Star Fox Zero Review
Developer:Nintendo EAD/Platinum Games
Publisher: Nintendo of America
A Copy Was Purchased By the Reviewer
Star Fox Zero is a Wii U re-imagining of the original Star Fox 64. It’s been ten years since the last game in the franchise so let’s take it for a spin.
It all began with the investigation of Venom, an abandoned sector that suddenly saw strange activity. General Pepper of the Cornerian army sent the mercenary group, Star Fox, consisting of James Mcloud, Peppy Hare and Pigma Dengar. Upon reaching Venom Pigma Dengar reveals he is working for the enemy of the universe, Andross. James creates a diversion for Peppy to escape leaving him to perish in Venom. Years later his son, Fox McLoud, re-invigorated the team again with the help of Falco Lambardi, Slippy Toad and the veteran Peppy Hare to take on Andross and finish what James started. Andross, they’re coming for you.
The story is incredibly simple and easy to grasp. During the game you’ll hear constant one-liners and snarky humor from the cast. This adds to the game’s charm, and you can tell there is genuine bond between the members of Star Fox. The banter between these characters are pretty much what the story consists of until the game ends.
The presentation is where the game excels the most. The game’s visuals are very good and due to the fast paced nature of the gameplay all the effects that come from lasers and explosions all make for a visual treat. One effect that resonated with me is when you pass a member of Star Fox in your Arwing during a boss fight. The camera does a slow motion zoom in of both pilots. Cinematic instances like that show polish in the presentation. Unfortunately, the game’s framerate is not consistent and can be noticeable in some sections of the game. This can be visually jarring but its larger dips are infrequent.
A problem with the sound direction is how all voice acting during missions comes from the gamepad. If you plug in headphones to the gamepad it fixes that issue, however not having the option to have all the voices come from the TV was very distracting. At least the voice acting is very good and the actors portray the characters very well. You can really tell when a character is being snarky.
Unfortunately, the music fell flatter with a few exceptions. Tracks like Star Wolf really left an impression, but this sound track was not at all memorable. The developers put a lot of care into the game’s presentation, but sometimes you may not even be able to appreciate the work they put in due the gamepad integration the game offers.
Star Fox Zero is a rail shooter with a second screen and motion control twist. The TV view shows your Arwing with a wider range of view to see what’s coming and the second screen gives you a close up of what is in front of you, allowing for precise aiming. The motion controls allow you to shoot in almost any direction you want, but doing this without the second screen is incredibly clunky. The motion controls excel during the all-range boss fights where the game is no longer on-rails and all of your attention is on the one gigantic enemy. This gives more of a reason to use that second screen for aiming. Using the top screen for fights like this is cumbersome due to how zoomed out the camera is, making it hard to see where you are and what you are aiming at. Some bosses require the player to put their attention to both. While it is indeed possible to play the on rails Arwing sections, and Star Wolf Dog fights in the game with just using the left stick to aim and shoot. You won’t be able to use that strategy during most boss fights. There is an option to disable motion controls when you are not actively shooting, but that defeats the purpose of disabling it since the gameplay revolves around shooting enemies. The controls really hamper the experience especially since the game is very fast paced requiring a lot of skill and effort to master from the player. It is a real shame that these controls felt very cumbersome as the experience was still enjoyable.
There are specific vehicles you can play in missions such as the Land Master and Gyro Wing. The Land Master is a powerful slow tank that controls horribly in all range mode. The Gyro Wing, which is primarily used for stealth sections allows you to use a miniature robot to unlock doors, find secrets and shoot enemies on the ground. These vehicles can be quite fun to use, especially Land Master in on-rails sections due to how the level design allows the Land Master to destroy terrain to find secrets. It made me feel powerful and its explosive shots felt satisfying. There are different versions of your standard Arwing as well. For beginners there is an invincible Arwing that is meant to get you through the game with no hassle. For Veterans there is an Arwing that will do double damage, but also takes double damage. For owners of the Falco Amiibo you can get an Arwing that takes triple damage but has a larger aiming recital.
The content this game has to offer heavily revolves around replaying each level, finishing a level without taking too much damage, destroying a ton of enemies, searching for collectables in the form of medals and finding secret pathways into new levels entirely. This is the meat of the game as there is no content to experience other than the single player campaign. The only other mode available is a co-op mode where one person uses the gamepad and the other uses the pro-controller to control Fox’s Arwing together. This is just playing through the single player campaign though so it might not offer a new experience to a player that already beat the game. Even when playing through to completion this is a ten to twelve hour experience and it left me with an empty feeling. Control issues aside I wanted more from this game due to my enjoyment.
Overall, Star Fox Zero is good at what it offers and tries to do, but it’ll be hard to adjust to the control scheme that it offers. It is also the only control scheme so those who dislike motion controls may have their experience be less enjoyable than it could be.
+Cinematic Integration within the Gameplay
+Fast paced action
-Controls Are Not User Friendly
-Lacking in Content