Nearly 20 years ago, Star Fox 64 was released on the Nintendo 64 and was met with critical acclaim. Since then, it has remained the gold standard of the Star fox series. After the disappointments of Star Fox Adventures and Command, can Star Fox Zero revive the series, or is Star Fox down for the last time?
Alright let’s not fool ourselves, the story is Star Fox 64’s plot all over again, Andross has declared war, and General Pepper requests Star Fox’s assistance led by Fox McCloud. With his fellow pilots Peppy Hare, Falco Lombadri, and Slippy Toad, they will travel the Lylat System to stop Andross’ army, face Star Wolf, and blow up many things before facing the evil doctor himself. Pretty much the story is basically cliff notes from 64, so there’s not much to say other than that the story simply sets up the rest of the game.
In terms of graphics, for a Wii U game Star Fox Zero looks good enough, now it’s not something like Mario Kart 8 (MK8 looks like the Mona Lisa) the graphics are pretty good. The graphics are at its best when there’s a giant battle going on in the background, with the Cornerian army and Andross’ army going at it. The textures may leave several disappointed, but if you’re busy looking at the textures for too long, you’re probably going to crash into something. The game runs at 60 frames per second, though there will be times when it will drop to 40, when you boost or a big explosion happens, but it doesn’t break the pace of the game.
As far as the sound goes, the game sounds like a Star Fox game. The cheesy Muppet style voice acting returns and many of the seasoned veteran voice actors reprise their roles. The music for Star Fox Zero is very good, but most of it you won’t remember outside the game, save for a few new entries, and of course the returning themes such as the main theme and the Star Wolf theme, which once again breaks expectations and manages to be better than the last version. The new Star Wolf theme seems to be a mix of 64 and Assault, with the choir in the background and the fast beat, taking the best elements of both and putting them together. If I had any problem with the sound it’s two things: 1. the voices only come out of the gamepad and 2. The music only comes out of the television. These aren’t game breakers, but its weird design.
Now, this is where many are divided and will decide whether the game is worth it or utter shit. Like many Wii-U games, Star Fox Zero wants you to use the gamepad with motion controls and I will say right now, there is a learning curve to using the controls, but it is not broken or impossible, in fact Splatoon has very similar controls to that of Star Fox Zero, so if you mastered Splatoon’s controls you will have an advantage over most people. The control stick moves the Arwing, ZR shoots your lasers, R shoots bombs, the right stick lets you boost, break, and do barrel rolls, and combined with the left stick you can do somersaults and U-turns, though the X and B button does these last two no problem.
There is a co-op mode where one person can use the gamepad to fly and the pro controller to shoot, but both can shoot. The motion controls can be turned off… for the most part, I will repeat that since most people who play don’t take the time to learn the controls on their own. THE MOTION CONTROLS CAN BE TURNED OFF… for the most part, and what I mean by that is when you change the controls, the motion controls only activate when you’re pressing the ZR button, otherwise the reticle stays with the Arwing. The only time I found myself having to look at the gamepad aim with the gamepad was when I needed to get specific enemies or in all-range mode, all of that makes up about 15 percent of the gameplay. This is something a lot of people fail to discuss, and is something more gamers should think about when playing Star Fox Zero in the future.
Now as for the game itself, it’s setup like the SNES and N64 games that came before it, an arcade rail shooter that puts you on a path to the end of the stage in order to unlock other stages in the Lylat System. The map is also like the older games, though Star Fox Zero does have a little more meat on its bones. There are three types of vehicles; the Arwing is your main one which controls as you expect it to, the Landmaster which you go on ground though it feels the a little stiff at times, and the Gyrowing which… isn’t bad, but it’s the Blue Marine of this game, thankfully you only have to play for one and three quarters of a stage and that’s it. The Arwing and Landmaster can transform into the Walker and the Gravmaster giving both vehicles more variety and gives you different ways to complete a level. The vehicles in Star Fox Zero has the most variety in any Star Fox game, I love trying new ways to complete certain levels. The game can be beaten in a couple of hours in which you can unlock the other levels and choose to play Arcade Mode which lets you play the game in one go. Ultimately your enjoyment of Star Fox Zero will depend on a few things; if you can get through the learning curve of the controls, playing a game that only takes a couple of hours to beat instead of twenty, and your overall enjoyment of arcade-rail shooters in general.
Star Fox Zero is not a hard game, though I can say it is the hardest Star Fox game. It won’t take long to beat the game, and most bosses are simple to figure out, though one stands out as being borderline bullshit and that’s the one on one fight with Wolf, motherfucker can hit like a tank if you’re not careful. That’s the only real challenge to Star Fox Zero, arcade mode makes you play with one life, but that’s not hard, the only difficulty is where you want to go and how long it will take you to complete it. So Star Fox Zero continues the tradition of a Star Fox game not being too difficult, but having one or two things that can make you frustrated at times.
In terms or replayability, Star Fox Zero has plenty, and yet at the same time it doesn’t. The main game and arcade mode offer plenty of replayability, but other than that there’s the training mode and the sound test. You know what’s missing? A multiplayer mode and an online leaderboard! For a game like Star Fox Zero, having these two things should be a giant DUH! But for whatever reason Nintendo decided to not include these two features in the game, and the replayability suffers because of it.
That’s why my final score for Star Fox Zero is:
A Peppy Hare out of 10 (7 out of 10)
Star Fox Zero is a grand return to the franchise, it knows what to keep the same and it knows what to change up, though some will say that it’s getting old and that it needs to start doing new stuff. Yes the controls are a gimmick, but as I have stated on Twitter plenty of times, Star Fox was created because a gimmick. Despite some dumb designs with the gamepad and the lack of a multiplayer mode and online leaderboard which is very disappointing, Star fox Zero is easily the best Star Fox game since Star Fox 64, and it’s the Star Fox game we have been wanting for the longest time. Yes the story’s ripped from 64, but it’s been so long since then most gamers who play Star Fox today might be more accustomed to Star Fox Adventures, Assault, or (God help you) Command. It’s not afraid to show us what a Star Fox game is all about, and it’s why Zero stands alongside its SNES and N64 counterparts.