Star Fox Saves the Galaxy Once Again
It’s been a bumpy ride for Star Fox over the years. A series that started off as a flagship title for the SNES with its revolutionary 3D graphics has over time become something of an ugly duckling in the Nintendo repertoire. While Star Fox Adventures and Star Fox Assault weren’t necessarily bad games, they failed to exude that same level of quality that earlier titles did. In addition to this, the story went from being one of the game’s most engaging aspects to being utterly absurd (which, for a series that has a giant monkey head for a final boss, is pretty impressive). Some fans lost interest in the series, and so did Nintendo it seemed, with only Star Fox Command making its way on DS during the current generation.
Thankfully, Nintendo realised the errors of its ways and looked to what is arguably the finest game in the series for inspiration on what to do next. Star Fox 64 (or Lylat Wars, as it is known in European territories), was a superb title back in 1997. Although we don’t historically label it as a revolutionary game, it is fair to say that Star Fox 64 did a lot for the medium with its impressive voice acting and cinematic style. It was a joy to play.
Now it’s back again in a new and improved form for Nintendo’s 3DS console. And it’s just as great, if not better than the original. Star Fox 64, in my eyes, has always been an incredibly playable game. Its simple, yet addictive game mechanics are instantly accessible by even today’s standards. The Nintendo 3DS version of the game builds on this with vastly improved graphics, remastered audio and updated (but configurable) controls for the younger generation. Unfortunately, the multiplayer is a little lacking and it’s by no means the long-awaited killer app that we’ve all been waiting for. Nevertheless, Star Fox 64 3D certainly does an honourable job of filling the void in the meanwhile.
I’ve Been Waiting For You, Star Fox
For those that missed it the first time round, Star Fox 64 3D is not a complex game. It is, for the most part, an on-rails flight shooter, although you are able to sometimes fly in “all-range mode”. In this mode, you can move freely within a certain area. It was a neat little addition back in 1997 and it still works now. The shift in gameplay always comes at the most appropriate moment, keeping the experience paced and varied.
The objective of the game is pretty simple – get from the beginning to the end of each level without dying. In some instances, you’ll have to take out key targets and usually defeat a boss, but rarely must you focus on fulfilling specific mission requirements. This may sound like a shallow experience, but this helps to keep the attention on what’s important in Star Fox 64 3D: the action.
Although destroying all the enemies isn’t mandatory, what makes Star Fox 64 3D a game that you’ll come back to time and time again is the medals system. Trying to achieve the necessary score on some of the missions is incredibly tough and this is where the reward lies for those looking for a challenge. It adds a lot of replay value to what is, in reality, a relatively short game.
One of the most notable changes between this version and its 64-bit cousin is found in the game’s multiplayer mode. Nintendo has revamped the competitive deathmatch modes with updated maps and new power-ups. The plus side is that you only need a single cartridge to play (via Download Play), so it’s better than the original in this regard. However, it’s still pretty lacking when compared against most other multiplayer games available on the market. Online Wifi is missing, and the game modes are incredibly limited. For example, you can’t play team battles. You also have a video of your face that appears above your ship (captured via the 3DS camera) during battles. While it’s fun to be able to taunt your friends through this, it makes no sense when you can only play the game on a local wireless connection, given that they’re going to be sitting right next to you anyway.
Using the G-Diffuser System
Where Star Fox 64 3D really shines is in the aesthetics and audio departments. Gone are the blocky polygons of the good days gone by, and, instead, your eyes are greeted with impressive lighting and incredibly detailed landscapes. Unlike with Nintendo’s previous N64 conversion, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the audio has also been totally redone. Thankfully, the voices are incredibly close to the original (and some of the same voice actors may have been hired again; they sound that authentic), and gone is the wooden delivery that plagued Assault.
Control-wise, Starfox 64 3D is right at home on the 3DS. The configuration options are a welcome addition, as those who played the original will likely want to play with the N64 configuration. Like to invert your joystick (there’s a pun in there somewhere)? Want to use gyro controls? There’s a setting that will suit everyone. Speaking of gyro controls, these are surprisingly responsive. You may not want to use them when trying to secure medals in single-player, but they work well for the inexperienced in multiplayer battles (if you actually do end up playing multiplayer).
Lastly, the biggest improvement lies in the addition of a save mode. No longer must you play through the entire game in one sitting. Furthermore, if you don’t want someone to interrupt your save data, you can just play a game in “guest mode”. It’s clever ideas like these that make going back to Star Fox 64 3D even more tempting.
The Final Verdict
Star Fox 64 3D is a welcome blast from the past. The visual and audio overhaul really enhances an already classic game, and the customisable control system has transferred perfectly across to the 3DS. Unfortunately, this level of improvement hasn’t occured with the game’s multiplayer component, and although the medal system will keep you coming back for more, there’s little else to do in single-player after you’ve done this. Although the mediocre multiplayer mode could have been so much more, Star Fox 64 3D is still a worthwhile investment even if it is just for its single-player story. It’s remembered today as one of the N64′s greatest games and there’s a reason why. Star Fox 64 3D is a lot of fun, so why not pick up a copy and do a barrel roll?