“Do a barrel-roll!”

Game reviews

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Starfox Zero, Nintendo, Wii U, 2016.

We were long overdue for a new Star Fox game.

It’s been 10 years since we last saw a new Star Fox title in the franchise (Star Fox Command for the Nintendo DS), and 11 since the last home console release (Assault for the Gamecube). At last, Star Fox makes it’s debut on the Wii U. Assuming you’ve played Star Fox 64, the game feels familiar from the first mission. From it’s visual appearance to enemies to your colleagues’s voices and commands, it feels like the Star Fox I love and missed.

Star Fox Zero sees the franchise step right back where it belongs. It never gets old to fire at targets, zoom in on enemies, perform barrel-rolls and summersaults for your own entertainment or drop bombs. It’s good to see the crew together once more: Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare and Slippy Toad as they tackle Andross and old foes once more. I love hearing the dialogue between the characters, after all, Starfox was know to have great one-liners. There are however, some obstacles that hinder it’s enjoyment.

The controls are the reason I suspect this game won’t be every gamer’s cup of tea. In theory, playing with gamepad doesn’t sound all that bad. Yet it makes for a confusing experiences at times. Looking at two screens is easier said than done, especially in a fast-paced environment such as Star Fox Zero. The TV shows a third person perspective view much like previous Star Fox experiences. The gamepad offers a first person cockpit view. They combine as one but ultimately operate differently. Confused yet?

Mastering the controls while learning to utilize the gamepad and alternating screens is a learning process. Playing the game requires you to use the TV and gamepad screens in conjunction. The gamepad’s screen plays from a cockpit point of view and shows enemies and targets out of range on the big screen.

Learning can be a frustrating process, but it’s ultimately rewarding when one realize all the control that Star Fox Zero offers it’s player. Once you’ve got it down, the controls start to become a little more fun.

There’s still that part of me that doesn’t like the controls. In theory, it sounds like an interesting gaming experience and sometimes it is, but sometimes the game had me rolling my eyes. Holding the gamepad is OK. When it comes to what is essentially swinging the device around and tilting to impossible angles, I’m not fond of them. At best, the controls are fun. At worst, they take away from the enjoyment of Star Fox Zero. In this regard, it might be better to play with a pro-controller which seems more suitable to the experience.

The graphics are sometimes brilliant and effective making the most of the Wii U’s capabilities. Then there are instances where they can look dated, almost as if they belong to a past generation of gaming consoles. For the most part they’re very good but Nintendo didn’t “wow” me, at least not this time. They recaptured the appearance of Star Fox 64 and brought it up to more modern standards, but it doesn’t impress.

Campaign isn’t all that long. 2-3 hours maybe, but then again Star Fox games are usually not terribly long. The multiplayer aspect of the game has many intrigued, with good reason. Two players co-operating to operate and maneuver a plane is an interesting concept. If the aforementioned controls seems puzzling and complex to you, rest assured, multiplayer breaks down the duties and mechanics between two players. Player one controls the air-wing while player two aims at targets.

It feels and plays like a Star Fox game, but it plays it’s cards a little too close to it’s chest at times. That is to say that it’s not daring enough, although it does adds some creative ideas the game isn’t all that different from Star Fox 64. You can almost call it Star Fox 64 II Wii U and it would fit. I’m not sure it’s what Nintendo was specifically aiming for, but Star Fox Zero looks and feels like a remake or an updated reboot of the franchise. It’s not a necessarily a bad thing. The N64 Star Fox is a beloved classic from my childhood. Zero offers an updated version of the concept with updated controls and mechanics complete with a facelift.

Starfox Zero is the game fans wanted and should have gotten a few years ago on the Wii or even the Gamecube. It’s also the best Star Fox since Star Fox 64. Once you master the controls the game is quite fun and offers a good challenge. I like that there are different vehicles to master such as the tank, it adds diversity to the game. On the downside, .

I don’t see much replayability (although you might want to revisit levels once you’ve hold a better grasp on the controls) and it isn’t that far off from the N64. I miss the secret exits and bonus levels as they were a fun part of the N64 title. There are exits but they’re just given to you. Besides, you can replay any levels as you wish at any given time which takes away the challenge aspect. I’m not mind-blown over Zero, but l’m definitely enjoying the game despite its flaws. It’s a fun title that packs a blast from the past, but it’s a little too short with gimmicky controls For these reasons, I’ll rate Zero 3/5 stars.

On a side note, retail copies of Star Fox Zero also include a bonus game, Star Fox Guard. In Guard you essentially play protect the tower. You don’t see the whole field however. Instead, there are twelve smaller screens and you can only operate from those viewpoints with add more challenge to the game. Guard is not incredible, but it’s a fun addition to Zero. It’s a tactical defence-oriented title that adds good entertainment and value to Star Fox Zero.

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2 thoughts on ““Do a barrel-roll!”

  1. Great review! I’m totally with you on the opinion that the controls can work if learned, but there’s still something wrong with them. It’s like, I see what they did and respect it, but I would also like the option for a more traditional control style. I think if they did something similar to Star Fox 64 3D where there was a new style and old style, it would be fine. What’s done is done though, and people’s reactions to the controls are real.

    Like

    1. Thank you! You summed up all too well how I feel. I like that they’ve done something different that makes use of the Wii U’s gamepad, but it would have been nice to have an option for traditional play. Surely they must have known not every gamer would like the controls. I think if it wasn’t for the controls, the game would get some recognition because it’s good.

      Liked by 1 person

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