A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, more specifically five years ago in the Lylat system, James McCloud, leader or the pristine Star Fox squadron, was hired by General Pepper of the Cornerian army to investigate some strange disturbances on planet Venom. After much conflict and tyranny, James never returned, only his faithful wingman, Peppy Hare, returned to pass on the dreadful news. And so began he Lylat Wars. Five years have passed, and to fulfil his father’s legacy, Fox McCloud brought Star Fox out of retirement with pilots he can trust and all the latest technology to put a stop to this war once and for all!
Will Star Fox Zero barrel roll to victory, or will it somersault into oblivion. Find out in our review, after the break!
Star Fox Zero
Nintendo Wii U
Developed by Nintendo and Platinum Games
Published by Nintendo
Released: 22nd April 2016 (NA/EU)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
It can be difficult to describe Star Fox Zero in terms of where it is placed in the Star Fox universe, the best way though may be not a remake of Lylat Wars 64 (Star Fox 64) but more of a reimagining of the game. The plot is essentially the same as Lylat Wars 64’s, however there are plenty of new missions which replace old ones, as well as some of the old missions taking place at different parts of the game. Dr. Andross was once a scientist for the Cornerian Army, though was banished to planet Venom to die as his research was deemed too dangerous. Five years later James McCloud, Fox’s father, travelled to Venom with his Star Fox team to investigate some strange disturbances that were detected there. Little did he know that Pigma, one of his trusted wingmen, was really working for Andros, and lead James and his comrade, Peppy Hare, into a trap. James supposedly sacrificed himself to save Peppy, and thus the Lylat Wars ensued. Five years later, Fox revives Star Fox along with Slippy Toad, Falco Lombardi, and Peppy Hare to put and end to Andross.
When you first boot up Star Fox Zero, you are quickly introduced to some Arwing Training. You use the left stick to move the Arwing around, while the right stick is for banking left and right, accelerating, braking, and performing barrel rolls (which are useful for deflecting loads of attacks at once). You can also use both sticks to perform somersaults and U-Turns. While you use the sticks for movement, you use the gyroscope in the Wii U GamePad to aim, and ZR to shoot your lasers. You also have smart bomb and homing lasers at your disposal which are useful for the bigger enemies. The controls can be a bit difficult or awkward to grasp, especially if you aren’t used to motion controls. Once you have spent some time playing however, the controls do start to feel fairly intuitive, though it is a shame that you may have to press the left stick to re-centre the reticle from time to time as it can go off centre, especially during more intense gunfights where you are constantly moving your aim. Luckily there is an option to only use motion controls when pressing ZR.
The game progression is very similar to Lylat Wars, you’ll go from area to area completing the objective of each one, quite often, some areas will have multiple objectives to complete. These objectives can range from just surviving oncoming weapon fire or defeating a certain amount of enemy ships, to defeating a huge boss or taking down power generators. Like Lylat Wars, there are two different vehicle modes, Corridor Mode and All Range Mode. Corridor Mode is the main mode you’ll be in, which is essentially a on-rails shooter mode, you’ll move forwards automatically, all you need to do is concentrate on avoiding obstacle and weapon fires, as well as shooting down enemy ships. All-Range Mode, on the other hand, allows you to fly anywhere within a designated space, this is normally used when you need to engage in dogfights or defeat the huge bosses. Star Fox Zero adds some platforming elements which were not present in Lylat Wars, this is thanks to the Walker. Certain missions, like in Sector Alpha, will require you in infiltrate an enemy base as the Walker, making you solve very simple puzzles and destroying ground based enemies, which acts as a nice change of pace from the usual shoot-em-up action.
Another new feature is the fact that there are four additional vehicles you can control at certain points of the game, some of which clearly take inspiration from the cancelled Star Fox 2 project. You will primarily control the Arwing in the game, but at certain points you will also have the chance to pilot the Walker, a two-legged ground vehicle which the Arwing transforms into, the Gyrowing, a propeller drone which can deploy the Direct-i Robot, the Landmaster, a powerful ground tank that can also fly for a limited time, and the Roadmaster, a fun RC-like vehicle that’s exclusive to two Extra Missions.
Star Fox Zero utilises the Wii U GamePad in some very interesting way. The game has a feature called 3D Voice, when turned on, whenever the characters speak in the game, their voices come out the GamePad speakers in a way like you are right there in the cockpit. Enemy voices tend to come out the left speaker, the voices of your team mates come out the right, and Fox McCloud’s comes out both. On the larger scale, there are also two different views which are displayed simultaneously. The TV view is usually that of right behind the Arwing, and occasionally displays a cinematic view, whereas the GamePad view is from the cockpit. At first, you may decide to choose a view and stick with it, but after a couple levels, you’ll begin to realise that you have to utilise both views, for example, when using the Gyrowing, you will have to switch to a top-down view on the TV screen to see what is under you while descending, but you also need to be aware of any enemies around you by using the Cockpit view on the GamePad. The GamePad view is great for accurate shooting, whereas the TV view is perfect to spot any hazards in your blindspots, as well as taking in some of the really beautiful environments.
If you are having a bit of difficulty with controlling your vehicles, there is a training mission for each you can try to get used to the controls and mechanics. After completing the game, it is definitely worth going back to some of the levels to try and get the highest score, unfortunately there aren’t any online leaderboards, but you can still earn some bragging rights by posting your scores to Miiverse. There’s another reason to go back to some of the levels, quite a few of them actually contain alternate pathways, and if you complete that pathway’s objective, you’ll be able to unlock a new area to travel to. There are many different pathways to Venom, at least 15 of them, so playing through the levels to unlock new pathways and area really adds more to the replayability of Star Fox Zero. Not only that, but completing the game unlocks a special new mode that ups up the ante, but I’ll let you figure that out yourself. While playing the main game, there are several hidden objectives that will grant you gold medals, there are five for each level. Almost all levels will reward you a medal for getting the highest score, and another for flying through three medal rings. But what are these medals for? Well, that’s just for you to find out, the rewards aren’t anything too big, but still offer a bit of extra fun. Oh, did we mention that using the Fox Amiibo will transform your Arwing into the retro version from the NES, and the Falco Amiibo will give you a black Arwing which can lock onto two targets but takes three times as much damage?
Star Fox Zero also includes Co-Op play from the get go. This is perfect for those who may have some difficulty with aiming and moving at the same time, or just if you want a bit of help beating the high score. The player on the GamePad focuses on aiming the Arwing’s (or what ever vehicle you are using) laser, shooting, and Smart Bombs, whereas the player on the Wii U Pro Controller or Wii Remote and Nunchuck will be in charge of movement, boosting, braking, barrel rolling, U-Turning, and somersaulting; they are also equipped with a single forward facing laser. Though Star Fox Zero adds Co-Op, it is disappointing to see that VS. mode has been removed, so don’t expect to engage in any competitive dogfights with your friends.
One thing which can definitely be said about Star Fox Zero is the fact that the visuals are stunning and, personally, it’s one of the best looking Wii U games released so far. Even if the game were an exact remake of Lylat Wars, it is still worth it to purchase Star Fox Zero for it’s detailed graphics. The water looks amazing, the environments are breathtaking, and even the fur upon Fox McCloud’s cheeks is very detailed.
Star Fox Zero is a triumphant and welcome return of Star Fox from his ten year hiatus (not including Star Fox 64 3D), though it is very similar to Lylat Wars/Star Fox 64, there are still plenty of improvements and additions which warrant itself a purchase. The basic gameplay is fairly addicting, and you’ll be playing for ages, trying to get the highest score and uncovering all the secret pathways to Venom. The new vehicles, such as the walker and Gyrowing, breathes new life into the series. The controls, though a bit tricky to grasp, make piloting your Arwing feel intuitive, and the different views on the GamePad and TV screens bring in some slightly unique gameplay. Star Fox has never looked so good either with the high definition visuals. The only real drawback is the fact that a VS. mode is non-existent.
If you prefer less intense action or if shooters aren’t really your thing, then it may be worth skipping this one, but if you are a fan of the Star Fox games or are looking for a new SciFi arcade shooter, then we would recommend Star Fox Zero hands down.
Star Fox Zero will release on the 22nd April 2016 in Europe and North America exclusively for Nintendo Wii U!
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