Star Fox Zero (Wii U) Review

By Adam Riley 20.04.2016 32

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   

Comments

Guest 20.04.2016#1

When i played the demo. I found the onrails sections fine when it came to the controls. It was the all range mode that was a bit of a pain. But the thing i hated most wasn't the flicking between screens it was the accidently doing loop the loops. Hopefully that aspect of the controls is customisable. Can't believe they didn't bother with online leaderboards. I poured 75 hours into sin and punishment 2 purely because of chasing high scores. Still looking forward to playing it again, but i was hoping for more. Platinum games seem to be developing a reputation for not quite being able to tackle new control schemes . The Wonderful 101 was also a little on the annoying side. Hopefully nintendo eventually give the fans what they want and let treasure helm a starfox game.

Guest said:
The Wonderful 101 was also a little on the annoying side. Hopefully nintendo eventually give the fans what they want and let treasure helm a starfox game.

I find it funny when people call something new and different "annoying" or "rubbish". The controls in The Wonderful 101 were fine. Sure, they took a while to get used to, but isn't the initial learning curve something we gamers find satisfying? Or is that just me?

With Wonderful 101 I can understand the control choice, it's a brand new game. Star Fox has a proven perfectly good control scheme though and there was no need to change it. I've never heard anyone complain about the controls in a Star Fox game (at least the good ones), only that they wanted a game more inline with its roots. This time they've done that, but then threw in a disjointed and pointless control scheme.

The only thing I personally wanted from a new Star Fox, was the classic gameplay, but with a new story and new planets/areas. So yeah, this game really hasn't interested me at all from the start. That's fine though, I have Star Fox 64.

Marzy said:
With Wonderful 101 I can understand the control choice, it's a brand new game. Star Fox has a proven perfectly good control scheme though and there was no need to change it. I've never heard anyone complain about the controls in a Star Fox game (at least the good ones), only that they wanted a game more inline with its roots. This time they've done that, but then threw in a disjointed and pointless control scheme.

The only thing I personally wanted from a new Star Fox, was the classic gameplay, but with a new story and new planets/areas. So yeah, this game really hasn't interested me at all from the start. That's fine though, I have Star Fox 64.


The same could be said about Skyward Sword or even Kid Icarus: Uprising (Even though that changed everything from the NES and GB games.) Nothing wrong with a change in controls, in my opinion.

When it's a broken mess, Liam, then there's a BIG problem with it. No fun learning something that simply...isn't...fun.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Guest 20.04.2016#6

Just watched the gamexplain review and he says the controls are awesome once you get used to them. It just takes ages for you to get to that point. By which time there's not much left for you to do. I was always getting this to play co-op with ze wife , so it doesn't look like it'll effect me that much anyway.

They can change it, but doing so will probably always divide opinion, especially when there was nothing wrong with how the older games played.

A good comparable example is like when Facebook or Twitter changed their feed so it tries to show you posts that they think interest you more, rather than being in order of time posted. I don't know anyone who liked those changes, why? Because there was no need for them, everyone liked seeing their posts order by time. It was a pointless change. However, they at least have an option to revert back to the old feed style though and even Facebook does (just a little more inconvenient). Star Fox Zero doesn't have an option, from what I've seen and read.

I never like the controls in Skyward Sword or Kid Icarus, but put up with them till the end of both games. Even after completing them I still felt the same way. Kid Icarus was an amazing game though and at least the controls were understandable because it was on 3DS, that was basically the best option they had for a 3D Kid Icarus.

It's okay though, Nintendo can try new things - it's not bad to try new ideas out, I'm glad they're experimenting. I just personally have no interest to play this one because of their choice of the dual screen controls. I hope those that get it have a fun time with it!

( Edited 20.04.2016 19:13 by Marzy )

Yet more proof that Miyamoto is old hat, he refuses to listen to fans because he believes "he knows best". I want to love this game so I'll reserve full judgment until I've played it! Personally I think this looks great! Similar to Uncharted Golden Abyss with the motion controls which helped the aiming be a little more precise. I just with they'd realize it's laborious to look from the gamepad to the TV all the time...

Good, fair review - I wonder how I'll take to the controls - they do look tricky/a pain in the arse to get used to. I think Nintendo/Miyamoto keep striving to make the controls different, but really I'm sure fans would have been perfectly happy with brand new planets, solid online multiplayer/co-op - the GamePad could have just been a radar system or something like that. 

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

It could all be fixed by ONE option for users to change...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

I think I'll like the controls. I've enjoyed the previous StarFox games and have actually been looking forward to this one because of the change in control. Smilie

Our member of the week

The problem is if the whole game is based around those controls, in how the stages flow and how the difficulty fluctuates as well... Simply changing ONE option might throw off balance what they spend a lot of time balancing until it felt right to them. So they may not want to do it and Nintendo being Nintendo, just insist that players keep at it until the controls grow on them

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

As someone that dislikes motion controls pretty much in most games, it's sad that I inevitably can't enjoy some of my favourite franchise's games - Zelda did it, and now Star Fox. If gaming ever moved to motion only, I'd be done with it. The dual screen approach is one of the biggest off-putting things about SFZ tho. I couldn't handle it in Affordable Space Adventures; this would kill me. It's probably far worse than the forced gyro controls they've implemented.

It's not even just that tho. I don't think I'd even get much of a kick out of the same SF formula today. I feel like it could go places with a much more free universe, with all-range mode being employed mostly throughout the game. I think back to something like Star War Rogue Squadron 2 on GameCube, and how that could work really well with a Star Fox coating. It just feels so copy and paste that I'm not sure it would do much for me, or even feel worth spending much money on even if it was traditional controls only. And no online leaderboards? Laughable.

Adam - what's the story like? Is this basically another rewrite of the same old SF storyline? I'd heard it's another reboot, even after SF64 had rebooted the SNES game. That's another thing that is disappointing. I don't expect an epic, but it's odd to go for yet another rewrite; although, I can see how necessary it may have been what with all the shit that's been introduced into the SF canon following Adventures and Command. If this paves the way for something that eradicates a lot of that crap in a future game, I'm okay with it. Still very boring tho.

Would appreciate a brief lowdown on the story and what happens, what characters are in it, etc. Is it basically a reboot of SF64? Spoiler it, if necessary Smilie

Won't be picking up unless it's a bargain. Nintendo can do what it likes with its games and how they want players to control them - I just won't have any interest in it if it's gonna be motion and/or forced dual screen. In fact, I'll forgive it completely if they do a Zelda and go back to traditional controls in the next game. Don't mind them trying new things, but there's just no way I could only play future games in my fave series if they are motion only, so fingers crossed for a new game on NX that goes back to original controls but expands on the tired formula.

Can't say I'm surprised honestly.

What? I called this years ago back when the Wii launched. That the Fox's next major console outing would be ruined by things like motion controls. Granted, at the time I didn't think it would be something like this, but I still called it. Also called that there would be a bunch of dumb 'female Link' controversy back soon after SS was launched because I figured that by giving a defined origin some brats would use it as a way to find a loophole to get what they wanted and a female Link topped the list.

Sucks being able to see the future. My next prediction is that the next 'true' Metroid game will attempt a full-on mass overworld but be ruined by gating content and an over-abundance of plot-fights.

Az - to be honest, it's so inconsequential that I barely paid any attention to it. For me, it's almost phoned in. Almost as pointless as "Oh look, Bowser kidnapped Princess Peach again!" Barely any depth, so I overlooked it... There's bits and bobs about Fox's dad, Star Wolf, the piggy character that betrayed James McCloud, etc. Some female character all coloured in pink (a girl, in pink? What a shock!) needs rescuing later on. Peppy needs rescuing at one point. Slippy is as annoying as ever... It's the same old spiel. There is a twist, I think, that wasn't featured in SF64, but it's nothing that'll make you go "OMFG!!! Smilie " Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Yeah, I probably didn't make it clear in my previous posts, because I focused on the controls, but it wasn't just that about the game that stopped me buying it, but also the rebooting thing. Reminds me of the Spider-Man films, where they keep telling the same origins story over and over again, because they keep rebooting it.

Assault may have not been the best in the series, but I appreciate that they at least went with a new story and some new areas and planets and no Andross, a completely new threat.

( Edited 21.04.2016 08:39 by Marzy )

Adam Riley said:
Az - to be honest, it's so inconsequential that I barely paid any attention to it. For me, it's almost phoned in. Almost as pointless as "Oh look, Bowser kidnapped Princess Peach again!" Barely any depth, so I overlooked it... There's bits and bobs about Fox's dad, Star Wolf, the piggy character that betrayed James McCloud, etc. Some female character all coloured in pink (a girl, in pink? What a shock!) needs rescuing later on. Peppy needs rescuing at one point. Slippy is as annoying as ever... It's the same old spiel. There is a twist, I think, that wasn't featured in SF64, but it's nothing that'll make you go "OMFG!!! Smilie " Smilie

Is it just me or are Nintendo becoming a broken record? Each franchise has got to the point where a simple premise from the original is re-deployed over and over?

Zelda with Ganon, Mario with kidnappings by Bowser, Starfox with it's on rails sections, any Yoshi game, Stage order of grass, desert, water, fire, etc...

I dunno I still like most of the games but they haven't had a stand out title in my eyes since, this took a lot more thought than expected, Animal Crossing New Leaf (which was still mostly a retread of the original formula)

I have very high hopes for the new Zelda seeing as Aonuma seems to have his head on straight after feed back on Skyward Sword.

Adam Riley said:
When it's a broken mess, Liam, then there's a BIG problem with it. No fun learning something that simply...isn't...fun.

I'll reserve my judgement for when I play it later today/tomorrow. I'm still sure I'll enjoy it though.

As you can see in the review, I did enjoy many elements...but would have enjoyed it far more without the nonsense of enforced control amendments.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Ah, cheers - as I thought. Bargain pick-up, definitely, for me. I still can't actually get over no online leaderboards. Such a simple thing to implement and sort of needed in a game like this.

Guest 21.04.2016#21

I think while the controls are debateable. There seems to be a fair few reviews praising them and criticising them. I'll reserve judgement until i've got to grips with them. In my time I've seen folks actually criticise skyward swords controls, which were sublime and people praise mario sunshine which were the definition of awful. So i'll wait until the games actually in my mitts. The lack of leaderboards is seriously perplexing though. It elevated sin and punishment to become one of my fave games of all time. So disappointed to see them missing here. As for the story i'd have preferred something fresh but then command and assault had pretty poor stories. So maybe they felt the need to hit the reset button.

Now that I've put quite a lot of time into it, I love it. The gameplay is so visceral at times. The all-range battles are great and the motion controls are actually fine for the most part!

I haven't picked it up, and now I'm not going to. My biggest gripe with Skyward Sword was that it felt like playing a Zelda-themed Motion Plus tech demo, or like a collection of Motion Plus mini-games tied tentatively together with a story. I'm all for new and innovative control schemes, but I think it has to be seamless. In my opinion, the moment the player has to stop and think about the controls in the game is the moment the control scheme can be called "bad."

That said, if they release a patch to add the option to ignore it all and just play the game like I would expect a Star Fox game to be played, I'll certainly grab it. Thanks for the awesomely honest review.

Has Anyone Really Been Far Even as Decided to Use Even Go Want to do Look More Like?
Guest 24.04.2016#24

They can't 'patch' in old skool controls because some bosses and enemies aren't killable without shooting sideways or straight down. I personally think the controls are outstanding. That alternate route through corneria ends in a boss fight that really highlights how satisfying the controls can be.

I could cry. It looks like a good Star Fox somewhere in there but the controls (which just feel broken to me) are awful. They are so bad that I get angry every time I play it. So dissapointed. 

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