Shin'en Multimedia has been an official third party Nintendo developer since 1999, and have released a selection of games for the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo Wii U. They released Nano Assault Neo on the Wii U as a launch title, and it still gets its praise for its easy to pick up controls as a twin-stick-shooter, and for its sharp visuals and texture work. It was clear that Shin'en had a knack for utilizing clever tricks to produce a type of quality that generally exceeds what most think the Wii U can do. For a while, it seemed as though that futuristic racing games were fading away. Studio Liverpool closed in 2012 who were all very well known for their Wipeout series, and Nintendo has been pretty quiet on any sort of F-Zero release. Fast Racing Neo released just in time for the Holiday season as a digital download on Nintendo's eshop. The result is a game that plays like it's straight out of the arcades, and one that looks like one of the Wii U's prettiest titles in motion.
The game takes place over 16 wildly stylized courses that take players from canyons to alpine peaks, futuristic cities and more. Players take control of an anti-gravity vehicle and move at incredibly high speeds. The phase system works by swapping the colours on your vehicle. Swapping to blue allows you to utilize the blue boost pads, and the same applies to orange. Opposite colours will cause your vehicle to slow down, and later courses will definitely have you mastering phasing in and out of the correct colours in short time intervals. Like other racing games, you can time your acceleration correctly to give yourself a speed boost at the start of the race. Each map plays out very differently from one another, sporting different short cuts and routes that will shave seconds off your time. It's great to replay each level to find certain routes you didn't realize at first. The course selection is decent, and each level seems to have some sort of dynamic interaction over the duration of each race, but hopefully we'll see more tracks released post-launch.
The game only takes up 556MB on the Wii U hard drive, which is perfect for those only operating on the Wii U's rather small 32GB hard drive. The small file size does come with its share of compromises though, as the overall presentation is rather barebones. Menus are fairly simplistic, lacking a basic options menu. But really, when we're talking about presentation in something like racing games, one of, if not the most important aspects should be a consistent framerate, and Fast Racing Neo delivers that in spades. Maintaining a constant 60FPS is almost necessary in something that relies on moving at such fast speeds. I did notice that local splitscreen seemed to drop the framerate to 30FPS, however it still appeared to perform smoothly with little slowdown. Shin'en Multimedia pulled this off using clever development tricks. For starters, the rendering resolution aims to be 1280x720, but there are variable instances that that render much lower than that, reaching as low as 640x720 in instances. This is probably because of some sort of re-projection technique that could give each new pixel access to information computed during the previous frame whenever a new frame is rendered. It's not totally unlike the famous Killzone Shadowfall Multiplayer debacle, where fans criticized Guerrilla Games for stating the game was at native 1080p, when the reality of it was that Guerrilla Games used a clever trick that calculated the true 960x1080 of the current frame and the offset calculation of the previous 960x1080 frame to fill in the missing pixels. It's a treat seeing different ways companies come up with that alleviate technical problems, and that used to be part of the magic of early console games "“ utilizing the hardware limitations to put out fantastic boundary pushing titles. One of the benefits of saving space through its resolution is that Fast Racing Neo actually demonstrates motion blur, ambient occlusion, HDR lighting, and physically based rendering are all in play on a Wii U title and at 60FPS is almost wizardry. When in motion, Fast Racing Neo is definitely one of the Wii U's finest looking games.
Players can play online with up to 8 players, either with random people online or with your friends. Another great addition is that you can play locally with up to four players splitscreen. The framerate may take a hit and maintain a steady 30FPS during four players, but as mentioned before it's still fantastic to have a steady framerate throughout. There are a total of 10 vehicles to choose from, which is a little on the lighter side of things, and there is no customization options for them either, should you happen to be the kind of racer that likes to personalize their ride. For what they're worth, each vehicle seems balanced and offers a different feel depending on what you prioritize in races: speed, acceleration and overall weight.
For a $20 eShop title, Fast Racing Neo delivers exactly what's promised, and scratches the itch many have had in the recent drought of futuristic high speed racing games. It may be fairly bare bones in terms of content, but what's included is cleverly designed around the Wii U's architecture to produce some stunning visuals in motion, and serves as another great way to play local multiplayer with friends which seems to be a feature Nintendo loves delivering to their core fanbase. I'd love to see more attention given to the meat of the game's content, if only to supply players with more intense levels and vehicles. As it is, even with its light content Fast Racing Neo still comes highly recommended.
|Clever use of Wii U Hardware to offer some fantastic visual effects.|
|4 player splitscreen runs great and at a consistent framerate.|
|The 16 courses offered are wonderfully designed.|
|A little light on content like presentation â€“ most likely to save hard drive space.|
|There could be more vehicles outside of the 10 that are given.|
|No customization for the vehicles seems like a missed opportunity for any online or multiplayer personalization.|