The Star Fox game we’ve been waiting for, for the last 19 years.
Star Fox is Nintendo’s resident on-rails shooter. Set in space, it pits the crew of Fox McCloud and his team of comrades as they battle the evil Andross to prevent his attempt at ruling the Lylat system.
Star Fox has something of an interesting history. As of the release of Star Fox Zero there are 6 “true” Star Fox games, as well as a spinoff. Additionally, a HD remake of the N64 game was made and released for the Nintendo 3DS, and a near-complete SNES game named Star Fox 2 infamously never saw the light of day. This interesting history lead to disarray and confusion. Star Fox sat on the shelf for close to a decade after the series had sunk further into the realm of the bizarre with entries such as Command.
Something needed to save Star Fox from completely losing itself in a pit of no return.That something finally arrived. The following is a SPOILER FREE review.
Star Fox Zero is essentially a reboot. It covers the same basic story that Lylat Wars, and prior to that Star Fox (SNES) told. It must however be said that this is not a straight up remake. The road from A to Z deviates significantly from previous entries. There are new plot elements introduced and generally speaking the levels that the games share, such as Corneria are radically different. Even the final boss is a completely fresh experience.
While it would have also been great to be given something completely original after so many years, it is for exactly this reason that the original story needed to be retold. It has been years. After such a prolonged period of time, Star Fox needed to be taken back to what made it work so well in its early days, both to bring back lost fans, and to give new fans a good entry point. Not to mention that Command’s ridiculous endings had left the series with no clear direction on where else they could go. The story also leaves itself open for a true sequel. One that probably won’t involve dinosaurs or blue cats.
I want to preface this by saying that I generally hate motion controls. The VERY first thing I did when playing Splatoon was to turn them off. I was extremely concerned about how motion controls would factor into Star Fox Zero, and even more concerned when several people came forward and stated they were compulsory.
Fast forwarding to when my hands were finally on the game, and I initially attempted to reduce them as much as possible (by using the feature in which they are only active when you are holding the fire button). I quickly realised that this wasn’t going to be effective enough, and so relented and tried them fully.
After some fussing, and fidgeting I slowly started to realise how natural and comfortable these controls were. They’re precise, and give you an unbelievable amount of freedom and movement, without restricting your flight patterns. There’s no doubt about it, it takes some getting used to, but when you do don’t be fooled, this game handles like a dream.
Star Fox Zero does motion controls right.
One of the biggest defining characteristics of Star Fox derives from its characters and how they interact with each other. Part of what made Star Fox the juggernaut that it was during its Nintendo 64 heyday was its infinitely quotable lines, and its plethora of memorable characters. Both have been largely missing from the latest entries in the series.
Star Fox Adventures for example introduced many characters, but only one was ever heard from again due to the rest obviously being dinosaur related. Even then, the characters didn’t really interact in the way that we were used to and honestly the less said about the new characters that saw introduction in Command, the better.
Thankfully, the witty banter and our favorite quotable lines are all back, and in the spirit of keeping things fresh, we’re given plenty of new ones.
Furthermore, and most importantly, the character dynamic is back full throttle. Krystal’s introduction into the Star Fox team in Assault caused a lot of problems, she served no purpose from a gameplay perspective, and her personality didn’t click with the other team members. It was like introducing Venus De Milo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but worse, as at least Venus didn’t replace Donatello. Krystal ousted the much-beloved Peppy, and subsequently disrupted the rivalry scheme between the Star Fox members and the Star Wolf members.
Beyond giving us funny quotables, Peppy, Slippy and Falco all actually serve a purpose. Peppy is a tutor, he teaches you how to play the game, Falco leads you on alternate paths, and Slippy analyses bosses for you. Krystal just had sort of psychic powers. [Minor Spoiler] Katt Monroe’s conduct leads me to believe that she’s being groomed for a bigger role, as a love interest for Fox.
Star Fox Zero contains a total of 20 missions. While it doesn’t sound like an awful lot by today’s “standards”, it actually is. Each mission gives you a unique set of circumstances, objectives, environments and ways to play to completely shake up your time. A good example of the contrast would be that one such mission requires you to disable giant missiles as quickly as possible, while another one requires you to stealthily slide through search lights to avoid being spotted. The range in vehicles from mission to mission really helps avoid repetition. Zero may only take 3 or 4 hours to play through, but you’ll be able to play through it dozens of times, each time a little different thanks to branching paths.
You will get more long-term use out of a short game with a great deal of replayability than you will out of a long game with none.
There’s a fine line between innovation and destruction. Previous installments of the Star Fox series saw a drastic departure from the original formula. Whether successful or not, each departure led to a struggle to allow Fox and co get back to their full potential. Star Fox Zero has found the perfect balance. We’ve got a game here that knows what it is, while also introducing enough fresh ideas and experiences to keep the ball moving forward for the future.
For a game that essentially retells a story that has already been told twice, Star Fox Zero does so without feeling like it’s retreading too far on the heels of its predecessors. This is in part helped by the introduction of the new vehicles, such as the Gyrowing and the Walker (which was carried over from the cancelled Star Fox 2).
Lack of Multiplayer
Just to be clear, multiplayer does technically exist in Star Fox Zero, and it isn’t half bad. It’s a co-operative function that essentially splits up your duties between yourself and a friend. Think of it as being similar to the co-operative function Mario Kart: Double Dash for Nintendo Gamecube.
While this is a pretty cool feature to have included, and it’s definitely better than nothing, one of the biggest missed opportunities in Star Fox Zero lies in its lack of a competitive multiplayer mode. With how much Nintendo has improved on its online multiplayer aspect in recent years with games such as Mario Kart 8, Smash Bros. For Wii U and of course Splatoon, it makes it a little hard to swallow that Star Fox didn’t receive… well, anything.
Star Fox Assault’s multiplayer was one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve ever had playing games. An expanded version of that, made playable online, with the ability to select your characters (or perhaps even just 4v4 Star Fox vs. Star Wolf battles) would have made this game hard to top. The range of vehicles, characters and weapons perfectly lends itself to such a scenario. Regardless, it still remains one of the Wii U’s strongest titles.
|+ Replayability||– No Multiplayer Deathmatch mode|
|+ Unique Story|
|+ Innovative ideas|
|+ Motion Controls Done Right|
|+ Authentic Star Fox Experience|
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