Star Fox Zero (Wii U) Review

By Adam Riley 20.04.2016

Review for Star Fox Zero on Wii U

The Star Fox series has changed so much over the years that it has become almost unrecognisable to fans, with many clamouring to pick up Star Fox 64 3D purely for nostalgic reasons - a return to the grassroots. Cubed3 quizzed various companies over the idea of working with the Nintendo property to bring it back to what the fans expected, and one company that really showed strong interest was Platinum Games…and, pleasingly, the ever-reliable troupe has been busy beavering away on producing what many hoped would be the ultimate version of the venerable series, drawing from the vast array of experience within the team and pooling it together with Nintendo's expertise and familiarity with Fox McCloud et al. Welcome to Star Fox Zero…Good luck!

Initial hands-on experiences with Star Fox Zero left many wondering what Nintendo was thinking. This was meant to be the resurrection of a much-loved series, and an attempt to right the wrongs of the good-but-gimmicky Star Fox Command on DS, and the overly-busy Star Fox Assault on GameCube. Fans wanted a return to the pure space-based blasting action of years gone by. Certain trailers pointed towards that, as did some initial reports. However, there was some concern about shoe-horned GamePad viewpoints and enforced motion controls for enemy targeting.

Well, put simply, none of those issues have been resolved in the final version of Star Fox Zero. Want to escape the extraordinarily frustrating requirement of using the Wii U GamePad's gyroscope for aiming the reticule when wanting to blast enemies down? Sadly, no can do. It can be reduced to a degree, changing from constant gyro-targeting to only targeting when the fire button is pressed, but since the aim of the game is to blast away at the onslaught of foes, basically the gyro controls are permanently on, and it grows highly annoying from the very start right through to the final throes of the action. Yes, there is an element of 'getting used to' the controls after several hours of frustration, but why put gamers through that when the whole point of Star Fox has always been to just jump in and enjoy the enthralling action? Why not simply put in an option to completely turn it off for those that cannot stand the feature? There is still time for a patch to be applied to give the choice, but so far no dice, and it drags the whole shebang down considerably.

Screenshot for Star Fox Zero on Wii U

When holding down the fire button, for instance, most will have the GamePad tilted slightly in the wrong direction because it will be resting on their lap, in the usual way people hold controllers during gameplay. Nobody wants to be holding the GamePad aloft if not necessary. This, though, then leads to inaccurate shooting because the on-screen reticule judders around due to the connection between GamePad position and Wii U system constantly getting confused, and sometimes even unnecessary deaths due to not clearing the path of foes as most certainly desired.

How about switching off the cockpit view elements that rely on the GamePad for supposedly increased accuracy when shooting? Again, no can do, since Nintendo clearly feels that as the Wii U is centred around use of the GamePad, it must be used whether gamers feel comfortable doing so or not. Controls of the Arwing suddenly become impossible when staring at the TV, so focus needs to move to the GamePad to take a first-person view of the current arena. The idea is to look down for improved accuracy and glance back up at the TV to make sure walls and other large obstacles are not smashed into at the same time. The problem? This is not the DS or 3DS where the two screens are aligned. There is a massive difference between the handheld situation and switching eyes from the TV screen to GamePad screen, and it actually leads to some levels almost becoming impossible to progress through because it is so cumbersome and death after cheap death will occur to the point of not wanting to bother anymore. The worst offenders are stages where the game switches between regular All-Range mode, shooting as per normal in a free-to-roam environment, and then to the cockpit view, and back again, repeating a few times. It causes so much disorientation that the fun is sucked out of those particular levels.

Screenshot for Star Fox Zero on Wii U

It all sounds like a train wreck, right? Thankfully, despite all that, there is a large chunk of Star Fox Zero that redeems itself enough to bump up the quality stakes. Visually, it hits all the right markers, bringing an epic, Star Wars-esque feel to proceedings, backed up with both a powerful score and great cast of voice actors, as expected. Presentation-wise, it is hard to fault. Level design is another area where Nintendo and Platinum's quality shines through, with some traditional areas from the past returning in grandiose form, and expansions to areas encouraging more replaying and further roaming around, wherever possible. Opening up new paths through stages is a fantastic incentive to dive back into the thick of things, as is racking up higher scores than before (no online nullifies the potential of that element, though). Getting a friend to enter the fray also alleviates some of the control concerns, since the roles are split, with one controlling the vehicle and the other taking aim to blast away at enemies. This, in particular, shows how the set-up can work really well, but it is just a crying shame that solo players are not catered for.

Speaking of vehicles, there is also a whole host of them to play with now, from the standard Arwing and Landmaster, to Star Fox 2's Walker, which is a transformation of the Arwing into a land-based form to allow for running around to collect items previously inaccessible. Being able to swiftly switch between Arwing and Walker whenever brings a new tactical element to proceedings as there may just be times where enemy fire is getting too troublesome and a quick nosedive is required. With the Arwing having somewhat of a wide arc when moving around, dropping like a stone in Walker form and quickly switching back to zip off is a smart idea and gives a great sense of satisfaction when then combined with a timely U-turn to blast whatever was on your tail.

Screenshot for Star Fox Zero on Wii U

There is also the drone-like Gyromaster, which is absolutely sublime, bringing a far more tactical approach to the gameplay. It might not wash well with long-term fans because it feels nothing like Star Fox, but in essence, it is a wonderful little vehicle that allows for a new style to be introduced, and again is one of the better examples of standard and GamePad-led controls overall. Hovering slowly around, carefully manoeuvring the Gyromaster about in sheltered locations that only have a mere handful of enemies (since it moves so slowly, anything other than that would be unmanageable), it becomes like a stealth-based adventure at times. Getting to grips with flying gently around, blasting the few foes in your way, and switching the viewpoint to a top-down style to position it perfectly, before then dropping a tiny robot downwards to enter tight spaces, which then switches the action to the GamePad, is well worth it, and far more satisfying than the unnecessary, enforced aspects found when in regular Arwing or Landmaster sections.

Star Fox Zero has a stunning core that is held back by some awkward, almost unforgiveable dual-screen and motion-led controls. If it wasn't for the various other elements thrown in, this could have been disastrous. Instead it goes from potentially amazing to just good because of stubbornness on the part of the developer.

Screenshot for Star Fox Zero on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

As much as there is to love in Star Fox Zero, sadly the awkward controls of various vehicles, and the horrendous forced second viewpoint and gyroscope targeting of regular Arwing and Landmaster stages almost ruin the entire experience. There are tremendous highs when the core Star Fox controls kick back in, but moments of frustration are present that simply wouldn't have been if feedback from early hands-on reports had been taken on-board. Learning curve or not, the forced control system is simply a disaster that needs to be patched out in a future update as it spoils what could have been a truly wondrous return to form. Thankfully, though, there are new vehicles brought in to expand the game considerably, along with some wonderful presentation and well developed stages, which do enough to keep the experience feeling fresh and enjoyable enough.

Developer

PlatinumGames

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Shooter

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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