If you would like to skip the timeline just scroll down to Star Fox Zero.
Nintendo, it’s time to stop.
Star Fox Zero is Nintendo’s latest entry in their Sci-Fi furry universe of anthropomorphic Foxes, Wolves, and giant monkeys. It has been 5 years since the last installment on the 3Ds and 11 years since the last home console release. The game was hyped by Nintendo with a great marketing campaign that also included a full 15-minute episode in full CGI promoting the upcoming release.
So with over 5 years to work with and so much love and attention put forth to bring the franchise to current gen home console what the hell happened?
Well first let’s take a look at the rollercoaster that is the IP to begin with. Star Fox debuted in 1993 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and was the second three-dimensional game they developed. With use of their new Super FX graphics acceleration they brought full 3D polygonal gameplay to an otherwise completely 2D driven system. This was a big friggen deal at the time. While the game may have looked great in 3D it also played amazingly and was a well-designed game in its own right. From branching paths to fun boss battles and fantastic music the game became a classic.
Star Fox 2 was being developed closer to the release of the Nintendo 64 and thus was canceled. The game was to include an even more advanced 3D engine as well as more ships and characters. A barely playable ROM of what remains of the game can be found somewhere on the internet (supposedly).
Finally, with the release of the Nintendo 64, Nintendo is ready to bring Star Fox back. Star Fox 64 releases in 1997 and received critical acclaim. It was the first game to utilize the controllers “Rumble pak” which added force feedback vibration to the controller. Not only now could people experience full 3D flight with enhanced textures and features but they could also feel the impact in their hands. Star Fox 64 was a direct upgrade from the original in every way and included voice acting to further enhance the story experience.
It is now 2001 and enter the Nintendo Gamecube. Once again it will be a full year after the consoles release before the next Star Fox game is released. Star Fox Adventures releases in 2002 and receives a very mixed response. Adventures is the first game where you control Fox McCloud directly, outside of his ship on land. While there are a few flying segments they are short and uninspired. While the game as an action adventure isn’t necessarily bad, I think I can speak for the majority when I say it would have been better with literally any other IP other than Star Fox. This is the point where the experimentation of the IP starts taking a dive as it slowly deviates away from what people loved about the original and 64.
Three years later Nintendo contracts Namco to develop Star Fox: Assault, also for the Gamecube. Assault was a step in the right direction focusing back on flight and the tank driving mechanic added in 64. Despite the improvements over Adventures, the game still added on-foot segments that were not really welcomed and further plagued those segments with sloppy and unpolished control. The game did however include a fully fleshed out multiplayer with up to four people granted you had to unlock a majority of options for it in the single-player part of the game. This will be Nintendo’s last home console Star Fox for some time.
In 2006 Nintendo releases their first handheld Star Fox game for their Nintendo DS console. Star Fox Command was developed a little differently from the previous entries in the series. First of all, the game had two types of gameplay modes: Strategy and Battle. Strategy mode is a turned based tactics game where you try to prevent enemy ships and missiles from reaching the Great Fox (your base of operations). Upon reaching an enemy unit with your own you are transported to a real time flight stage which is battle mode. This approach actually works well for a mobile game and the game was successful. The different gameplay style felt closer to a spin off or mini-game than an entry in the series.
Star Fox 64 3D was released in 2011 for the Nintendo 3Ds and essentially is the exact same game as the original 64 version. Aside from an extra “3Ds mode” and support for gyro controls the game only adds a few multiplayer options for LAN and CPU bots. Despite the game offering very little to the table it was a great way for those who missed the original release or for those who wanted their favorite game in a portable form.
Star Fox Zero
And here we are, present day 2016. It has been 5 years since the last Star Fox game and 11 years since Assault came out on Gamecube. McDeath and I over at OLGN studios played the game for about 5 excruciating hours and can firmly say that the game was just painful. McDeath described the game as simply not fun and said “It’s like they were trying to find every kind of game-play mode that wasn’t fun and crammed them all in”. So what exactly happened and how could this possibly be the worst Star Fox game?
The controls. Star Fox Zero forces you to use the Wii U’s screen pad to aim and shoot via a “cockpit” view. Furthermore, you aim in this view with the built in gyroscope. Because the crosshair is limited to a certain threshold in front of your ship, if you move the Wii U pad too far to any given side you are forced to re-calibrate the crosshair and gyroscope placement. This will happen literally more than a few times a minute unless you manage to hold the controller perfectly all the time. Even if you ignore the pad and try to fly watching the TV like classic Star Fox, the crosshair is still based off of the pad and you still have to aim with the gyroscope.
Co-op mode, which is the mode McDeath and I were playing, allows one person to only focus on the cockpit view of the pad and shoot while the other player uses the Pro controller or Wiimote to steer the ship. So basically one person is flying old school Star Fox and the other person is having severe motion and sea sickness from the spastic tossing around of the perspective from the other player’s attempt at moving or evading. I was the one trying to shoot things and I swear to God for as hard as I was trying I could not reliably hit a damn thing.
The game also added a flying stealth segment, and a hacking segment where you had to slowly fly to random terminals in which you would lower a little ROB looking robot to hack the terminal for you. Despite these annoying and needless stages the rest of the game is good. It is a good faithful Star Fox game with branching paths, power ups, bombs, barrel rolling, and story development. The bosses are old school and they even bring a couple of them back from previous games with new twists. The graphics aren’t incredible but they are still very pleasing to the eye and the game has good sound direction.
The Bottom Line
The control completely breaks and ruins the experience of the game. We actually gave up on Andross because we spent literally a 3rd of our entire Let’s Play session on him alone. I even decided to try to beat Andross solo and gave up on that because the controls were even harder now that I had to not only aim and shoot but worry about flying. Star Fox Zero should have been amazing and taking away the control the game is merely good. With the control however the game is average at best once you’ve spent long enough getting used to having your brain literally multi-task as basic control.
Let us hope Nintendo decides to bring us a Star Fox game on the NX that does away with unnecessary control gimmicks and focuses on giving us a pure upgrade from 64 just as 64 was from the original.