FAST RMX Review (Switch) – “The New F-Zero”

It has been 14 years since Nintendo released a new home console installment for their popular series, F-Zero. Thankfully, Shin’en Multimedia has been so fond of the series, they’ve taken up the task of creating their own high-speed,  futuristic racing game series, FAST. The series first started as a WiiWare title called FAST Racing League, then saw a sequel on the Wii U know as FAST Racing NEO. Shin’en has now brought FAST RMX to the Switch as a launch day title. Is this a title you should race to buy?

FAST RMX is a dramatically-enhanced version of FAST Racing NEO. It brings double the amount of tracks (30 tracks in total), double the vehicles, enhanced visuals, plenty more bumpin’ tunes, and some gameplay refinements. You will partake in the game’s Championship mode, which is broken down into 10 cups, with three tracks in each. You have three difficulty levels as well that also affect the game’s speed: Subsonic, Hypersonic, and Supersonic. Just to give you an idea of how “fast” FAST is: On the Subsonic difficulty (the game’s easy mode), you will be flying through levels at 700+ MPH; expect to be doing over 1000+ MPH on Supersonic difficulty. The team at Shin’en absolutely nailed the exhilarating sense of speed, all while being able to control your vehicle through that velocity.

If you’ve never played a FAST installment, imagine F-Zero and Wipeout combined, with a polarity twist (i.e. Ikaruga, Outland). As you’re zipping your way through tracks, you will need to switch your ship’s color polarity between blue and orange to hit specific colored boost and jump pads. Having the opposite polarity on will either slow you down dramatically or make you fall to your doom. It’s an extremely well-implemented system, and one which gives FAST its own identity.

As mentioned, cups will consist of three races, with every track providing variety to the backdrop and mechanics. Whether you’re racing through a windy desert, a perilous snowstorm, a stormy coast, or outside a space station, there’s plenty of variety in the tracks. If the speed’s not enough to keep you on your toes, the AI will; it will challenge you and have no qualms about taking advantage of you missing boost pads or boost orbs. Thankfully, FAST RMX’s refinements have adjusted difficulty curve from its Wii U predecessor, making it a feel much more fair. Also when you beat any cup, you unlock those levels from the completed cup for Hero mode (more on that below).

There are 15 vehicles to choose from in FAST RMX, most of which need to be unlocked. Each vehicle has its pros and cons with different attributes for acceleration, top speed, boost power, and weight. If you want more top speed, chances are the vehicle will be heavier to turn and have slower acceleration. If you want better control, you may sacrifice top speed for that.

Aside from the game’s Championship mode, you can grab a few buddies for 4-player split-screen action, or gather multiple Switch consoles and do 8-player local multiplayer. If that’s not enough, you can always take the action to the 8-player online mode. The online functionality ran smoothly during our tests. When jumping online, you choose your vehicle and are instantly thrown into the middle of race. If the race started, you will have to wait it to end (but you will still be able to watch what’s happening in the meantime). It’s very easy to jump into an online match. Unfortunately at the time of writing, there is no way to party up with friends. However, Shin’en has stated that the feature is in the works.

FAST RMX includes a Hero mode for you F-Zero fans out there. Your boost meters doubles as your shield in this mode, drastically ramping up the game’s difficulty. Like F-Zero, you will be focusing on balancing boost with shield, only boosting when absolutely necessary. In FAST Racing NEO, Hero mode was locked until you beat every cup on every difficulty (and due to the high level of difficulty, many never got to experience this mode). This time around, Hero mode is accessible once you beat any cup in Championship mode.

The controls in RMX feel a bit more refined than in its predecessor. This is also one of the few launch games that utilizes HD Rumble, and you certainly feel it. When playing with the Joy-Cons in separate hands, you will feel collisions coming from different directions. Hit a wall on the right and you’ll feel it in the right Joy-Con. Drive through a windstorm in the desert and you’ll feel the wind whirl through the controller. It’s a neat addition and showcases the potential of HD Rumble. The game supports every control type possible: Joy-Cons paired, Joy-Con sideways, and Pro controller. While the Pro controller did feel more comfortable for this game, the Joy-Cons still felt more than suitable. You even have the option of playing with motion controls.

Visually, FAST RMX is absolutely stunning. FAST RMX is up there with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a visual showpiece that’ll impress anyone who sees the game in action. Its Wii U predecessor ran at 720p and 60 FPS, but RMX runs at a native 1080p and 60 FPS locked. This frame rate holds up even in intense 4-player split-screen action. This is brilliant, and something I hope other developers take note of. Levels and vehicles are superbly-detailed, with sharp texture work and terrific lighting. The sense of speed is also second-to-none, with awesome visual effects that truly make you feel how fast you’re going. The developers even implemented a feature to make the visuals even sharper in the options menu called Chromatic Aberration. This removes the softening tone of textures.

FAST RMX’s audio is also praiseworthy. From the moment you boot it up, the bumpin’ techno/electronica soundtrack will have you further immersed in the white-knuckle races. It really nails the insanely fast-paced tone and setting of the game. Sound effects are sublime as well. The menu effects, boosting, colliding, environment and announcer all truly make this audio stand out. And speaking of the announcer, F-Zero GX fans will notice that Jack Merluzzi provides his talent here as well. All-in-all this is one powerful audio package that deserves to be cranked up.

FAST RMX is a truly sublime racing experience. This is one game that’s very difficult to put down once you pick it up. Its addictive gameplay, insane sense of speed, breathtaking visuals, and superb audio really make this a phenomenal package. The amazing part is that everything here only costs $19.99 – a triple-A-quality package at a bargain price. While the online mode is missing a friends option at the time of this review, the game is an absolutely exhilarating adrenaline-rush overall. If you own a Switch, rush onto the eShop and buy this game. If you don’t own a Switch yet, this game is another reason to own one.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!

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Developer Interview with Shin’en: Wii U is “much more powerful than most people think”

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Shin’en Multimedia, a developer that has brought us recent titles such as Nano Assault Neo, Jett Rocket and FAST, is no stranger to Nintendo platforms. I first took notice to them during the GBA’s launch with Iridion 3D, which had mind blowing visuals at the time and a killer soundtrack. We reached out to them to ask a few questions and they’ve taken the time to provide us an interview. Shin’en’s Manfred Linzner shares his thoughts and experiences on developing for the 3DS, WiiWare and Wii U.

Marcello: First off, thank you for taking the time to provide us an interview. I’m sure you guys are busy with the titles that are in development, as well as with E3 approaching. When Nano Assault Neo released for the Wii U on November 19th, 2012, in North America, I was blown away at what you guys achieved with the console (and scored it a 9.0 out of 10, which you guys graciously shared on the game’s site). Roughly how long did it take for you guys to develop Nano Assault Neo?

Manfred: It took around 6 months from getting the devkits until the game was finalized. Of course we had a good starting position because we already made Nano Assault for Nintendo 3DS before. Although Nano Assault Neo is no port, it shares the same ideas and universe.

Marcello: A notable thing about your studio is their focus to develop solely for Nintendo consoles. How has your relationship been with Nintendo over the years?

Manfred: I think we got treated very well over the years. We got good support and we got early hands on GBA, DS, Wii, 3DS and Wii U devkits. That gave us a head start on each of the consoles. Besides that, they always have an open ear when we ask for specific things in the SDKs.

Marcello: Aside from Nano Assault, Shin’en also has the Jett Rocket and F.A.S.T. IPs that Wii owners seemed to really love. I will admit, I recently purchased F.A.S.T. and Jett Rocket for the WiiWare to play on my Wii U. I have to say, playing both of those blew my mind that I was playing a WiiWare title. What was it like developing for the WiiWare?

Manfred: It was a very fun time. Coming from the DS, the Wii felt like a complete new world to explore. Instead of one texture, we suddenly had 16 textures at once that we could pack one into a single triangle. Also, the PowerPc CPU was amazing. The Wii was quite a unique system with its new controls and the first digital Nintendo shop. We were very happy at this time to launch smaller projects on WiiWare that had no chance otherwise on the retail channel.

Marcello: Now here’s a question I’m very curious to know. Some viewers, as well as developers, seem to knock the Wii U’s hardware. However, you guys at Shin’en are a prime example of a developer that knows how to showcase visuals on the platform. It’s clear that the Wii U is a powerful console when utilized properly. How has your experience been with the Wii U? Is it more powerful than people have been led to believe?

Manfred: It’s certainly much more powerful than most people think. However, that doesn’t matter so much. A console will always lag behind technology the longer it is on the market. It’s simply games that count. I’m pretty sure we will see amazing games in the next months on Wii U. The hardware allows many new ideas to explore, and this is what matters.

Marcello: Recently, you guys released a trailer for the sequel to Jett Rocket for the 3DS. This now marks your fifth title for the 3DS, the first four being Nano Assault (which was our site’s very first review copy), Art of Balance TOUCH, Fun Fun Minigolf TOUCH and Nano Assault EX. How did you guys come about deciding to bring the sequel to Jett Rocket for the 3DS?

Manfred: Jett Rocket just feels perfect for 3DS and the eShop. We wanted to do a classic action jump’n’run with a lot of different gameplay styles. What could be better suited then the 3DS for such a project.

Marcello: What do you guys think of the Wii U’s Miiverse? Has it been a helpful platform to see what fans of your games are saying?

Manfred: Absolutely. We were totally amazed by the fan feedback to Nano Assault Neo. We also used the Miiverse to learn about what people liked most in the game and what not so much.

Marcello: One feature missing from your titles has been online play; Nano Assault Neo and FAST being the main games that I would’ve loved to play online. Are you guys looking into online play for future projects on the Wii U?

Manfred: For the future, we plan to add online play to more of our games, when there is a real benefit for the gameplay. Games like FAST would be, of course, a perfect candidate for that.

Marcello: What has been the difference(s) bringing games to the WiiWare versus the Nintendo eShop on the Wii U? Is there more flexibility?

Manfred: We enjoy very much that we now have more freedom in pricing and release dates. This is certainly a big plus for gamers and developers.

Marcello: If Nintendo were to approach you guys about developing a title from a specific Nintendo franchise, which would be the one that you would love to work on and why?

Manfred: Of course this would be a very great honor, but I think we will rather realize our own dreams in the future.

Marcello: Thanks again for your time Manfred. I am eager to see your studio’s future titles!

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Nano Assault Neo Review (Wii U eShop): “Wii U’s Super Stardust HD”

While early Wii U adopters are thoroughly engaged in surviving against zombies (ZombiU, expect our review soon), slicing and dicing enemies to pieces (Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge), sharing fun times with friends in a Nintendo filled theme park (Nintendo Land) or simply taking it old-school by playing as Nintendo’s much beloved mascot (New Super Mario Bros. U), there’s no denying the Wii U had a variety of titles available day one. Aside from the 25+ launch titles, Nintendo released a few indie-based titles that can be purchased off of their online service, Nintendo eShop. One of those titles is an arcade-style, twin-stick shooter known as Nano Assault Neo, developed by Shin’en. This is actually the sequel to the 3DS’s Nano Assault (our review here) that released last December and was always a title I recommended to any 3DS owners looking for a twin-stick shooter. While the 3DS version lacked a second analog stick and instead utilized face buttons, the latest installment, made exclusively for the Wii U, removes that control restriction. However, retailing for only $9.99 on the eShop, is it one actually worth your time?

In Nano Assault Neo, you’ll be controlling a vessel on various cell clusters and trying to purify them from virus-type creatures. The premise and controls are as simple as can be, but the game’s difficulty is far from it. When you tackle single-player, there are four clusters you’ll have to venture through: Epsilon, Zeta, Omicron and Sigma. Each cluster contains three cells (stages), followed by a boss battle. When you’re on a cell, you’ll be flying around and destroying everything in the area. You’ll simply control the vessel with the left analog stick while aiming and shooting with precision via the right analog stick. If you’re playing on the TV, you can utilize the Gamepad screen to see a 3D map of the cell and blips that showcase where you are and where the enemies are. Once you’ve eradicated at least 90% of the infection spread around the cell, an exit will open and you’ll have 30 seconds to get to it. Upon purifying a cell, you’ll be brought to the upgrades menu and can choose to obtain an extra life, acquire a secondary weapon, increase your combo meter or get a temporary shield. At the end of a cluster, you’ll face an intense boss that will keep you on the edge-of-your-seat . The bosses aren’t near impossible but still provide a solid challenge that demands your complete focus due to the barrage of projectiles coming at you from all directions.

As you destroy viruses, they may drop specific icons for you to pick up. They may drop the SAT icon, which allows your vessel to have a turret hover around you and provide extra firepower (you can collect up to 4 SATs for quadruple the firepower). There are Point Cards that are lying around cells but enemies may drop these occasionally as well. You’ll use these point cards to upgrade your vessel so collecting as many as possible certainly helps. On the rare occasion, enemies will drop letters that spell B-O-N-U-S. When these are all collected, you will be brought to a bonus stage after purifying a cell, where you’ll fly through a tunnel and have to collect as many point cards as possible without colliding into an object.

Now I mentioned earlier that the game is far from easy. In the original Nano Assault, a single hit would explode your vessel. In Neo, your vessel can now take three hits before dying. Hit detection has also been enhanced and projectiles now have a much better collision box that doesn’t result in slightly cheap deaths that would occur in the original. Should you lose all your lives at any point during one of the cells in the cluster, it’s game over and you’ll have to begin at the first cell of that cluster again. Thankfully, each cell only takes about 1-2 minutes to complete, aside from a few lengthier ones. It can be a difficult game, but never really falls into the “frustration” category, which is always a sign of solid game design. While the game could take less than an hour to beat, there are a few other modes available to play. After completing the short campaign, you’ll unlock Survivor mode, which pits you in random cells with a single life. Also, there’s Arcade mode, which allows you to play through any cell or boss battle of your choice and aim for the highest score possible. There’s leaderboard support on all the game modes so if you’re into that, you’ll extend your replay value here. There are also “Missions”, which act as an in-game Trophy/Achievement system. While they don’t exactly provide you with any incentive to get every one, it’s a nice bonus to see the developers throw in. Completionists will definitely be tested going for some of these. Also, there’s a two player local co-op mode (sorry, no online co-op), where player one will use the Gamepad as their own screen, while player two can use the Wii U Pro Controller, Wiimote-Nunchuk combo, or the Wii Classic Controller, while looking at the TV as their screen. It’s great to see Shin’en took advantage of this and there’s a great amount of fun to be had in co-op.

Simply put, Nano Assault Neo is the best looking launch title available for the Wii U. Running at 60 fps the entire time without a single hitch, while pushing vivid and lush 1080p resolution is fantastic. The game just looks absolutely stunning in action, with incredibly rich textures and detail. Nano Assault Neo can also be played entirely through the Wii U Gamepad and doesn’t lose an ounce of visual detail what-so-ever. You can switch between the Gamepad and TV instantly through the pause menu and there’s even a cool effect showing the screens transfer. Audio is equally as strong as the visuals as well. Providing an excellent techno soundtrack that perfectly accompanies the action, while also having some great sound effects, really helps provide for a more engaging experience. If you have your Wii U set up to a surround sound system or Turtle Beach headsets, crank that volume up.

Nano Assault Neo is a great sequel that takes what worked in the first title on the 3DS and improves upon them. While the game is short, the extra modes and new co-op feature will keep you coming back for more. Essentially, Nano Assault Neo is the Wii U’s “Super Stardust HD” and any twin-stick shooter fan, Super Stardust fan or Nano Assault (3DS) fan should immediately put down the $10 for this.

Overall Score: 9.0 out of 10 = BUY IT!