Star Fox Zero combines innovative controls, beautiful graphics and frantic gameplay to deliver another enjoyable romp amongst the Lylat System in a modern take on the scrolling shooter genre.
For the uninitiated, Star Fox Zero can seem a little confusing to pick up and play as the notion of exploration is seemingly abandoned for an emphasis on aiming and shooting. Enemies come thick and fast but the obstacles — buildings, mainly — force you to think fast to swerve and duck, avoiding damage.
Thankfully, the game goes to great strides to teach you the lay of the controls. Indeed, the first thing that happens after you load up the game for the first time (before the “press start” screen appears) is teaches you how the controls work. The genius system has you steer your Arwing (left, right, up or down) with the left analogue stick. Tilting the GamePad around controls where your aiming reticle goes thanks to its built-in motion sensor.
In this regard, it’s now possible to fly in one direction and aim your weapon in another. The right analogue stick is used to control your speed. Pushing forward speeds up, pulling backward slows down. For those used to playing first person shooters, you’re going to be confused. But this isn’t a first person shooter game, so you’d do well to leave those habits at the door. This is a game about controlling a space ship, as such the controls work beautifully and the game is incredibly fun to play.
To test this opinion, I purposefully avoided the game for a little over a week after finishing the main story and playing through a few times to better my scores. The point of this was to see if after not playing the game for a while (while still playing other, more traditional games) if I could pick it back up and play without having to re-learn the controls. Much like never forgetting how to ride a bike, the controls come back naturally and without any hesitation, you’re blasting through space shooting like a pro.
The controls are so well suited to a shooter, in fact, that it would be a shame if some of those other games didn’t adopt some of these ideas. The precision you get from the motion control rivals that of using a mouse and keyboard in a PC shooter. It’s the closest we’re going to get to that sort of layout on a console, so it’s well worth taking that extra time to learn the controls.
If you’re still not convinced, there’s a Tutorial Mode included. This — like much of the rest of the game — harkens back to the Nintendo 64 era where many games would have a free roaming mode to get accustomed to the newfangled world of 3D gaming. In this mode, players collect coins in a blank level. The idea is to get a better time which becomes a game of skill. Playing through the game will unlock some other vehicles to use here, too, so there’s plenty of incentive to keep honing those skills.
The story of Star Fox Zero is a tried and true formula that the series is known for. Blink and you’d swear you were playing Lylat Wars (or Star Fox 64 3D). The game is supposed to be a “reboot” for the series and clearly this story is an important one for where ever the franchise goes in the future. And in a world where we’re expected to be okay with watching superhero move reboot after reboot, I can’t really fault it for being too “samey” to the series. Quite the contrary, really. As Nintendo’s most cinematic game by far, the story is told with awesome real-time cut scenes (a staple for most Nintendo games) and a fully voiced cast, all returning actors from Lylat Wars.
The game looks and sounds incredible. Colours are vibrant and the environments pop off the screen. Some of the enemies look very basic though and I missed the variety afforded in GameCube’s Star Fox Assault. The surround sound soundtrack is fantastic, you’ll want to turn your system up to 11.
The Arwing’s new ability to transform into a ‘Walker’ at will is a great way to explore the various levels in different ways. Sometimes you’ll forget this ability exists, but often it’s the only way to unlock different paths. It feels great to fly to an area and transform to take cover from an enemy or to pick up a hidden item while still remaining connected to the action.
Star Fox Zero is the quintessential game for seasoned gamers. You want Nintendo to give you a challenge? Here it is. The challenge is not exactly built into the game itself (finishing the story will take about 5 hours), you’ll need the desire to outdo yourself, get better and better and beat your highest score. If you’re up to it, scan an amiibo into the game for a tougher challenge.
Fox and Falco from the Super Smash Bros. Collection amiibo are compatible. Scanning Fox unlocks a classic, Super Nintendo-era Arwing that loses its lock-on ability. Falco unlocks the Black Arwing which is super powerful but takes a lot more damage. You have to be pretty good to use both of these and get great scores, so beware.
Don’t let learning the controls turn you off, Star Fox Zero will go down as a classic game you’ll be sorry to miss.