After a year of speculation, I finally had a chance to pick up Nintendo’s Star Fox Zero. I hate to admit it, but it didn’t blow me away like I had hoped.
First off, let’s look at some positives. I was excited to learn that Star Fox Zero is being co-developed by the immensely talented Platinum games, which is always a plus. The gameplay brought back nostalgic memories of Star Fox 64, which was and to this day remains a fun experience. You’re immediately thrown into action sequences, which is one of the things that made the original Star Fox games great. Zero introduces a few arwing transformations, which should help add some gameplay variety. The frame rate was silky smooth throughout the entire ten-minute demo. Movement flowed like running water without even the slightest hiccup.
Sadly, you know what didn’t move like running water? The waterfalls. Let’s be frank: even for a game on the underpowered Wii U console, this game looked sterile and blocky. I’m not a Wii U hater; in fact, I think Mario Kart 8 is one of the most beautiful games on any platform. But environments in Star Fox Zero just looked bland. There wasn’t that much in the way of detail,: waterfalls looked just like still animations, two lone trees that stand in your way awkwardly break into something like five parts when you shoot them, and there were never any large hoards of interesting enemies or anything of that nature.
In the game’s defense, some of that lack of detail likely comes from the fact that we were just allowed to play the first (or second) stage, and they wanted to make it simple enough so that people could get through the demo while adjusting to the new controls. And adjustment time is sorely needed.
You control the ship with your left stick and look through the cockpit with your gamepad. You aim by moving the gamepad around, and the Nintendo staffer suggested that I look at the gamepad while playing. I tried my best to use the gamepad for the first half of it, but I just wasn’t feeling it, and was quite frankly playing terribly. Once I focused on the main TV, I fared much better, although I still kept having other issues like pressing the wrong button. They mapped the speed up, slow down, and barrel roll mechanics to the right stick, and I kept wanting to press buttons time and time again.
I was also bummed to find out that the Nintendo staffer didn’t have any knowledge of multiplayer. Right now it appears there will be no online multiplayer mode OR local multiplayer. They are considering a co-op mode where one person is the gunner on the gamepad, but they haven’t implemented anything at this time.
All things considered, Star Fox Zero doesn’t seem like a bad game. The graphics aren’t ugly; they’re just plain for this generation. The lack of enemies in the first level might just be so that people don’t die right away in the demo. The unintuitive controls might become second nature after a few levels. They might add multiplayer. Might, might, might…
I’m sure I’ll get it, play it, and enjoy it. How much I’ll enjoy it, however, is up for debate. It feels like there are a lot of omissions in this game right now; hopefully Nintendo listens to fan feedback and doesn’t release a bare bones game just to meet the holiday deadline…the deadline they now need to fill after they missed the original timeframe they set for Zelda U. They just recently released Splatoon in what seemed like an incomplete format to meet a launch date, and critic reviews showed that people were upset about it – it’s a super fun game but many reviewers scored it lower because it seemed somewhat incomplete. Let’s hope they don’t make the same mistake with Star Fox Zero.