Most people will probably refer to the Star Fox series as “hit and miss”, but this was not always the case. When Star Fox 64 (also known as Lylat Wars in Europe and Australia) was released in 1997, the quality of the games had been top notch. The first instalment on the Super NES was surprisingly innovative with its polygon graphics and a fantastic system seller. Years later, the N64 sequel improved on that with smoother graphics, voice acting and more varied gameplay. But the real innovation was the Rumble Pak, an add-on for the controller that allowed the player to experience force feedback, making every impact felt through the controller. Now, Star Fox 64 3D looks to match and improve that experience on the Nintendo 3DS – minus the rumble of course.
For veterans of the series, Star Fox 64 3D will feel familiar. At its core, the space shooter is essentially the same game, except everything has been overhauled. You take on the evil scientist Andross and his army to restore peace to the galaxy, by completing missions on planets in your ship, tank or submarine. Most stages are flight stages, where you take on dozens of enemies in your Arwing by blasting them with your lasers and bombs.
From the graphics to the music to the controls, the whole game was rebuilt and remade from scratch. Unfortunately, this also means that nothing much has been added, so besides the expanded local multiplayer, content-wise there’s not much new. Still, it’s Star Fox as Star Fox should be: fast-paced, action-packed and polished. While first-timers will find a fantastic, challenging adventure, veterans will probably exhaust the game’s features a bit too quick, despite the addition of an expert mode, making the game’s 40-50 dollar/euro price tag seem a bit steep.
The game is exquisite to look at. The higher resolution, sharper graphics and the better unit and boss models are a big step up from the original – which didn’t even look bad in the first place. Especially some of the water and lava effects look fantastic this time around. And then there’s the added 3D, which truly adds to the overall experience. It’s smooth and pleasing and makes the battles feel even more intense. The game’s HUD has been partially transferred to the bottom screen, but its overall look closely resembles the N64 game’s appearance. A more refreshing upgrade would have been nice, but it’s still clean and functional.
It’s interesting to hear the voice work in the game. Though every character was voiced by a new actor, they have really done their best to have their voices resemble the original voices. Even Slippy sounds just as annoying as before! The music, though still midi, has been redone as well and sounds just as good as the original score. Sound effects are suitable, but aren’t very different from the N64 version. Overall, the game’s soundscape sounds fantastic coming through the console’s speakers.
Because this is a 3DS title, Nintendo felt the urge to add not just 3D graphics, but also gyroscopic controls to the game. Unfortunately, it’s a hit-and-miss control method. It certainly adds a new dimension to playing the game and adds another level of challenge to the gameplay. It’s just that there’s one flaw: moving the console around to control the game interferes with the 3D. It’s almost impossible to maintain the 3DS’s ‘3D sweet spot’ when viewing the 3D when frantically moving the console around. To fully enjoy the game, you have to either use traditional controls with the 3D on, or gyroscopic controls with the 3D off.
The bottom screen not only shows the status of your ship and weapons, it’s also where radio transmissions with both friend and foe take place. Additionally, you can access an options menu during play, allowing you check the current control scheme, change pitch control, visibility of the target reticule and even see the current real world time and the console’s battery level.
The game offers plenty to do, especially for Star Fox rookies. For the main single player campaign, there are two modes to choose from: Nintendo 64 mode and Nintendo 3DS mode. The differences are minimal, but the 3DS is more suitable for the gyroscopic controls while lowering the challenge level somewhat. In general, the game is ideal to play in short bursts as the game automatically saves your progress after each successfully completed mission. Though only a single save file is supported, guests can have a go at the game by choosing “Guest Game” at the start.
For the expert gamer there’s the option to collect medals for every mission, which will eventually unlock an expert mode and some other features as well. A medal will be rewarded for when a player destroys a certain amount of enemies for that particular stage. A Score Attack mode is present as well, giving players a chance to get high scores on individual stages. It’s also a fun way to shoot for medals.
The original Star Fox 64 had a fun local multiplayer where you could take on three of your buddies on a few multiplayer maps. It’s good to know the same multiplayer mode is back in good form for this 3DS remake, adding extra weapons, items and stages. It’s just as fun now as it was in 1997. The three included modes are fairly identical to the N64 game’s modes. The first mode is Survival, where the last pilot flying is the winner. Point Battle’s goal is to reach a set number of kills to win the match and finally, In Time Battle, players attempt to score as many kills as they can before time runs out. What’s great is that, like in the original, players can take on each other with just one game cartridge. What’s disappointing is that there’s no support for online multiplayer. A true shame, because the game would lend itself extremely well for online dog fighting. When will Nintendo learn?