Star Fox Zero is the most polarizing entry of the Star Fox series to date. While Nintendo brings back all of the characters you love within this reimagining of Star Fox 64, an over-emphasis on gyroscope controls and a constant need to innovate unfortunately overshadows everything else. The fast and flashy visuals made by developer PlatinumGames can only do so much when the root of the problem with Star Fox Zero instead lies in its gameplay. Even the most hardcore fans of the series may be disappointed by Nintendo’s latest entry of the franchise.
The best parts of Star Fox Zero lie in the presentation. All of the vehicles and stages have an updated modern look from their Star Fox 64 counterparts, along with some new areas and ships you’ve never seen before. The soundtrack is also modernized to sound more orchestral, with many popular and iconic music tracks from previous games getting a musical update.
A lot of this can be experienced within Star Fox Zero’s main campaign, which took me a little under five hours to complete without any extra content. There are hidden paths and secret missions you can discover by replaying certain stages, but there isn’t enough to really extend your playtime by much.
Despite all of this, Star Fox Zero easily becomes victim to the motion controls of the Wii U gamepad. It can take some time to get used to aiming with the gyro controls, especially on stages where there is a lot happening on screen.
This can be made worse when you need to look down onto the gamepad to see in front of you when the TV switches the camera view. Most stages with boss fights or story events will have this happen a lot, and it became a real annoyance when I was shot down many times because I couldn’t properly react to an enemy off screen.
The worst part throughout my time with Star Fox Zero was playing through one stealth mission that stands out of place from the rest of the game. The mission with the Gyrowing is very slow and drags on for way too long. I needed to remain stealthy while completing the mission, or be shot down very quickly, but it was the only time I didn’t feel like I was playing a Star Fox game.
The series has always focused on fast-paced aerial combat on-rails and in large stages, which is the complete opposite of the Gyrowing stage. This same mission can be played differently using the Arwing if you reach it via an alternate path in the campaign, but that only further shows how out of place the Gyrowing stealth mission is.
Multiplayer is a very loose concept in Star Fox Zero. While there is no competitive multiplayer like in previous games, the entire campaign can be played through Co-Op with a friend, with one being the pilot and the other aiming the guns. This is fine when playing with a friend, but it doesn’t really change much to the campaign.
I feel as if there was a missed opportunity here for Nintendo and PlatinumGames to have alternate Co-Op missions that were different from the story, or even true Co-Op gameplay by giving players each their own ships to control. Having a ship wingman is good, but having a player flying another Arwing next to me is even better.
Star Fox Zero is a good game held back by the barrier to entry of its controls. Everything about the presentation is what fans of Star Fox have yearned for over the years, but it’s not the perfect game that they wanted. I really enjoyed seeing all of these characters from the classic Nintendo 64 game reimagined, despite a few gripes with the overall experience. It may take a bit to get settled into the gyroscopic controls, but Star Fox Zero can still give fans of the series a good time.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Star Fox Zero for the Wii U provided by Nintendo.