Video game review: 'Star Fox Zero' is a fun space shooter that doesn't quite hit its target
Posted May 30, 2016
In the world of video games, Fox McCloud has managed to stay relevant slumming it as one of the main fighters in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series alongside Mario, Samus Aran and all the other iconic Nintendo characters. But it’s been a full 10 years since he last starred in a title of his own.
Enter “Star Fox Zero,” which is easily one of the most highly anticipated Wii U games of the year. It sees Fox back in the cockpit of an Arwing spacecraft for some classic, “Star Wars”-inspired aerial dogfights. However, a number of issues — some big, some small — keep it from achieving the legendary status of its predecessor, “Star Fox 64,” no matter how much it wants to.
As anyone who remembers “Star Fox Adventures” on the Nintendo Gamecube can attest, the Star Fox series is at its best when it sticks to its core concept of flying and shooting.
That definitely holds true here. Not a whole lot has changed since the series’ high watermark, “Star Fox 64” (including the plot — this is a straight-up remake). Whether soaring over an alien planet in the Lylat System or gunning down enemy ships in open space, the main gameplay is still a lot of fun (if not altogether novel nearly 20 years later).
In terms of difficulty, it strikes a nice balance between not so unforgiving as to alienate its core audience and not so easy as to make it boring.
The main mission mode can be played through from beginning to end in a matter of hours, but branching levels, a scoreboard and collectibles all provide some welcome incentive to go back and play even after the story ends.
Of course, one of the big selling points for a lot of Nintendo titles is their all-ages appeal. That’s also true of “Star Fox Zero.” As far as games involving shooting things and watching them explode go, it’s just about as tame as it gets. The characters and dialogue all seem ripped straight out of a cartoon, but the kind that parents might sit down to watch, at first to humor their kids, but then end up staying for the next three episodes.
Unfortunately, as much as “Star Fox Zero” tries to add new experiences to the gameplay, the results are pretty uneven.
The most persistent issue is the finicky motion control system, which take a while to get used to. In order to make the motion controls work at all, there is a dedicated recalibration button. Get ready to press that a lot.
Along with the motion controls, the addition of a first-person cockpit view on the GamePad screen proves more problematic than anything.
Also, while the tried-and-true Arwing is still a winner as far as gameplay goes — notwithstanding the flawed control scheme — the other vehicles that make the occasional appearance range from just OK (the bipedal walker that the Arwing transforms into, for instance) to kind of awful in the case of the slow-as-molasses Gyrowing. This latter vehicle is the star of one early level and actually threatens to derail the whole game before it’s even really gotten started with a momentum-killing “stealth” mission that proves to be more of a test of patience than skill.
From the stuffed animal versions of the Star Fox team on the home screen that look like they could be rejects from Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to the voice at the beginning of every mission that says “good luck,” “Star Fox Zero” is chock-full of little references to the older games that longtime fans will undoubtedly appreciate.
Although “Star Fox Zero” does not have a traditional multiplayer mode, it does allow for cooperative gameplay with one player controlling the flight, the other controlling the shooting.
Also, retail copies of “Star Fox Zero” come bundled with a bonus disc featuring a Star Fox-themed tower defense game called “Star Fox Guard.”
Game: "Star Fox Zero"
Platform: Wii U
ESRB rating: Everyone 10+ (fantasy violence)
Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University. Along with the Deseret News, he also contributes to the film discussion website TheMovieScrutineer.com.