• 6, November, 2016

Star Fox Zero Review

Genre Publisher Release date Release O.S Available on
Arcade Shooter Nintendo 22/04/2016 Wii U Amazon

With the Wii U running on what feels like life support as of late it seems like Nintendo fans have been eagerly jumping on any first party release they can get their hands on. With few future Wii U exclusives left to release I thought now would be a good time to look back at one of  Nintendo’s bigger first party efforts earlier this year, Star Fox Zero. A brand new entry in the long running Nintendo series and one that certainly took a long time to see the light of day. With both Miyamoto and Platinum Games behind the stick how can Zero possibly fail?

Right from the get-go Star Fox Zero drips with a sense of familiarity. Everything from the menu, stage selection screen or even Corneria itself had me smiling, memories of Lylat Wars 64 flashing through my mind. And yes Peppy indeed does tell you to perform a barrel roll!

The main story option offers a series of missions each varying in style and objective. As any Star Fox fan will know these include your on-rails missions where you’re constantly moving forward down a set path and also all-range efforts where you’re free to flip and twist around a squared arena. Every stage is split into sections, each with their own goal. One minute you might be flying through space, tackling huge enemy crafts as you go, the next infiltrating a  mothership and destroying it from the inside. Other missions also have you taking down missiles, protecting the Great Fox, battling Star Wolf and of course encounters.

Throughout the course of your adventure you’ll predictably take to the skies in the Arwing and drive around in the tank-like Landmaster but two other vehicles have been thrown into the mix this time. The first is the Walker, a chicken-looking vehicle that allows you to run around on feet, useful for interior areas. The second is the Gyrowing, a much slower, hovering option that is used for stealthy attacks. Overall the vehicles control well, despite all having differing features and feeling distinctive with few situations where I felt the controls faultered.

Each stage offers a number of medals either hidden away, obtained by topping a gold medal score or accomplishing the overall mission rather than merely completing it. This might be saving all ally ships or besting a boss in a certain time for example. It’s just a shame the collectable medals don’t unlock anything worthwhile beside a few lame training challenges and I kid you not the sound test option. Some stages also offer alternative exits that lead you through a different route. While a cool concept it feels slightly undercooked. Not only are these situations far fewer than I would have liked but sadly the bonus missions they lead onto feel lacking when compared with the main ones.

All in all the game offers 12 “main” stages with an extra eight smaller bonus ones. The variation is solid but honestly I was expecting more. Lylat Wars 64 alone had close to this number way back in the Nintendo 64 days and when you consider most of the ones found here take place on the same planets or stars you can’t help but feel let down. Would it have been too much to ask for a handful more on-rails sections? Perhaps even taking us parts unknown…

Ever since the game made its debut at E3 last year the unorthodox control scheme has seen the most criticism and concern. I’ll admit even I had my doubts after seeing many videos online of people failing to grasp how to control the Arwing this way. However after a brief demo at Gamescom (of which I got a gold medal on my first attempt) those concerns were put to bed and continue to do so even after twenty or so hours of gameplay at home.

Rather than relying purely on one screen, Star Fox Zero makes use of the Gamepad’s too. Imagine the TV showing you a third person view while the pad puts you inside the cockpit and you’ve got the basic idea. Motion controls also allow for a full rotational view from the cockpit meaning you can fly in one direction whilst firing in another (a first for the series). While the first few hours proved tough to truly make best use of these new mechanics, by the end of the game I was ready to tackle the adventure once more and best all my previous scores. As expected I nailed them all.

You see Star Fox Zero is all about slow improvement. Never would I have managed to fly alongside a member of Star Wolf while shooting them using the motion controls in the early goings, but given time, I slowly got the grips with pulling off such maneuvers and more. All I can say is those who have complained about the controls simply not working, must have thrown in the towel rather than practiced. That sense of growth and accomplishment is by far one of Star Fox Zero’s biggest selling points.

Disappointingly multiplayer is limited to a co-operative experience where one controls the vehicle and the other the weaponry. While the mode is actually not bad, the fact you won’t be having dogfights with your friends locally or strangers online really hurts. What’s even worse is the fact that there are no online leaderboards. For a game that prides itself on repeated plays and besting scores, offering no means to compare your stats with others online in this day and age is simply inexcusable.

Visually the game looks disappointing especially when you compare with other Wii U titles from both Nintendo and Platinum. While the game isn’t ugly by any stretch, environments lack any real detail, explosions flat and some stages simply don’t feel like the massive playground of war they’re supposedly meant to be. This is magnified even more when compared with the game’s awesome soundtrack. The main theme is powerful, the stage selection screen adventurous and missions themselves offer a great mix of remixes and original pieces. Voice work is also strong with the main cast back to voice our favourite team. If there is one downside it’s that the only way to hear conversations mid-play is through the Gamepad’s speakers. An odd choice to say the least.

All in all Star Fox Zero feels like a game stuck in the past. While its nice to finally have a Star Fox game that plays like the originals (without all the on-foot nonsense seen in latter sequels) very little has been done to bring this foundation up to date. Where is the online multiplayer or even any proper competitive multiplayer in fact? Where are the online leaderboards? Why is the game so damn short? I found myself contemplating all the lost potential in Star Fox Zero than I did marveling at what was actually here. A major issue when you think about it.

A fun adventure through space sure, but one that feels more like an iffy Sy-Fy version that a big budget, epic Star Wars sequel.

  • Controls work well with practice
  • Soundtrack
  • Star Fox goes back to its roots
  • Disappointing visuals
  • Lack of competitive multiplayer
  • Campaign is way too short
  • Feels like a game stuck in the past
Star Fox Zero Review Ryan Janes

Summary: Better than previous efforts in the series but still a long stretch from its SNES/N64 days.



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