Star Fox Zero’s Uncertain Fate

Prior to an official reveal, there was a lot of buzz and confusion surrounding a new Star Fox game appearing on Wii U. People were (are) desperate for new Wii U games, especially with the NX making some wonder if Nintendo plan to slowly kill Wii U support. Star Fox hasn’t been touched by Nintendo for a while now, and like every new Star Fox, there was buzz to see if the new game would be a true sequel to Star Fox 64. Then the E3 reveal.

I look at the E3 reveal in two ways. Unfortunately, the first impression of the game was negative. Visually, it is rather unappealing. Now of course, this is the Wii U, so I was never looking for that in the game. However, considering the core gameplay of the levels is on rails, I expect at least Mario Kart 8 comparable visuals. The trailer was not that. The levels also looked sparse. On the other hand Titania looks pretty and Corneria has also been given a nice waterfall section. I am also disappointed, perhaps bizarrely so, on the Star Fox team’s chatter, that looks strange and not fitting to the visual style of the game. In fact, the heads that talk to you seem to be HD versions of Star Fox 64 3D’s. I guess it has a novelty retro charm to it, I’m not convinced. For me, the chatter is absolutely half of the charm of the game, and the 3DS version of Star Fox 64 managed it so well, with the touchscreen acting as a hub for communication with the other pilots. In summary, I felt the initial trailer was a worrying foreshadowing to a game that has been rushed.

Then there’s the dual screen mechanic. This is possibly the single most important aspect to the game, above everything, even the level design. The touchscreen is used as a cockpit view and is also how you aim. This means that it is absolutely crucial that it feels ‘right’ or the entire game will be ruined by a gimmick that doesn’t work. Not only does it matter on an enjoyment front, it matters on a visual front. The main reason the game looks the way it does is because the Wii U has to render the game twice, at two different perspectives… in HD… at 60fps. If the game benefits from the Wii U’s unique feature, then I will completely forgive Nintendo. Frankly, the visuals aren’t even particularly bad and wouldn’t impact on the gameplay- my initial concern at E3 was that the game looked rushed. The fact that it is more of a technical issue than a rushed game issue changes everything.

The Visuals aren't bad, just a little too polygonal for some

The Visuals aren’t bad, just a little too polygonal for some

Once I got over these issues, I began to see how good the game actually could be. It has a real retro vibe to it, which as I mentioned above has it’s negatives. From a gameplay front though, I love the return to Star Fox 64 gameplay. The game also brings in transformations into the equation including the platform-style walker sections. The music is also going to be top-notch and the speech full of classic cheesy quotes, that can’t make you cringe because they’re that bad. Despite the suggestions of the name, Zero, this game is not a re-imagining. Nintendo have stated that the game starts at the beginning of the Star Fox ‘story’ but I don’t feel that the concept is more than surface deep. Take what you want from that. Some will complain that it is Nintendo rehashing the tried and tested formula… they probably won’t be wrong in predicting that. It is a shame that they aren’t completely rebooting the franchise almost Kid Icarus style, because as of late it has become stale.

But I’m also looking forward to Star Fox Zero, it’s going back to what made Star Fox great. That’s better than another ‘bad’ Star Fox, and I fell in love with Star Fox 64 3D and that was just a remake! This won’t be the game to ‘save’ the Wii U that everyone wanted it to be. Unfortunately, I think the Wii U will remain a solid second console (or partner to a PC) that has some of the best multiplayer games ever made on it, with niche games that won’t ever appear on other consoles. Hopefully, Nintendo understand this and don’t expect dramatic increases in sales. I also love that this game even exists, showing that Nintendo want to please long-standing Nintendo fans with this year’s flagship Wii U title. Whatever side you stand on with Star Fox Zero, having Platinum co-develop the game is going to make the action far more dynamic and over the top, which sounds good to me. Needless to say, Fox’s future is McCloudy.

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