People make fun of Nintendo for reusing the same ideas over and over and over and over and… yeah. Those critics have a point: we wouldn’t have gotten to the 30th anniversary of Mario if it wasn’t an effective argument. On the other hand, those critics are hardly the target audience of the company: what Nintendo do better than anyone else is cater to their fanbase while always leaving them wanting more, and they do this by building worlds and characters people actually give a shit about. Mario, Metroid, Zelda, F-Zero…
Wait, what was that last one?
“I certainly understand that people want a new F-Zero game. I think where I struggle is that I don’t really have a good idea for what’s new that we could bring to F-Zero… I don’t know, at this point, what direction we could go in with a new F-Zero.”
When Shigeru Miyamoto said this in 2013, it may as well have been punctuated by the opening lyrics of an Imogen Heap verse. A fandom’s heart broke, and for good reason: this is the franchise that codified the futuristic racing game on the SNES; that beat off pretenders in Wipeout and Extreme G (LOL REMEMBER THAT?) in the following generation, and that gave us the fantastically memetic Captain Falcon.
Without an F-Zero game in this generation, there is a gap in the market for a futuristic, high-speed racer (Mario Kart 200cc doesn’t count). And this is where FAST Racing: NEO joins the chase. Soon to be available on the Nintendo eShop, German developers Shinen seem to have crafted a tidy game here. 16 tracks across different terrain, vehicles with different attributes and sleek presentation. They even have a game mechanic that I really like, which is changing your boost colour in real time to maximise your speed and navigate obstacles.
Unfortunately, this is a game on a Nintendo console. Son.
The inevitable track carved into a volcano will never touch Fire Field. The heavy with a high top speed ship will feel empty without Samurai Goroh in the cockpit. And the generic electro accompanying the super-clean, Apple-esque menus are so inferior to the Big Blue theme alone, it may as well be defecated upon from a great height.
Every polygon and piece of code in FAST Racing: NEO is going to remind Wii U owners that the franchise built by the same company 25 years ago is dead, and that’s terrible. It’s another symptom of being a third-party developer for a company that codified so much of the industry they work in.
But that’s a matter for another article.