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Star Fox Zero: Review

Star Fox Zero Review
Star Fox game we’ve been waiting for, for the last 19 years.

Star Fox is Nintendo’s resident on-rails shooter. Set in space, it pits the crew of Fox McCloud and his team of comrades as they battle the evil Andross to prevent his attempt at ruling the Lylat system.

Star Fox has something of an interesting history. As of the release of Star Fox Zero there are 6 “true” Star Fox games, as well as a spinoff. Additionally, a HD remake of the N64 game was made and released for the Nintendo 3DS, and a near-complete SNES game named Star Fox 2 infamously never saw the light of day. This interesting history lead to disarray and confusion. Star Fox sat on the shelf for close to a decade after the series had sunk further into the realm of the bizarre with entries such as Command.
Something needed to save Star Fox from completely losing itself in a pit of no return.That something finally arrived. The following is a SPOILER FREE review.

Star Fox Zero is essentially a reboot. It covers the same basic story that Lylat Wars, and prior to that Star Fox (SNES) told. It must however be said that this is not a straight up remake. The road from A to Z deviates significantly from previous entries. There are new plot elements introduced and generally speaking the levels that the games share, such as Corneria are radically different. Even the final boss is a completely fresh experience.

While it would have also been great to be given something completely original after so many years, it is for exactly this reason that the original story needed to be retold. It has been years. After such a prolonged period of time, Star Fox needed to be taken back to what made it work so well in its early days, both to bring back lost fans, and to give new fans a good entry point. Not to mention that Command’s ridiculous endings had left the series with no clear direction on where else they could go. The story also leaves itself open for a true sequel. One that probably won’t involve dinosaurs or blue cats.

Andross is one tough boss. Tough bosses are much more preferable than easy ones. How many easy bosses do you remember?

I want to preface this by saying that I generally hate motion controls. The VERY first thing I did when playing Splatoon was to turn them off. I was extremely concerned about how motion controls would factor into Star Fox Zero, and even more concerned when several people came forward and stated they were compulsory.

Fast forwarding to when my hands were finally on the game, and I initially attempted to reduce them as much as possible (by using the feature in which they are only active when you are holding the fire button). I quickly realised that this wasn’t going to be effective enough, and so relented and tried them fully.

After some fussing, and fidgeting I slowly started to realise how natural and comfortable these controls were. They’re precise, and give you an unbelievable amount of freedom and movement, without restricting your flight patterns. There’s no doubt about it, it takes some getting used to, but when you do don’t be fooled, this game handles like a dream.

Star Fox Zero does motion controls right.

One of the biggest defining characteristics of Star Fox derives from its characters and how they interact with each other. Part of what made Star Fox the juggernaut that it was during its Nintendo 64 heyday was its infinitely quotable lines, and its plethora of memorable characters. Both have been largely missing from the latest entries in the series.

Star Fox Adventures for example introduced many characters, but only one was ever heard from again due to the rest obviously being dinosaur related. Even then, the characters didn’t really interact in the way that we were used to and honestly the less said about the new characters that saw introduction in Command, the better.

Thankfully, the witty banter and our favorite quotable lines are all back, and in the spirit of keeping things fresh, we’re given plenty of new ones.

Furthermore, and most importantly, the character dynamic is back full throttle. Krystal’s introduction into the Star Fox team in Assault caused a lot of problems, she served no purpose from a gameplay perspective, and her personality didn’t click with the other team members. It was like introducing Venus De Milo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but worse, as at least Venus didn’t replace Donatello. Krystal ousted the much-beloved Peppy, and subsequently disrupted the rivalry scheme between the Star Fox members and the Star Wolf members.

The team has been restored to its former glory.

Beyond giving us funny quotables, Peppy, Slippy and Falco all actually serve a purpose. Peppy is a tutor, he teaches you how to play the game, Falco leads you on alternate paths, and Slippy analyses bosses for you. Krystal just had sort of psychic powers. [Minor Spoiler] Katt Monroe’s conduct leads me to believe that she’s being groomed for a bigger role, as a love interest for Fox.

Star Fox Zero contains a total of 20 missions. While it doesn’t sound like an awful lot by today’s “standards”, it actually is. Each mission gives you a unique set of circumstances, objectives, environments and ways to play to completely shake up your time. A good example of the contrast would be that one such mission requires you to disable giant missiles as quickly as possible, while another one requires you to stealthily slide through search lights to avoid being spotted. The range in vehicles from mission to mission really helps avoid repetition. Zero may only take 3 or 4 hours to play through, but you’ll be able to play through it dozens of times, each time a little different thanks to branching paths.

You will get more long-term use out of a short game with a great deal of replayability than you will out of a long game with none.

There’s a fine line between innovation and destruction. Previous installments of the Star Fox series saw a drastic departure from the original formula. Whether successful or not, each departure led to a struggle to allow Fox and co get back to their full potential. Star Fox Zero has found the perfect balance. We’ve got a game here that knows what it is, while also introducing enough fresh ideas and experiences to keep the ball moving forward for the future.

For a game that essentially retells a story that has already been told twice, Star Fox Zero does so without feeling like it’s retreading too far on the heels of its predecessors. This is in part helped by the introduction of the new vehicles, such as the Gyrowing and the Walker (which was carried over from the cancelled Star Fox 2).

Playtime is apparently over.

Lack of Multiplayer
Just to be clear, multiplayer does technically exist in Star Fox Zero, and it isn’t half bad. It’s a co-operative function that essentially splits up your duties between yourself and a friend. Think of it as being similar to the co-operative function Mario Kart: Double Dash for Nintendo Gamecube.

While this is a pretty cool feature to have included, and it’s definitely better than nothing, one of the biggest missed opportunities in Star Fox Zero lies in its lack of a competitive multiplayer mode. With how much Nintendo has improved on its online multiplayer aspect in recent years with games such as Mario Kart 8, Smash Bros. For Wii U and of course Splatoon, it makes it a little hard to swallow that Star Fox didn’t receive… well, anything.

Star Fox Assault’s multiplayer was one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve ever had playing games. An expanded version of that, made playable online, with the ability to select your characters (or perhaps even just 4v4 Star Fox vs. Star Wolf battles) would have made this game hard to top. The range of vehicles, characters and weapons perfectly lends itself to such a scenario. Regardless, it still remains one of the Wii U’s strongest titles.


+ Replayability – No Multiplayer Deathmatch mode
+ Unique Story
+ Innovative ideas
+ Motion Controls Done Right
+ Authentic Star Fox Experience

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  1. Woof… that’s mildly optimistic. Don’t get me wrong, the controls are great and the set pieces are awesome but I feel the game could have been so much better, anyway great review and glad to see another person who understood the game for what it is.

    J. Acosta (@nach212) on April 24 |
  2. I’m so exicted to get my hands on this game. I didn’t really realize how much I missed the Star Fox series until I played Star Fox 64 3D on the 3DS. It was so much fun, but I wanted a fresh experience, and I’m glad to see that Zero is just what I’ve been looking for. Thanks for your solid review!

    the101 on April 24 |
  3. The forced Z-targeting segments are infuriating, though manageable. Other than that, the game is an acquired taste I’m very glad to have acquired.

    Thanks for giving the controls a fair shot. I wish more people were willing to leave their comfort zone and not let muscle memory hold them back.

    Igiulaw on April 24 |
  4. I haven’t played Star Fox Zero yet, but as I realized that this game is a complete remake and reboot of 64 as I saw GameXplain’s spoiler video, I think this game pretty much proved that the sequels from Adventure to Command is completely erased from the game’s history, as definitely means they ultimately killed Krystal for their own good reasons too. I wouldn’t think she’s that unpopular in Japan as many fans requested her to join Smash, but I can tell she’s been terribly hated in the west. You can prove me wrong on this as I truly hope I am, but I do sense heroines are known to be the most worst and worthless character to exist in any fictional stories because of how they’re useless in any forms in the west. They’re really not popular and easily be bashed, no matter what kind of power they have or what they really are. Just like it said in this article, just having a telepathic ability is still useless as its never been useful in the actual games. I wouldn’t think every characters must be useful to exist in any storylines. Star Fox still needed the heroine, and I do think Krystal was the best choice than Kat. But now, I think this game proved that Krystal won’t return to the later sequels as well losing hopes for her to join the next Smash too. I’m well disappointed…

    And for the point of Kat having a love interest with Fox, I think this is a misunderstanding. She’s something like Sonic’s Rouge and Dark Stalker’s Morrigan; she’s meant to be an erotic type character as she’s just teasing Fox for many reasons. Even some fans prefers that she’s more interested with Falco instead. I don’t know if I’m right with this, but that’s how some fans viewed Kat, even with the official Star Fox Adventure prequel comic.

    I’m not quite sure if I could expect a sequel of this game. It could be another interesting thing that they could bring Star Fox 2 in action, including adding those lost new characters Miyu and Fay if possible. But I don’t know if I could expect anything for more. I really liked the past storyline, but now since its destroyed, I think I’m gonna call it quits.

    zoniken on April 25 |
    • Interesting, I always had the impression that as a character Krystal had a lot of fans in the west.
      Judging by all of the fan ballot polls and with “Characters I want in smash” forum/board posts.
      (Though it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of didn’t like how she replaced Peppy in Assault.)

      Smash44 on April 25 |
    • This game is a reboot, so you really should’ve expected the post-64 games to no longer apply. Krystal is simultaneously loved and hated in the west. She was a heroine that was forcefully injected into the series, so she was doomed to feel out of place. She replaced Peppy in Assault without really giving anything in return, since partners serve no real gameplay purpose in Assault and her telepathy didn’t contribute in any meaningful way.

      SFZ probably went for Katt and not Krystal due to playing it safe for a reboot of a 10-years dormant series. It’s still totally possible for Krystal to exist in the new universe, especially since the anime short explicitly references Planet Sauria, but that’s something for which we must wait and see. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to flesh out the new series by expanding the characters that they have instead of introducing many new ones, though.

      Nintendrone on April 25 |
  5. …You know, seeing reviews that goes from, as extreme as, calling this game the nail on Wii U’s coffin, to being the best game in the series, I… really don’t know what to judge from the reviews anymore. I’ve never before seen a game with a reception mixed THIS extremely (not like I’ve seen reviews before tho). Some called the motion controls another stubborn, forced addition by Miyamoto to the game that ruined it in addition to being a “complete remake”, and some other would say those complaining motion controls are exaggerating and the gimmick fits absolutely perfectly with the game, as one of the proof that the series can try new things without going too far.

    And I haven’t even bought the game to judge yet. Now I’m just left with this confusion.

    Logo on April 25 |
    • Eh, reviews may not always be reliable. The game would be fine without having to use motion controls, but they’re not so bad when you get used to them (I use the limited variety). Z targeting stuff is pretty unpleasant though. Really, maybe it’s best to watch the game in action to get a feel of it or play a demo (if possible) before buying because reviewers have their own personal tastes whether they intend to show them or not.

      Arthur 97 on April 25 |
  6. I really have to disagree about the motion controls done right part, because they are done wrong. Looking back and forth between two screens doesn’t work, and you often have to recalibrate. It works okay in regular levels, but gets particularity irksome in All-Range Mode and Landmaster missions. I say this as someone who doesn’t get bothered by motion controls in games like Galaxy or DKCR, and did two run-throughs each of both story and arcade.

    MagcargoMan on August 25 |