to show it’s more than just a race course. I got distracted on one course that had a spaceship hovering above you. With speed this intense they managed to keep the game locked at 60 frames per second. The sense of speed is done really well with the motion blur effect, to where you feel like one wrong move and it’s over. On local multiplayer, to maintain the frame rate the visuals had to be sacrificed a little.
This game has multiple control options; you can use the Gamepad, Wii and Wii U Pro Controller, Wiimote, and Wiimote/Nunchuk scheme. What surprised me about the Gamepad, other than Off TV Play, is that if you are not using the controller the screen goes black just like in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Each car has different and somewhat floaty handling, so you can pick out which ride you can handle. I found myself adjusting well to all the vehicles. You have a boost ability, which you can use to slam other racers off their balance. You have to remember to switch your boost to the right color. When playing a racer where speed is the key, you have to be ready for whatever comes at you. When I do crash, its not the controls fault, but my fault for not turning that corner in time. There is no option to change button configuration, but the default scheme works well after a few runs.
You know you have a pure racing game when the story takes a backseat. You race to win, end of story. Championship has you going through 16 courses on three levels of difficulty. You can use Time Trial to help you get used to the track’s surroundings and beat the staff’s time. With each win of the circuit you unlock more vehicles. During the race you can get boost by using the strips that matches your color. Go over the wrong colored boost and your vehicle slows down to a near halt. This boost feature is used in Fast Racing League and is homage to the space shooter, Ikaruga. What makes the game challenging is that you’re going at insane speeds, while maintaining focus on the track, your rivals, and your boost color, making this one of those games where something minor like blinking will have you crashing in an instance.
I should explain the difficulty since this will be a deal breaker for some. On the game’s easy setting (Subsonic League), it was challenging to where I needed no outside interference to make it in the top three to advance to a new circuit. The challenge does resemble F-Zero X and F-Zero-GX, while those games got harder later in the circuits, Fast Racing Neo’s staff figures you’re hardcore, so even though its “easy” we’re throwing everything at you. Experience may vary, as I got through Championship on Easy (Subsonic) and Normal (Supersonic). If you manage to beat Hard (Hypersonic) there is Hero Mode. Hero Mode is basically Ultra Hard mode, as that circuit has strict guidelines: you must place first and if you crash once the game is over. Hero Mode indeed.
This game supports local and online multiplayer. As stated earlier, in order to maintain the solid 60 frames per second on local for up to four players the visuals take a hit, but not enough to hinder the experience. Online supports up to eight players with friends or with random people. My experience with the online has been solid with the 60 FPS not taking a hit, nor have I noticed any dropouts or connection errors on my playthrough.
What’s a futuristic racer without some techno beats? The soundtrack fits really well with the courses, and as an added bonus I noticed the announcer sounded a little familiar and discovered that its indeed the announcer from F-Zero GX, so there’s your F-Zero connection. The sound effects are nicely done, especially when you go so fast the sound is muffled, to where it feels like you’re breaking the sound barrier.
Similar Games Liked:
Fast Racing League (Wii Ware)
F-Zero GX (GCN)
Extreme G 3 (GCN)