It may have taken a long time, but I finally had the chance to play a brand new Star Fox game on a next generation Nintendo console. Star Fox Zero is the latest entry into the series co-developed with Platinum Games that takes advantage of the Wii U gyro controls without feeling like a cheap gimmick. Unlike the previous Star Fox sequels released on the Nintendo GameCube, Star Fox Zero goes back to the on rails formula that everyone enjoyed in the original SNES title and N64 remake. The demo I played on the E3 show floor may have been within a fake Arwing cockpit, but this was a true return to everything I love about the Star Fox series.
The story of Star Fox Zero takes place side-by-side to the events that occur in Star Fox 64. The Star Fox team is still fighting to protecting the galaxy from the forces of the evil Andross across the Lylat system. The level which I played for the demo was a reimagining of the Corneria mission in Star Fox 64, only this time it had more enemies and a different series of events. The Wii U gamepad displays a cockpit view from the Arwing fighter that you can target enemies by tilting the gamepad around, while the television screen shows the action in third person outside and behind your spacecraft.
Much like the classic titles, there are branching paths to different levels that are dependent on the actions you take when playing through a mission. This can sometimes lead to different boss fights that are vastly different from one another, which also lead to different dialogue and outcomes in the story. I asked a Nintendo representative if it would be possible to choose paths once you completed the story, but I wasn’t given a definitive answer.
Those who have been fan of the series for a long time will recognize the walker transformation of the Arwing fighters in Star Fox Zero. During a mission you can transform Fox’s Arwing fighter into a walker that is able to move around the area on the ground. This transformation ability straight from the unreleased SNES game Star Fox 2 and functions exactly to how it was originally designed. Transforming is helpful when trying to destroy ground based enemies that are fast and hard to lock onto when flying around in the Arwing.
While playing I was able to transform back and forth between fighter and walker form on the fly whenever I wanted to during the mission. It was necessary to use walker form to enter a building structure during a boss fight towards the end of the level, which triggered one outcome to how the mission can end.
Controlling the game with the Wii U gamepad was a little jarring at first. It was awkward at first to use the gyro sensor of the gamepad to aim the Arwing’s lasers while simultaneously controlling the position and altitude of the ship. Once I had gotten a feel for aiming and locking on to enemies more frequently, it became natural as I flew through the mission area.
Everything together felt like the most ideal progression of the classic Star Fox gameplay formula that was mostly absent from games like Star Fox Adventures and Star Fox Assault. This may have been because of the game revisiting the Star Fox 64 setting, but this was also true when jumping from the SNES title to the Nintendo 64.
Star Fox Zero is by far not a ground-breaking title that will skyrocket Wii U sales, but it is a vital addition to the lineup of the console’s first party games. Nintendo has a lot to do in order to keep everyone satisfied before the eventual release of The Legend of Zelda on Wii U. Star Fox Zero is definite looking to be the game to get the job done. I’m glad to finally see Fox and the team getting the treatment they deserve on a new generation Nintendo Console. Expect to see me doing barrel rolls on Wii U when the game releases in Holiday of 2015.
Are you ready for the return of Star Fox on the Wii U? Interested in where the story of the Star Fox Team will go next? Leave us a comment below!