Star Fox Zero is the latest entry in the famous Star Fox franchise in over 10 years and is the result of a collaboration between Platinum Games and Nintendo. A potential match made in heaven has resulted in quite the controversy from its simple visuals to its difficult to master controls. So did the project crash and burn? Or does it soar through the stars?
Star Fox Zero is a reboot/reimagining of Star Fox 64 containing the same basic story line and planets but altering each event and location so it doesn’t feel like a complete retread. Not having to deal with the baggage added by Star Fox Adventures, Assault, and Command allows for a more enjoyable story. Nothing amazing, but it gets the job done and allows for the cast to do their job as well as they can. Most of the voice actors from the Nintendo 64 entry return to reprise their roles and they’re as good as ever. Fox sounds as heroic as he has always sounded and Wolf sounds as menacing as he is intended to, though characters like Peppy suffer a bit of a downgrade (partly due to his voice actor not returning). The stages, despite taking place in the same planets/solar system as the original game, all feel new with a few references to the old titles. It all feels fresh instead of feeling like a retread of older levels.
Star Fox Zero, unlike Star Fox 64, features a level select screen allowing you to play whatever level you wish as soon as you unlock it. This makes finding secrets and alternate paths considerably more streamlined and enjoyable while still feeling pretty good. A lot of the secret stages are remixes of previous stages but they can make previous stages feel completely different. For example, the stealth stage Zoness turns into a high speed, high action speed run with the Arwing/Walker. Another stage transforms an all range mode battle arena into an on rails chase to gun down a Star Wolf member. Additionally every stage has hidden medals to find which can be achieved by accomplishing certain tasks, accumulating enough hits, or just searching every nook and cranny in a stage to find them. The result is a game that feels similar to Star Fox 64 keeping the high replayability that the original games were famous for but with enough content to fit modern standards.
The biggest point of contention and the elephant in the room is undoubtedly the controls. Motion controls gained a reputation for being bad for games during the Wii/Kinect era with a lot of titles poorly utilizing the technology. How does Star Fox Zero handle them? While not flawless, the controls are actually rather good! There’s a definite learning curve, but I found the controls intuitive enough to become adjusted by the end of the first stage. While it has a high skill floor, it also achieves a very high skill season which is really great for a game based on replayability. There is a lot more doable with the new controls allowing for less limitations in the game design. Making the controls simpler would make the game more accessible allowing more people to try and enjoy the game while likely raising the average review score, I feel like it would limit what the designers could accomplish while balancing for both controls schemes and I appreciate Miyamoto and his team for stinking to their guns in this case.
Star Fox Zero is the Star Fox 64 sequel we’ve all been waiting for and it feels as if the franchise had never left . It’s a title that you get out of it what you put into it, but if you’re willing to put in the effort you’re in for a great ride.