I went into Star Fox Zero without much, if any, Star Fox experience. I always knew about the series, but I never had any of the consoles that had the games on them. I owned an N64 when the PS2 and Xbox were a thing, never had a GameCube until a few years ago, and I guess I didn’t know there was one on the DS. Zero was my first real foray into the franchise, and having played through it at least once, I think I can say that was probably Nintendo’s intention- to introduce the series beyond Smash cameos.
The story isn’t really the main draw of Zero, being more about building a world to weave a flexible narrative through. The gist of it is Andross is the big bad, who contributed to the disappearance/death of Fox McCloud’s father. Each character has a touch of backstory and personality that does give the game a surprising amount of depth, without being distracting or confusing. You got all the tropes, from a cocky sidekick, Falco, the over eager inventor, Slippy, and the friend-of-your-father mentor figure, Peppy.
The actual draw of Star Fox Zero is the multiple path, arcade style narrative. Each level has alternate paths, which lead to entirely different stages later on, so each play through can be fairly unique. While a play through can take about 3 hours or so, you have not even come close to finding absolutely everything this game has to offer.
So unsurprisingly, the meat of this review is going to be gameplay. There’s a variety of mission types, vehicles and modes, that make this game truly unique. Of course, I feel I should approach the elephant in the room, that is Motion Controls.
In short- I love them. They’re not perfect, and the gamepad is really good at losing calibration really quickly. But once you wrap your head around the idea of using the gamepad to add a fine touch to your shots, like Splatoon, it adds so much. It’s about as close as you can get to using a mouse with a gaming console. Basically- great idea, but the execution is held back by the actual sensors in the gamepad.
Beyond that, the different vehicle types are really cool and well implemented in game. The Arwing can shift between a sleeker, speed oriented form, and its all-range mode, which allows for full 360 maneuverability. It can also transform into the bipedal walker, which is used in platformy areas, and can even go down a few secret paths. Then there’s the Landmaster, which I mostly know from Brawl as the final smash of Fox, Falco and Wolf. But for those who aren’t familiar, it’s basically a tank. It can jump/boost for a bit, but can also transform into it’s own, hovercraft “All-Range” mode. One boss in particular had you shooting targets on top of it, using both forms of the Landmaster really well.
And lastly, there’s a drone/helicopter type vehicle called the Gyrowing. The one Gyrowing level I played was very, very different than any of the others, being more stealthy and slower paced. I could also deploy a robot called Direct-i, that could hack panels to activate/deactivate lights and doors and such. I’m not entirely convinced it fits the theme of the game that well, but it was by no means bad. Just vastly different.
Knowing that the Wii U is soon to be superseded is a bit sad, when such a gorgeous game like this has only just come out. It doesn’t push the power of the console, of course, but the colours and vibe from any space areas really, really appeal to me.
I also get a huuuuuge Star Wars vibe from all the different planets and their environments. The green cityscape of Corneria, the desert planet of Titania, and the grimy, factories on Zoness, no matter where you are, there’s a distinct art style and colour pallet to reinforce the atmosphere. My favourite, and awe-filled moment was Area 3, the giant habitable donut world.
So basically, Star Fox Zero is a great introductory game to the series, and the motion controls are just not as bad as people are saying. It’s gameplay focused, and the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. The whole game is stunning visually, and way more intriguing than anything else I’ve played in the last half a year or so. Maybe longer. And for my next trick- Star Fox Guard! Stay tuned…