Review: Star Fox Zero
In 2014, Nintendo announced they were continuing the Star Fox series on the Wii U console, and many fans were excited for the next installment. It had been a decade since the last series release, and almost twenty years since the release of Star Fox 64, which featured fast gameplay with multiple paths through each level and a dogfight mode that made for hours and hours of fun with friends. The makings of another great adventure were underway. Or, so we thought…
When Nintendo gave fans a glimpse of the game at last year’s E3, many were shocked at the poor quality of the game. The graphics were dull and lacked the standards that gamers demand from modern consoles. In addition, the game used a new two-screen system of gameplay. The game came under fairly heavy scrutiny from the gaming community for its perceived quality. Soon after Nintendo pushed the release date back from December 2015 to April 22, 2016. This led many to believe Nintendo was working on improving the game before its spring release.
When the date came, I had already downloaded the game and was waiting to play it the minute it was released. I immediately found the two-screen gameplay awkward and a little clumsy. One screen puts you in the cockpit of your ship, while the other is a view from behind your craft. The problem with this set up is that neither one is good by itself for playing the game. The third-person view gives you a skewed view of your crosshairs making it difficult to shoot down enemies, and the cockpit view makes it impossible to know your surroundings. You can shoot down plenty of enemies from the cockpit view, but you find yourself crashing into every object that comes your way. To add one more degree of difficulty, the game utilizes the gamepad’s gyroscope to control the crosshairs. You slightly tilt the pad to move the sights and then shoot down your target. This takes some getting used to.
It took me roughly four or five hours of gameplay to get comfortable with the control setup. There are very limited options for changing the controls, so you’re pretty much stuck with a hybrid of using the stick and tilting the gamepad to destroy incoming foes. On top all that, you need to use the right analog stick to speed up, slow down and perform any evasive maneuvers with your vehicle. Needless to say, you’ll be spending the first few days in frustration with this game, but it does eventually get better.
Once you’ve mastered the complex controls, you can start to enjoy the game a little more, and there are some fun things about the game. The game features multiple vehicles including your starship, a tank and a gyrocopter. Each one has its own distinct characteristics and keeps the game fresh from level to level. Star Fox Zero includes a multitude of paths through each level and has plenty of goals to meet. You’ll find yourself always trying to best your last score, providing hours of replay time. There’s also a co-op mode where one person controls the ship while the other shoots down enemies. This can be fun or torture depending on whom you’re playing with. While this is a new feature, much of the game feels recycled.
Perhaps my biggest quibble with the game is that it’s basically the same story recycled one more time. This seems to be a problem across Nintendo titles, and Star Fox is no exception. The game uses many of the same worlds and stages from the past, and the game’s main villain, Andross, is in the same form in the final battle. Who’s writing the storylines over at Nintendo, because it’s the same thing time after time.
In the end, Star Fox Zero is a recycled story with controls that take serious effort to master. If you’re going to do a reboot of a game, don’t leave out the best part. They neglected to include the dogfighting and for that I’m giving it six foxtails out of ten.