Ladies and gentlemen, according to the internet at large I have a problem of Nintardism Type 3. I am suppose to be in the loud minority that Star Fox Zero is a terrible game and Miyamoto should be fired over it. Yes, Star Fox Zero is supposedly a blight on Nintendo’s record of quality games.
Having played Star Fox Zero constantly since said release, here is my response to that.
Star Fox Zero managed to innovate the way an on-rail and dog-fighting shooter should be, and also proves to be an amazing follow-up/reimagining of Star Fox 64. With EAD’s expertise in making a solid gameplay experience to Platinum Games’ amazing visual flair, this is without a doubt one of the best single player experiences on WiiU. Even with some (un)obvious flaws.
As mentioned prior, Star Fox Zero is a reimagining of the Star Fox 64 mythos. The main Star Fox team return, none of the events in Star Fox games after 64 are even mentioned (outside of that one easter egg in the Star Fox Zero anime short), Andross is instigating a galactic war for revenge on Corneria and Slippy is somehow less of a screw up. While the main goal/story is Fox and team fighting Andross’s army, the banter between the teammates is as fun as ever and Star Fox Zero gives us in my personal opinion the best portrayal of Star Wolf in the entire series’ history. It is a simple story, but simple is not a bad thing especially in this game’s case.
Now to tackle the big elephant in the room; the gameplay. If my swarmy assholish wording hasn’t clued you in yet, I think the gameplay is wonderful. The basic elements that were made famous in Star Fox 64 have returned to Star Fox Zero with great refinements; the arcade gameplay of the levels coupled with the all-range mode dog-fighting has returned, and the levels themselves are varied with the ability to replay any of them to discover hidden secrets for alternate paths with amazing boss fights at the end. Granted, while the game has less alternate paths to take to Venom, the way it deals with it is quite unique. Doing a certain action on Corneria will take you to one path where you will have to deal with a re-arranged boss battle that is harder to defeat and set against a time limit, while another will make you go through a level with a different vehicle making it more of a challenge to navigate. On top of the variety, the game’s scoring system leads to some very addictive score attacking, especially when you unlock the game’s arcade mode.
Let’s talk in depth about the controls, because why the hell not? Everyone can’t shut up about how terrible they are, except they are not. Having just finished doing a Let’s Play for Star Fox on the SNES, Star Fox 64 being one of my favorite early Nintendo 64 games and enjoying the first two Star Wars: Rouge Squadron games, Star Fox Zero has some of the best flight controls I’ve experienced, and the best part? They are actually very simple to use. The game uses the Game Pad screen give you a first person view of the cockpit, and using the gyro to aim the reticle and look around in cock-pit view. Controlling the vehicles is done with the two analog sticks and the shoulder buttons. Flying, braking, speed boosting and shooting smart bombs are done in a very simplistic way that feels amazing to play. Best thing, there is hardly any input delay.
So what are the flaws? For me personally, I found the use of the Gyrocopter itself underutilized. The one and half missions it is used in brought an amazing change of pace, especially when it was used in the slightly creepy Zoness stage and I thought the ROB cameo was very cute. Another issue is with the medals; the game itself does lend to experimentation with tackling the stages and the sense of discovery is there, but achieving some of the medals can be frustrating and most times unclear the first go around. The gyro aiming does become out of synch at times at some critical moments, though resetting it is easy to do with press the left analog stick in. Also, yes, the main game is pretty short despite its high replay value but this flaw is pretty much shared between this game and Star Fox 64.
Visual and audio-wise, the game is a stunner on both fronts. Aside from some weird looking aspects in Corneria during the first mission, the game looks amazing and runs pretty damn smoothly considering it is running on both the TV screen and the Game Pad. Platinum Games flair for visual design, from the Arwings, enemy ships to the character portraits, are very well done. The biggest standout in terms of visual design are the large bosses and the Wolfens, with standouts being the Gigarilla and the transformed Wolfens later in the game.
The music and sound effects for Star Fox Zero deliver on both fronts, thanks in part to the iconic sound effects from Nintendo veteran Koji Kondo and music arranged by Platinum Games regulars who previous did work on the two Bayonetta games. While a majority of the music is brand new tracks, keep an ear open for the arrangements of Star Wolf’s theme and the Attack Carrier theme, as they do the tracks justice from their original N64 arrangements.
In short, Star Fox Zero is the Star Fox series return to form after a couple of duds and a remake of the N64 game for 3DS. The visuals and audio from Platinum Games coupled with the great gameplay outside of some wrinkles provide the best space shooter experience on a Nintendo platform since Rouge Leader on Gamecube. Buy it in stores, as you will get Star Fox Guard for free as a nice package deal!