The Star Fox series is both one of Nintendo’s best, and also one of its most inconsistent. After debuting on the SNES and blowing everyone away with its “realistic” 3D visuals, the series became a household name, though a true sequel wouldn’t arrive until four years later. That sequel was the venerable Star Fox 64. After that classic cemented the series’ status as an all time great, Nintendo ended up really mixing things up for the sequels that followed, resulting in mixed responses and a long delay between new games.
Now, over ten years since the last title hit the Gamecube, Star Fox is back on a home console with Star Fox Zero and the question is, was the wait worth it? I’ve played through a decent portion of the game so far, and don’t want to give any definitive thoughts until the full review. However, so far I have been very impressed with not only the action gameplay of the new game, but also the bold steps they took to revolutionize the formula.
Star Fox Zero is a remake of sorts, having essentially the same loose storyline of the Nintendo 64 game. This would definitely not be the first time Star Fox 64 was remade, and most other games in the series are pretty inspired by it in some fashion, so it isn’t surprising to see it happen again here. Still, Star Fox Zero isn’t really about the story, it simply acts as a framework for the space shooter action that follows.
In that regard, Star Fox Zero follows the series’ tenets closely and to excellent effect. Blasting from space down to the surface of Corneria, your adventure begins in a very familiar, and yet totally new feeling way. This is likely the work of PlatinumGames, who has helped develop the title.
Platinum and Nintendo didn’t just throw a fresh coat of paint on the game and call it done
Their influence isn’t overt, but you do see it pop up every now and again, mostly in the way cutscenes play out, or how over-the-top the action can get. Luckily it is an excellent fit for this action-oriented series. Every time I saw a new, massive ship explode I thought back to how cool it was to have the rumble pack on Star Fox 64 and smiled a nostalgic smile.
While things definitely stayed the same in many areas, Platinum and Nintendo didn’t just throw a fresh coat of paint on the game and call it done. The controls are the most massive shift in the game, using the Gamepad as a first-person cockpit view, and allowing you to move your on-screen reticle by tilting and shifting its orientation. This definitely takes a lot of time to get used to, especially for series veterans, but once you do it all sort of makes sense, and does offer a more precise method of aiming.
There are also the requisite new vehicles, with the Walker and the Gyrowing, while the Landmaster tank makes a return appearance. Past games have struggled whenever they leave the cockpit of the Arwing, but these fit nicely into the series and are actually fun to use for their specific scenarios.
The Walker gives you more maneuverability within tight spaces, which allows sections of the game to move inside, offering a very different take on the Star Fox formula. The Gyrowing also shifts things quite a bit, making you slower, but allowing you to hover in the air. You also have a tiny robot that you can deploy into small spaces, allowing you to hack terminals and open doors.
The real benefit of the new vehicles is in the level design, pushing levels into new shapes and sizes. There are tons of the standard on-rails missions to keep fans happy, but on top of them are more open arenas that change things up quite a bit.
So far it’s been great just getting back into a new Star Fox game, and the fact that Star Fox Zero mixes things up is just an added bonus. There are pieces of the game that will definitely take some getting used to, but overall it seems like Nintendo and Platinum have really made the 10 year wait worthwhile.
Star Fox Zero also comes with Star Fox Guard packed in. We’ll have our thoughts on that game later on, so check back soon.