Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD & Platinum Games
Publisher(s) – Nintendo
Director(s) – Yugo Hayashi & Yusuke Hashimoto
Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto, Tadashi Sugiyama & Atsushi Inaba
Being the franchise’s first home console release for eleven years, and receiving mixed reviews upon release, Star Fox Zero brought the series back to it’s roots, but not without incorporating a plethora of new gameplay elements to perpetuate a great a deal of variety and replay value, as well as to satisfy both newcomers and veteran fans. There were some issues I had with the latest re-vamp of the classic Nintendo rail shooting game, but overall, I found it to be a fairly solid gaming experience, and certainly one of the more standout titles on the Wii U to have been handled by a third party developer.
Graphics – 7/10
As expected, the Lylat System has never looked as detailed or as polished as it does in this game. Many classic planets make an appearance, such as Corneria, Venom, Zoness and Fortuna, with the addition of new locations like Sector Alpha, Sector Beta and Aquarosa. What I was especially impressed with was how most of the classic locations had been redesigned so dramatically to fit in with the unfamiliarity of all the new locations. The only two locations, which stood to me as being arguably overly reminiscent of Star Fox 64 were both Corneria and Titania, but even they differed from their Nintendo 64 counterparts; especially in terms of their respective boss fights.
Gameplay – 9/10
Aside from an overhaul of graphics, there is also a massive overhaul of gameplay too. The classic rail shooting mechanics of the original Star Fox game takes precedent, but in addition, there are multiple vehicles that must be piloted in order to traverse different sections of certain levels, as well as completing different objectives. The Landmaster from Star Fox 64 is used in addition to the Arwing, as well as the new Gyrowing, which is used to hack into computer systems via a deployable robot named Direct-I, and the Walker vehicle, which is used for ground combat; an idea reworked from a gameplay feature incorporated into the cancelled Star Fox 2 for the Super Nintendo. Star Fox Zero also features side quests providing additional replay value; something that many Star Fox games have sorely lacked with the exception of Star Fox Adventure. Incorporating the addictive nature of the series, I found playing this game to be very enjoyable overall, and every bit as challenging as any other game in the series to date.
Controls – 6/10
The biggest reservation I had about this game whilst playing was how the control scheme worked in conjunction with the unique features of the Wii U. Aiming is handled by having players use both the control sticks and the Wii U GamePad’s gyroscopic controls simultaneously. There is an option the player can take to have the crosshair locked when steering, but the gyroscopic controls are then enabled again once the player starts firing their weapons, and in my opinion, it doesn’t work anywhere near well as the classic system. If the gyroscopic controls hadn’t have been incorporated, I would have thought much more highly of this game overall. But unfortunately, Nintendo tried to fix something that was by in large unbroken; and it made for an unnecessarily huge hindrance rather than a pleasure.
Lifespan – 10/10
Like both Star Fox and Star Fox 64, there is virtually infinite replay value to be had in this game. Aside from the main story quest, there is an arcade mode, which players can take on in order to beat their high score as well a multiplayer mode. One quick playthrough can take less than four hours to complete, but to complete the game to 100% can take anything between 15 to 20 hours, which to me was unprecedented for any game made in the same calibre.
Storyline – 6.5/10
Being the third re-telling of the events of the original game, the story centres on the anthropomorphic Star Fox team, consisting of Fox McCloud, the leader, Peppy Hare, the seasoned veteran, Slippy Toad, the complacent mechanic, and Falco Lombardi, the cocky ace pilot. Their mission is to aid the Cornerian army led by General Pepper in saving the Lylat System from the invading maniacal scientist Andross. Though I have already experienced this story many times, and loved it, the main problem I had with this interpretation of it was the voice acting; despite the fact that almost all of the original cast from Star Fox 64 returned. In addition, I found it to be nowhere near as well scripted as Star Fox 64. To me, there wasn’t as much as there was in the former game that brought out the character’s traits and personalities. It was much like the same problem I had with the re-vamp of Ratchet and Clank; many returning characters, and not enough development. The developers tried adding a slight plot twist towards the end concerning General Pepper, but to me, it was too little too late.
Originality – 8/10
In terms of story, I wouldn’t say there was a great deal present to differentiate it from any other game in the series. However, from the perspective of both gameplay and conceptual design, there’s a great deal of uniqueness to experience. It will certainly provide both veterans and newcomers with one of the more special gaming experiences on the Wii U, and whilst the controls scheme can be infuriating at times, it’s not impossible to get to grips with. A lot of the boss fights are also very different to most boss fights in the series, with the strategy of beating Andross being something a little bit more than blowing his hands away, and then aiming for his eyes. It also nicely paves the way for a possible continuation of the series in the future, as well as the possibly of even more unique ideas to be incorporated in future games.
Overall, Star Fox Zero has it’s flaws, but it’s by no means one of the more frustrating games I’ve played. It’s addictive, challenging, beautiful to look at, and whilst it isn’t the best re-telling of the events of the original game, it does a good enough job at explaining the basic premise, and leaves the next direction the series could possibly take open to interpretation.