Everyone’s favourite pilots are back for 2016, and they’re looking better than ever. Star Fox Zero comes to us via a joint collaboration from Nintendo and Japanese development house Platinum Games, veteran developers with games like Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta in their back catalogue. Can they transfer their skills in stylish hack and slash to dogfights and space battles? Find out below.
Do A Barrel Roll!
Star Fox Zero draws a lot from its predecessors, and its story is very much a reimagining of Star Fox 64. Like in the 1997 classic, you are dropped into the Lylat system, ordered to travel through a myriad of well-designed planets to reach Andross. The game also has a lot of replayability value, as each mission once completed opens up a secret teleport located somewhere on the planet, which gives you access to side missions and extra content. You’ll be pleased to know that it also lifts most of its gameplay from its forefathers. The controls are crisp, showcasing the Wii U’s motion controls at the peak of their ability. Flying feels natural and fluid, and dogfights are tense, utilizing the game pad screen for a more precise view from the cockpit. The enemies are also well-crafted to make use of the motion controls, and certainly do provide a challenge.
Old fox, new tricks
Star Fox Zero does bring a few new cards to the table though, and these come in the form of new variants of the Arwing. This time around you can pilot the Landmaster, a tank that can transform into a flying machine with increased offensive capabilities, as well as the Gyrowing, a hovercraft with much less pace. The Gyrowing comes equipped with the Direct-i, a small robot tethered to the ship which you can use to hack computers and collect items from small spaces. When released you utilize the game pad screen to see through his perspective. This makes the action feel less like a gimmick and more of an intuitive design choice. Finally, there is the Walker, which is a small mech suit, reminiscent of a velociraptor. This one feels a bit more clunky than the rest, and even a bit of a chore to use.
The fast pace of the game at some points does really ramp up the difficulty. I did struggle trying to remember their individual controls when switching between variants on the fly. This is quite alarming when considering it is marketed at young children, who I think would really have problems with some of the later levels. The game’s final boss (without giving too much away) really took some time, skill, and a multitude of restarts – and that’s coming from someone who just finished Dark Souls 3. I can understand it’s trying to be faithful to the older games, but by switching the offensive controls to a motion-based system instead of a controller, it can become hard to target some of the more elusive enemies, leading to frustration.
Red Five standing by
Easily my favourite thing about the game is the sound design. I felt like I was in Rogue Squadron approaching the Death Star in the fast-paced Arwing missions, and each explosion and laser blast, combined with the consistent chatter from your comrades drew me in further to the game’s inviting world. Hearing Falco, Peppy, and Slippy again creates a really authentic and nostalgic atmosphere. The 3D voice system only expands on this. Once turned on, the game pad acts like a surround sound speaker, sending audio depending on the character’s in-game location. There is a real effort here to make you feel like you’re inside the cockpit of an Arwing, and they’ve executed the plan perfectly.
G-Diffusers set to max
Star Fox Zero is a truly faithful reimagining of an iconic series. Platinum Games and Nintendo have put a lot of effort into creating an authentic dogfighting experience and revolutionize a genre that is unfortunately absent in the current generation. If you’re looking for an inviting world with colourful characters, exciting set pieces, and tons of replay value, you should definitely warp to the Lylat system and join the squadron.
What we liked:
- Sound design
- Brilliant use of the Wii U’s motion controls
- Exciting set pieces
- Nostalgia factor
What we didn’t like:
- Steep difficulty curve in the late game
- Amount of variants is overwhelming at times
This review was written using a Wii U review code provided by Nintendo. Are you ready to jump back into your Arwing? Who’s your favourite member of the Star Fox team? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!