Came for the racing, stayed for the total picture.
Back in the day, I adored the original FAST Racing League on WiiWare. It was one of my favorite titles on that service and I simply couldn't stop playing it. More recently I replayed it and my opinion hasn't changed a single bit. How the developers pumped so much in 40MB is and always will be amazing. When Shin'en announced their new game, there was a worry in the back of my mind. Could FAST Racing Neo give me new things to be overjoyed about? I rushed to Nintendo's business area, where I spent about 45 minutes with four brand new tracks.
If you never heard about FAST Racing Neo, it is a futuristic racing game which can be put in a similar vein as F-Zero or WipeOut. The biggest difference is a very Ikaruga like mechanic, which sees you switching between two different colors. Switching between these colors is important, considering you will glide over boost strokes and pads to reach new places. Nearly every FAST Racing League track focused on this mechanic, but Neo changes the focus slightly. There are some tracks where it is barely essential to do it as a single regular boost is enough to secure a good lead.
Mind you, that doesn't mean that the tracks are easy. Most of them require good reflexes as you strafe and race across various obstacles along the way. On one of the new courses called Sunhara Plains, there are flame torches everywhere and being hit by one of these is brutal. You will see many cars race by and it can cost you a lot of time. Another track to showcase this vividly is Daitoshi Station, which is set in space. There is an open area where you have to fly between various asteroids and there is a very little room for error. At another point in that same course, asteroids are also trying to crush you and that will stun you. I can tell you that much!
Other new tracks in the demo were Storm Coast and Kamagori City. While all of them looked stunning, I was mostly impressed by that first one. It made hefty use of the switching mechanics and took place in the pouring rain. These weather effects looked really amazing and created the perfect atmosphere. Kamagori City was incredibly short and every lap was over in roughly 35 seconds. It brings you to a deserted city, complete with grafitti and green everywhere you look. A cool touch is that you might spot an old Nanostray boss in the background. Shin'en has said that other references can be found in the final version.
Shin'en made an effort to ensure us that the stages shown so far aren't how the final cups will be. The design is nearly done, but there will be a lot of internal testing before submitting the game for release. The full game will also feature a variety of modes including the Championships, Multi Player, Online Play and a harsher Hero Mode. Unlike the original, Neo will not feature various smaller challenge levels, but promises that the other options will keep players engaged.
FAST Racing Neo is looking very promising. With a bright presentation and nice selection of music, it really brings the feeling of a fast paced racer. The game controls nicely as well, as you strafe and boost to get yourself ahead. It will be interesting to see how the final package will hold up and if it will bring enough to keep many engaged. While we will have to wait for a bit longer, I feel this time can only make this experience a better one.