Written by Kody Spitzlberger
It’s been a measly ten years since the last Star Fox game. With our latest adventures including the highly despised Star Fox Adventures (Ok game, terrible Star Fox game) and the overall ‘meh’ Star Fox Assault; Star Fox Zero was the game to bring the series back to its roots. Star Fox 64 is widely considered one of the best games of all time, and Zero was marketed as a reimagining of the game – a “64-plus” if you will. Between the delays this game went through, and the controversial control system, there was a lot of hesitation within the community about this game. Being someone who was incredibly excited, I understood everyone’s hesitation; but just looked past all of it, because I just really wanted another Star Fox game, even if it was a shitty one. I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed with the game as a whole, but it is far from a perfect experience.
Let’s jump right to the biggest point of conversation with this game – the controls. Yes they’re somewhat clunky and difficult to grasp on to, but I do not feel like the controls deter from the experience. For those who are unaware, you control the game with the Wii U gamepad: left control stick to move your ship, right to do all your movement modifiers (boosts, somersaults, BARREL ROLLS, etc.), and trigger to shoot. However, the “weirdness” comes in with the gamepad, in which you tilt it around to control your reticle. While the TV has a third person perspective of your vehicle, the gamepad presents a first person view; it was explained as the vision of your pilot from the cockpit. The gamepad allows for precise accuracy when it is needed, but you can pretty much get through the game with just looking at the TV. There are select times when it’s easier to look at the gamepad. The controls do take some getting used to, and will be a turnoff for some people, they weren’t for me. Personally, I enjoyed the controls once I got used to them. They provide some pretty cool diversity and options for how you control your vehicle.
To explain how the gameplay feels, I’m going to compare Zero to one of the most disappointing games of the last decade – Sonic Unleashed. Sonic Unleashed had amazing “day” sequences, in which some of the fastest, polished, and most fun levels in the entire Sonic franchise existed. Then there were the “night” sequences, with the werehog. Real bad. Slow, repetitive, shitty beat-um-up segments; you know, exactly what you DON’T want out of your Sonic experience. That’s how Zero feels to me at times. The Arwing segments feel amazing; they’re everything you expect out of Star Fox at this point. Dogfighting in particular is by far the best it has ever been in the franchise. Even the majority of the Landmaster segments feel great – aside from the all-range Landmaster moments (those were real dumb). The Landmaster actually benefits really well from the first person view of the gamepad. But outside of this, the other vehicles are too far away from what Star Fox should be. I really disliked the Gyrowing; thank god you only have to deal with it for a level and a half. It’s incredibly slow and boring. The main level you use it in has more of a stealth element, which is kind of cool, but I don’t want to have to take things slow and sneak around in Star Fox; I want to fly around in space and dogfight and shoot stuff! The Walker…I really could have done without. It just feels very silly and uninspired at times. Thankfully, there are only a handful of times when the game forces you to use the Walker, but there was one moment in particular where I was really annoyed with it; I won’t specify which for spoiler reasons. So – to summarize - Zero feels A LOT like Unleashed to me. The Arwing segments feel so good – maybe the best they’ve ever been, but everything else tends to just slow down the game to a bore. The extra vehicles were really not needed; I just really want a game where we can go FULLY back to basics; no stupid ground combat, no mystic magic dinosaur bullshit, no dumb slow helicopter Gyrowing crap; just me, my Landmaster, and my Arwing.
On a lighter note, this next portion is what I feel like is the game’s strength – level design. My god the levels are beautiful and amazing! When they said this game was a reimagining of 64, I thought it was just going to be the remade levels with some new elements. But I was wrong; only a handful of the planets in Zero are the same as 64, and those that are have had complete overhauls. Every level feels completely original, with aspects pulled from 64. For example, Titania – the Landmaster desert level from 64 in which you attempt to rescue Slippy – still exists, but now you’re rescuing Peppy instead, and the level has been completely redesigned. Even the bosses that do make return appearances have been changed up in pretty major ways. There are completely new levels in which I feel like they just chose certain elements from multiple levels in 64, and spun into a new, original way. I had a stupid smile on my face for most of my first play through. All the levels feel amazing, there isn’t one I didn’t like due to level design; if I had a problem with it, it mainly boiled down to the vehicle problem already mentioned. Shout out to Sector Omega in particular! My god! This is probably my favorite Star Fox level of all time now. It has a mixture of Area 6 and Sector X, all while you are flying at max speed (literally), ending with one of the most iconic Star Fox bosses in the series. It’s so good! Medals also make a return, but in more ways than before. There is a total of 70 medals hidden throughout the game, rewarded from enemy kill counts, randomly finding them in missions, completing hidden/alternate objectives, etc. There is a lot of replay value in this game for those who want it.
Wow this has been a lot of angry rambling. So.
Star Fox Zero takes a lot of steps forward for the franchise, but takes a couple leaps back. The Arwing segments and the levels feel better than ever, but unfortunately – like the more recent games in the franchise – the game is bogged down by the newer elements, such as the Walker, the Gyrowing, and even the controls until you adapt to them. But, overall, I would say I am pleased with my purchase and experience with Zero. When the game feels good, it feels amazing. Unfortunately, that’s only about 60%-70% of the time. I would still recommend this game to any long time Star Fox fan, assuming they know what they’re getting into.
Oh, and Star Fox Guard? Real dumb. Don’t even play it. Just don’t.