Earlier this month Nintendo of America reported a 260% increase in sales of its new 3DS handheld as the result of a mid-August price drop. This finally put sales of the system ahead of the older DS models, and it even managed to score the 3DS second place in that month’s NPD figures. As an early adopter, I haven’t exactly noticed a significant number of additional portables in the wild, but if you can’t trust cold, sterile sales figures what can you trust?
With Nintendo (and apparently the buying public) reassured of the future of the device, the only lingering problem, for new owners as well as old, is a lack of quality titles. Despite scoring those sweet NES downloadables from the Ambassador Program, I’m still primarily playing the same two games: Ocarina of Time and Street Fighter IV. But now, at long last, there is a… third notable remake.
Star Fox 64 3D is a modern take on the classic source material, complete with shiny new 3D bells and whistles. The core game, however, should easily take you back to the days of the Nintendo 64 space shooter.
If you loved the Star Fox of old, then this game is definitely for you. It affords all the cheesy charm of the console title in a uniquely portable format. In fact, that it goes so far to retain the feel of the original is its chief drawback.
The title’s 3D effects are spectacular, and give a genuine feel of both depth and movement as you pilot your way through waves of enemies in open space as well as through on-rails tubes and mazes. Unlike the gussied up land- and spacescapes, however, the vehicles themselves look intentionally dated. The Arwing in particular still has that sharp, severe and distinctly one-dimensional outer edge that strays a little too close to the low-polygon-count of the original for my taste. The same can be said for not so much the character models, which look amazing, but their animations. The Muppet-esque flapping gums of the source title are still here in spades, and, while I understand that this is a knowing nod to fan culture, I honestly expected better.
Aside from this pair of visual snafus, Star Fox looks great and plays even better. The analog controls are smooth and responsive, as are the trigger clicks for special moves like the famed barrel roll. There’s even an option to use the 3DS gyroscope in tandem with the circle pad for an additional level of accuracy, but all the associated movement makes it difficult to focus on the wonderful 3D effects. Sadly, this means that in order to truly enjoy one you must forgo the other.
One could certainly complain about an alarmingly short main mission mode – you can easily power through it in a single sitting – but the branching nature of the storyline, which takes you through varying paths depending on your in-level choices and performance, takes the chore out of additional play-throughs and really adds in some expanded content. The same cannot be said for the title’s anemic multiplayer mode. Sure, it boasts Download Play from a single-cartridge, but with no online option and only a handful of levels it fails to live up to its genuine potential.
With all that said, Star Fox 64 3D is still a fine addition to any 3DS library. There’s enough retro-fan service for old schoolers, but not at the expense of those unfamiliar with the property. If you’re in the market for a new portable title that really makes the most of the system’s features, it easily fits the bill with its truly engaging, instantly addictive gameplay.
Now if only Nintendo would hurry up and bring us some brand new titles!
WIRED: handsomely updated graphics, great use of 3D effects, responsive controls via circle pad and Gyro Sensor, branching storyline, single-cart multiplayer, nostalgia to spare, barrel rolls aplenty
TIRED: occasionally sacrifices form for fan service
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America