Review: FAST - Racing League
Posted 11 Jun 2011 at 14:18 by Sam Gittens
|"It's almost eerie just how much like F-Zero this title is..."|
While the last F-Zero title to be released was in 2003 – at least in the US – the last true home console iteration in Nintendo's ever-popular high-speed, anti-gravity racing series was the absolutely phenomenal F-Zero GX co-developed with Amusement Vision is was released on the Gamecube and was very well received. But a long time has passed since then so it's understandable that fans have long been pining for a new entry in the series; on the Wii this has created a gap in the market and it's one that developer Shin'en is only too keen to fill with it's own take on the series entitled FAST Racing League for Nintendo's Wii-Ware service.
It's almost eerie just how much like F-Zero this title is as for a start you pilot one of six anti-gravity ships, starting off with two and unlocking the others as you earn golds across the various leagues which is where half of the fun is. Every vehicle has different handling so you'll have to work out which craft works best for you, personally I found the most lightweight craft to be consistently the best for most courses but this will vary between players; their design feels slightly inspired but also very impersonal as there are no pilots to speak of and the only way to 'personalise' your craft is to change the detail colour.
This is partly to do with the 'polarity' mechanic that's present within the ships and on the tracks which essentially works like this; your ship has two colours, Black & White - similar to Ikaruga - you can change it at the press of a button but doing so uses one point from your energy meter - which goes up to ten - that is replenished by collecting orbs. There are boost lanes which are coloured in the same manner and by matching the 'phase' your ship will gain a boost but will go slower if the colours are opposite, there are also jump-pads and ceiling tracks which work around the same mechanic and really elevate the game to a whole new level; using a boost can be advantageous too but beware that it will consume five points from that all-important energy bar.
Featuring three different leagues which require unlocking in order, include four tracks in each and are set across various locales based around extreme elements such as hot deserts plus snow-covered locations. Each track features its fair share of on-course hazards including rotating sheets of metal, water pockets, ice-sheets, flame-throwers and of course numerous pitfalls, some of which can only be avoided by using a magnetic ceiling track; you'll want to ensure you can change to the right colours at these points in particular because coming off the track will result in you being placed back where you came off with your meter half-full and usually most of the competition ahead of you and not due to rubber-banding either - which is not present in this here - it's just that fast.
Having to work your way through all of the leagues across three different difficulties - which is comparable to Mario Kart's CC system - will test your skills enough as it is but there is more to this game as it features a full-blown challenge mode which will set you twenty one tasks including collecting orbs or reaching the end within a certain time limit. Each of these is set on its own mini-track too separate from the leagues which is refreshing and encourages you to play on ensuring you won't rest until each of them is complete.
Out of all the control methods available I would recommend the classic controller – particularly the pro variant – as it feels a lot better on the whole with the boost button on right shoulder button and the polarity change on the left; the Wii remote on its own comes a close second thanks to some responsive motion control but for boosting and changing colour on the fly it's not as good. I found that with the nunchuk attached this was also a decent alternative but still not comparable to the comfort afforded by the classic controller which wins all-round however it's good to see such a variety of controls supported - though GC pad support would have been welcomed - especially with the games multiplayer mode in mind.
On the subject of multiplayer there a is four-player split-screen mode present here which is almost every bit as fast, furious and fun as the main game itself, there are no cheap items here just pure skill involved which makes it all the better. Sadly there is no online multiplayer available which is something of a shame because this type of game is somewhat begging for it, though I feel that stepping back for a moment this is a Wii-Ware title and an amazing one at that even as it is; being that this is the first entry in this genre for the developer I think this omission can be forgiven but if this becomes a series of its own in the future then surely this would benefit hugely from such a mode in say a retail released sequel.
Lets not lose sight of just how good this is though particularly in the graphics department as quite honestly it looks better than a lot of actual retail games available for the system which is something of an achievement for Shin'en taking into account the rather strict 40MB limit they had to stick to. The soundtrack isn't too bad featuring some decent enough techno tunes which mostly suit the game but don't really hold up if you were to compare them to some of the classics featured in F-Zero; also the announcer is somewhat irritating in uttering how many seconds ahead or behind you happen to be so frequently.
If there was anything I could change it would have to be track design which could be tighter in some places plus being able to 'slide' quickly from left to right using shoulder buttons not to mention drifiting - like in F-Zero GX - would have been incredibly useful. As it stands though FAST is a genuinely fantastic racer within its own right and more than fills the huge gap left by the absence of Nintendo's own original anti-gravity series; Shin'en should feel proud that they have created a game that should be considered the new direct rival to F-Zero and it will be very interesting indeed to see what comes next from either series.
N-Europe Final Verdict
As it stands FAST Racing League is an excellent addition to the anti-gravity racing sub-genre and one that can stand proud as a true rival to F-Zero while retaining enough elements of its own that make it an excellent alternative well worthy of purchase.
Fast, fluid and fun gameplay
Lack of online