Game: Star Fox Zero
Platform: Nintendo Wii U
Developer: Nintendo/Platinum Games
Release: April 22, 2016 (NA)
After months of delays the time has come to join Fox McCloud and the crew of the Great Fox. Andross is back at it again. Unleashing his hordes into the Lylat System, seeking revenge, and causing general mayhem. Star Fox Zero is a reimagining of the Classic Nintendo 64 game, Star Fox 64, which itself was kind of a reboot of the original Star Fox on the Super NES. Can Star Fox Zero stack up to its predecessors? Let’s hop into our Arwings, blast into orbit, and find out.
As I said in the opening, you’re playing a reimagining of a reboot. So if this is not your first Star Fox game you already have a basic idea of what’s going on. For those of you whom have never played either the original or N64 version: You play as ace pilot Fox McCloud, ace pilot while the evil scientist Andross is looking for revenge and he will demolish anything that stands in his way. Your mission is to restore safety to the Lylat System and defeat Andross. There is also a nice little prologue in the beginning that gives you a nice background on what’s going and the events that took place before the game’s story.
Star Fox Zero down to its core is your basic arcade airplane/vehicle shooter. You’ll have sections when you are on rails and shooting waves of enemies as they are coming at you, and all range mode: where you’re free to move about in an area, having waves of enemies coming at you. Some missions involve having to destroy certain targets, others involve standard dogfights, and there are of course, boss battles. There are new vehicles at your disposal. The Arwing is back of course, but with the added feature of being able to become a bi-pedal walker. It looks like a chicken when transformed. This addition gives you the ability to run around on the ground and look for things to unlock or kill an enemy that has its weak spot on the underside of its body. Allowing enemies to be taken out more easily than if you were in your Arwing. You can transform into either at will, which gives players a lot of freedom to tackle stages differently. The Landmaster Tank is back as well. Providing firepower for your arsenal. It can transform into a kind of what I’ll call a poor man’s Arwing. It can only transform and fly as long as the boost meter is filled. Honestly, with the Arwings ability to transform into the chicken walker, the Landmaster becomes pointless. The last vehicle available is the Gyrowing. It comes with a little robot you can let out and hack into terminals. It’s used for stealth purposes in the game. It seems quite out of place in a Star Fox game. I guess it was a way for Nintendo to lengthen an already short game. The Gyrowing stages aren’t awful, but in a game about fast paced combat, again, feels out of place.
I normally wouldn’t give controls its own section, but this part is important. I wish I could say it controls as it should, but Nintendo and its Wii U gamepad won’t let me. It wouldn’t be such an issue if you were able to turn off motion controls, but you can’t. You are able to turn them off, kind of, but it only works when you’re NOT firing a weapon. Which is really where I want the controls off. When controlling the Arwing it’s not a big issue. You can just line up the target with the reticule like Star Fox games of the past and fire. It was even a little convenient being able to fly forward and slightly tilt the controller to blast enemies that were on walls since you could avoid flying into them. The only issue control wise with the Arwing is during boss battles. Nintendo thought it’d be a good idea to lock the camera on a faraway side view where it’s impossible to target or fly/move around with any accuracy. It forces you to use the cockpit view on the gamepad which can lead to unforced errors. The Landmaster and Chicken Walker are even worse. This is where being able to use the right stick for aiming is most needed. You can maneuver to get head on shots like the Arwing, but it’s more of a pain; you’ll need to rely more so on the motion controls. The Y button is used to center the reticule. Remember that because you’re going to be pressing it a lot. I spent most of my time lining up shots with those two, simply because the action is too fast to focus on the cockpit view to aim. You take too much time; you’re going to get hit. The Gyrowing is probably the easiest to control because those levels are slow paced. The controls are easy to grasp and you don’t spend a lot of time firing lasers from it. The little robot that comes out of it is simple enough to control as well. Just make sure you’re looking at the gamepad and not the TV screen when using him and you’ll be fine. Star Fox Zero is a good game. The combat can be fun, but it gets ruined by the gamepad. This is another example of Nintendo forcing something into a game that had no business being in it. Nintendo tries their best to justify the Wii U gamepad and it just doesn’t work. Hopefully, but I doubt it, Nintendo will patch the game with the ability to turn motion controls completely off. To some this may not be an issue, but for me it almost ruins a great game.
Dated is the best way to describe the visuals of Star Fox Zero. It doesn’t look bad, but it’s nothing impressive. No noticeable jaggies or pixelating; what’s there looks clean and crisp. Simple is another good word. There is a lack of detail to everything in this game. There are varies types of enemies, but not a whole lot. All the particular types of enemies look exactly the same. The levels are fine. Fitting into the look of the environment the designers were going for. It’s like Nintendo won’t get away from the original aesthetic of the Super NES Star Fox: polygonal, undetailed, and simple. Another Problem caused by the gamepad is noticeable frame drops. Only when the battles get especially hectic is when the frame drops will happen. While this was not a huge issue for most of the game. Having to render the game twice (once on the TV and another on the gamepad itself) was bound to cause some issues. Overall however the game ran smoothly.
The whole campaign took me about four to complete. While it is a short game, like its predecessors, you won’t be able to visit every planet on your first play through. There are also multiple paths to find in most of the levels, some may take you to another planet; others may take you to more challenging areas, such as an extra boss you need to defeat in a certain amount of time. The ability to transform the Arwing and Landmaster on the fly give you added replay value as well. Instead of flying around on some missions: I would turn into the chicken walker and run around finding secrets, things to collect, and areas I didn’t know were there. The game does have unlockable modes, such as arcade mode. Where you’re just trying to best your own scores. The only multiplayer available is Co-op mode where you and a friend control one vehicle. One person is the gunner and the other the pilot. It seems like this would be a much easier way to play the game since one person can focus on their respective screen. Although the fixed camera during boss fights and other certain areas may cause issues with the pilot. A lack of online multiplayer is a real missed opportunity. I think four versus four dogfights would be a blast, especially with the added wrinkle of transforming. You have some member flying around while others are on the ground in cover blasting away. Nintendo, please get with the times and embrace online. I don’t how long it will last, but currently the physical version Star Fox Zero comes with a copy of Star Fox Guard. It looks to be a basic base defense game. While I haven’t played it yet, I can’t argue with free. It’s also available at a discount with the purchase of the Star Fox Zero digital version.