FAST Racing Neo is the love child of F-Zero and Ikaruga, that was in turn raised by Cruis'n USA. I can't think of an arcade racer in the last two decades that could touch this game. I controlled a sexy futuristic car as I raced at high speeds, avoided giant spider mechs and sandworms, and used boost to go supersonic and smash through a giant asteroid. Sounds awesome, I know, but that's only because it is.
At the same time, there's depth here. There's a lot of substance behind the style and over the top action spots. Smart choices and good planning are required to reach the highest levels of this game, and those requirements for greatness don't hamper the fun for those that just want to have fun going really fast.
FAST Racing Neo is just as good, if not better than F-Zero. Nintendo should either let Shin'en work on the next F-Zero or get on it quick before they lose their stranglehold on the near dead genre. At a price tag of $14.99, it's well worth the purchase for anyone that has ever liked a racing game before. There's an amazing level of quality and control for something priced so low.
The tracks may not have the character of an F-Zero game, but I would argue they're all better from a technical standpoint. The boost pads are set up to perfectly balance risk and reward, and everything comes with just enough foreshadowing that even on your first time through you know what's coming. Which is good, because every track has a satisfying bit of crazy to it that would have been frustrating otherwise.
The boost mechanic, which returns from FAST Racing League, is very reminiscent of Ikaruga. Vehicles have two phases, orange and blue. Each phase gives a boost when zooming over boost pads of the same color, almost doubling your speed, while boost pads of the opposite color will halve vehicle speed almost instantly. It's simple in theory and practice, but adds a nice measure of depth to every track.
Manual boosting is also present. Players gain boost meter by collecting orbs on the track, which can be used to double speed at will. In the regular mode, boosting serves a purpose besides simple spped: Players can use boost to smash through stage hazards. Fly head on into an asteroid? Boost through it! Icicles on the path? Boost through them! Racer in your way? Boost through him/her! It's oddly satisfying.
The game has replayability for lightyears. Once you master playing through the tracks at high speeds, you can unlock Hero Mode, which ties the boost gauge to your vehicle's shield…
Split screen co-op supporting up to four players and online multiplayer are all here. They all feel great and the online has been entirely lag free over the past few days. In an age where even Halo has down away with splitscreen, it's nice to see it still being done right.
Shin'en continues to make games with excellent visuals and performance. FAST Racing Neo is 720p/60fps and stays silky smooth throughout. A part of being a great developer is knowing what sacrifices to make, and Shin'en does so with the skill of a magician. If you look you can see the graphical compromises but in practice they're all but invisible while zooming about at high speeds.
The online was lag free, but getting a full match was a pain in the ass, and not once did I finish a match with the same number of racers it started with. While rage quitting is most definitely at hand here, that can't be everything. It's not too big a complaint, it's far better than laggy matches.
The controls aren't explained very well on the controls screen. It's fairly easy to pick up, but I wish I had known more about the proper use of leaning than what button to press to do it. Mastering the lean is as important as learning to properly brake in Mario Kart 8's 200cc mode.
There are plenty of jumps, and for the most part they're okay, but sometimes your vehicle will explode for seemingly no reason. My best guess is that swerving back towards the wall's hit box right before landing confirmation, results in the explosion, despite it visually looking as if the jump was a success. It's possibly the worst aspect of this game, which is really reaching.
FAST Racing Neo is not F-Zero. There are no colorful characters, unless you count the announcer, the vehicles control differently, and the boost mechanic has its own flavor. All they have in common is the fact that they're both high speed, futuristic racing games. FAST Racing Neo does a lot of work to set itself apart.
For starters, the cars have a more realistic feel to them. What I mean is, if we had futuristic flying cars, F-Zero cars would be really fast parade floats, while the vehicles from FAST Racing Neo would be something Ferrari would make. The attention paid to the vehicles themselves give them a sense of realism, but they're put situations that are fairly unreal. It reminds me of how Metal Gear Solid games combine hard science fiction with anime bullshit to create a world with a strange internal consistency that you can buy into.
As someone that misses old school arcade racing games, as opposed to the hyper-realistic racing sims that have flooded the racing genre of late, FAST Racing Neo has been on my radar for a while now. Shin'en Multimedia has a rock solid track record, and the F-Zero drought has given them a chance to cash in on the lack of futuristic racing titles. It's time to breakdown FAST Racing Neo.