Fox McCloud’s Arwing is set to land on Wii U systems nationwide this Friday, April 22, but he’s not alone! Read on to see what’s become of Peppy, Slippy, Falco, and the rest in Star Fox Zero.
Is this a prequel, a sequel, or a remake?
Miyamoto, who served as the game’s lead producer, stated early on that Zero was neither a prequel nor a sequel, but it’s not exactly a straight-up remake either. Instead, think of it more as another take on the source material–sort of like what Star Fox 64 did for the original SNES title.
As stated in the game’s prologue–yes, this game comes with its own prologue–Fox McCloud is the son of an ace pilot, continuing his dad’s mission alongside teammates Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, and Slippy Toad to defeat the forces of the crazed scientist Andross. There’s lots of Arwing action, complete with a Robotech-esque Walker transformation, not to mention SF64-style Landmaster missions (which can transform into its own heavy jet form, the Gravmaster), and even the new deployable Gyrowing precision copter.
Did they keep those classic gum-flapping talking heads?
Oh yeah, the Thunderbirds-style shtick arrives intact. General Pepper and the rest will spout out commands, requests, and even the occasional dig via the tried-and-true sock puppet lip-synch. Cleverly, though, the title pipes this in-game dialog through the stereo speakers on the GamePad, which provides for a nice sense of space and immersion, despite the intentionally cheesy visual presentation.
But how does the rest of it look?
While the dialog animation is intentionally minimal, Star Fox Zero overall looks amazing. PlatinumGames–who’ve previously given us visual feasts in the forms or The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 for the Wii U (and Transformers: Devastation on virtually everything else)–really outdid themselves. The vehicles’ movement, transformation sequences, and the varied environments all look great. Zero is a graphical high-water mark in the Star Fox franchise that should serve to remind gamers that, despite its somewhat meager specs, the Wii U most certainly has got the goods.
What about the dialog? Will I be implored to do a barrel roll?
But of course! While not exactly renowned for its groundbreaking storytelling, Star Fox games do sort of live and die by their just-this-side-of-enjoyable goofy dialog, and the voice cast definitely kills it.
And how does it control?
Star Fox Zero really goes all out with regard to using the Wii U features most games scarcely acknowledge. While your television acts as your standard “cinematic view” for piloting your vehicle, the GamePad’s second screen acts as a precision monitor (in “cockpit view”) for targeting enemies. The analog sticks control your ship’s movement while aiming is handled independently by the GamePad’s gyro controls. This frees the player up to do some pretty amazing maneuvering, but it makes for a positively punishing learning curve, especially early on.
You’ll quickly learn that the Y button, which reorients your aiming reticle, is your best friend in Star Fox Zero. Of course, you can also bring along your real best friend in two-player co-op mode, wherein he can employ the Wii U Pro Controller or Wii-mote/Nunchuk to act as a dedicated pilot while you get your bearings as the gunner.
Will my kids enjoy it?
Despite its initial level of difficulty–owing to its complex but well-reasoned control scheme–I’m almost more inclined to say that kids may be better equipped to take on Star Fox Zero than their parents; there’s almost an element of twitch gaming to the title’s meticulous controls. When enemy crafts are bearing down on you and you’re expected to fly one direction while targeting in another (and via a separate screen), both fast reflexes and a solid grasp of spatial geometry are paramount.
While I’m certainly not as quick on the draw as I once was, my 11-year-old seemed to have less difficulty splitting his focus for maximum carnage. And, with the game’s E10 rating, I was perfectly comfortable letting him take part in sci-fi animal warfare.
What kind of amiibo functionality does it have?
Scanning in your Fox amiibo reskins your team’s Arwings in all their retro, low-poly glory while the Falco amiibo gives you control of a special Black Arwing with increased firepower but decreased damage resistance.
Isn’t there another Star Fox game coming out?
You’re thinking of Star Fox Guard, a secondary title that comes bundled with the retail release of Star Fox Zero.
What exactly is Star Fox Guard?
In Star Fox Guard, you are tasked with defending a series of mining installations, owned by Slippy Toad’s Uncle Grippy, from unscrupulous invading robots. While I was inclined to call Guard a straight-up tower defense game, my son was quick to point out that its reliance on monitoring individual security camera feeds to track and defeat encroaching bots adds shades of Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Either way, it’s a pretty sweet pack-in, fully realized if not necessarily expansive. Plus, like Zero, Star Fox Guard offers a uniquely challenging gameplay all its own.
Are these games worth the price of admission?
At a retail price of just south of $60, the Star Fox Zero/Star Fox Guard bundle is a pretty enticing package.
On its own, Zero is both a fresh new take on the source material and a shiny new coat of paint on a franchise near and dear to an entire generation of console gamers. The old guard will likely dig its more on-rails segments and its throwback dialog while those with more modern tastes can find a lot to love in its branching paths and free-flight dogfights. Either way, it’s a solid Wii U experience–just be prepared to be challenged by a title that’s as complex and furious as it is cute and furry.
If you’d like to know more, I suggest you check out the world premiere of Star Fox Zero: The Battle Begins, streaming today, April 20, at 3 p.m. PT (6 p.m. Eastern). A collaboration between Shigeru Miyamoto, Production I.G., and WIT Studio, this animated short includes the characters from Star Fox Zero, and will be immediately followed by a special Nintendo Treehouse: Live featuring both games, Star Fox Zero and Star Fox Guard.
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America