It was only two years ago at the E3 2014 Nintendo booth that I unknowingly played Star Fox Guard for the first time. Back then, it was known as Project Guard and was presented as a tech demo to display the capabilities of the Wii U gamepad. Years later, the demo I played has been rebranded as a spin-off Star Fox title and packaged together as a bonus to Star Fox Zero. There are no Arwing dogfights or barrel rolls here, but that doesn’t prevent Star Fox Guard from being a fun game with a clever amount of challenge to it.
Star Fox Guard is a tower defense styled game that is a spinoff to the events of Star Fox Zero. Slippy Toad and his Uncle Grippy act as guides through different challenges to protect Grippy’s mining facilities on planets from the Star Fox series. Occasional, other characters like Fox McCloud will have a small cameo during special events, or after scanning one of the Star Fox amiibo before each mission. However, most of the focus is on Slippy and his uncle protecting the mining facilities against waves of robots that are designed like the NES add-on, R.O.B. the robot.
The gameplay of Star Fox Guard is simple to get into, but can take some time to master as each challenge builds up tension and increases in difficulty. The gamepad acts as a layout of each facility, where you switch focus between cameras to destroy incoming enemy robots attacking the facility. Splitting my focus between the TV screen and the gamepad was not as difficult as one would think, and instead got easier the more I played through each challenge.
There was a bit of repetitiveness to missions once I got deep into the campaign, but this was broken up by different events that occur in each mission. The difficulty comes over time as more enemies, some with different abilities, begin to show up on cameras throughout the map, making it necessary for me to switch between cameras quickly and destroy incoming robots.
As you play each mission and travel to different planets, more weapons and abilities unlock to use against new and stronger enemies. Upgrades like the Charge Cam, Freeze Cam, and Slow Cam offer boosts that make the 26 types of enemy robots less of a hassle, by dealing more damage and locking on to multiple targets. Later missions become less about how quickly you switch between cameras, and more about picking the right camera positions and abilities against waves of enemies.
This sounds more intimidating than what it actually is, as I found myself instinctively switching views and splitting my attention between multiple cameras to dispatch robots that appear on the field. The challenge is fun and fair, but never feels too easy or too hard, even during some of the boss battles that take place at the end of each planet’s missions.
Finishing a mission gives you experience to level and unlock more upgrades and abilities to use in other missions. This contributes to Star Fox Guard’s online modes, which has you deploying your own personal army of robots against other players’ bases online. This is a fun offshoot of the campaign, but really opens up once you get complete the main story, since all of the robot types will be unlocked to use against friends and random players online. Completing challenges online does add more experience to your ranking, so I was still able to unlock upgrades and robot types, even if I didn’t complete the campaign beforehand.
Star Fox Guard is a fun spin-off that offers something different to flying in an Arwing and blasting enemies. As an additional game packaged in with Star Fox Zero, there is a lot more here than just a simple distraction. The level of challenge is clever and keeps you on your toes throughout each mission of the main campaign, while still feeling lighthearted and fun along the way.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Star Fox Guard for the Nintendo Wii U provided by Nintendo.