Star Fox, one of Nintendo’s greatest and most beloved franchises ever. The arcade feel, the memorable characters, the gameplay, the one-liners, everything about the franchise’s first two games was just amazing. Ever since Star Fox Assault, (or better yet, ever since Star Fox 64, if we’re counting the good games) we’ve been waiting for a new modern entry into the franchise. Oh boy, did we get something….
Let me get this out of the way: Star Fox Zero is a disappointment. An utter, massive disappointment. It could have easily been a good game, but massive technical problems and gameplay decisions leave the game, nearly unplayable at some points. Mind you, this game is a reboot of Star Fox 64, which was already a reboot of the original Star Fox for the Super Nintendo. A lot of elements are simply rehashes of past games, including full levels, ships, enemies, and even bosses. We’ve waited so long for a new game and what we got was basically the old game, full of carbon copies, but less enjoyable. In the few places the game adds something new, it’s usually quite underwhelming, like the Gyrocopter, which significantly slows the game’s pace.
Before I start to beat a dead horse, let’s move on to some of the better elements.
Star Fox Zero does feature a nice orchestral score, reminiscent of its Nintendo 64 counterpart . It’s pretty good, but not much else. Nothing particularly special. When it comes to the sound department, however, the game’s good orchestral score is quickly overshadowed by terrible, terrible voice acting. I know that Star Fox 64 had bad voice acting, so bad it became iconic and uncannily adored by all. But lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. This game’s voice acting is bad. But not in the, “so bad it’s good” sense, it’s just very irritating. And, in typical Star Fox fashion, nobody shuts the hell up. Mute may be the best audio configuration.
The game’s visuals leave a lot to be desired. Frankly, they aren’t much better than the 3DS port of Star Fox 64. They would acceptable for the Gamecube, but this is the Wii U we are talking about. Sure, it’s definitely not a powerhouse, but the damn thing can pull out stuff like FAST Racing Neo, Xenoblade X and Bayonetta 2, so a little bit more of effort wouldn’t have been too much to ask for. It looks like this was a 3DS game ported over to the Wii U just to give the console a first party title in 2016.
And now it’s time to talk about Star Fox Zero‘s biggest, most infuriating flaw: its control scheme. It is atrocious, once again falling victim to Nintendo’s maniacal devotion to wrapping the core design of a game around every feature of the Wii U’s (bad) Gamepad, not giving a crap if it actually looks fun, comfortable or practical to play. Once again, it was all about innovation, not about fun. By the way, I do understand that Platinum Games was responsible for co-developing this game, but such decision for blindly choosing to focus innovation is clearly a Nintendo staple.
You move your ship with the control stick, but you aim while looking at the gamepad. Therefore, players need to constantly pay attention at both screens, while not being able to perform well on either. I can’t emphasize enough how uncomfortable and completely impractical this control scheme is. It really sucks out any motivation you still have to play this game. Worse, there is no way to turn this control scheme off, forcing players to abide to this moronic decision.
Star Fox 64‘s control scheme worked because it was simple. Would it be too much to ask for that as well?
This is Star Fox Zero. An embarrassing mess, one of 2016’s biggest disappointments, and a great example that too much innovation is can be a product’s downfall. Dammit Nintendo. Dammit Platinum. This could have been the perfect duo.