Star Fox 64 3D Review
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo EAD, Q-Games / Price: $39.99 / Played on: Nintendo 3DS / ESRB: Everyone [Fantasy Violence]
We all know that Star Fox 64 is a great game. You’ll be happy to know that in remaking the game for the 3DS, Nintendo and Q-Games kept pretty much everything intact, while upgrading the graphics and adding that extra dimension. But is this remake worth forty bucks when the original game is readily available on the Wii’s Virtual Console for $30 less?
Like every other game in the franchise, you control Fox McCloud, leader of the Star Fox squadron, consisting of Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad, and Falco Lombardi. Together, you pilot Arwing fighters across different locations on-planet and off, fighting hordes of anonymous, brightly colored enemies, who are all trying to kill you.
Though there are three non-flying missions in the main game—two in a tank and one in a submarine—the less said about them, the better. Suffice it to say, they remind you how much fun it is to fly an Arwing. Next.
The majority of the game is on-rails, so you can’t alter your flight path from the beginning of the stage to the end. There are spots where you can exert more control over your journey, such as finding secret paths, or when entering All-Range Mode sections or stages. All-range mode, which is my personal favorite portion of the game, lets you fly in 3D environments while trying to take down a boss, or while engaged in a big old dog-fight. Or fox-fight, as the case may be.
Every so often, your teammates call upon you to shoot enemies off their backs, and that’s where I realized the game’s biggest drawback. The 3DS’s screen is too damn small to convey effectively the epic sense of scale space shooters should provide. In practical terms, the small screen makes it much harder to go after teammates’ bogies, meaning they’ll lose more power more often (and they’ll berate you for not coming to their aid soon enough, or for accidentally shooting them). One of my favorite parts of the SNES and N64 Star Fox titles was picking off an enemy from really far away, sometimes before your teammates can finish asking for help. But try as I might, I could never pull this off on the 3DS.
There’s also solid multiplayer, though it’s inexplicably restricted to local WiFi play. There are also improvements over the original’s multiplayer mode. The four brand new maps aren’t found in story mode and take the place of the original version’s multiplayer environments. These maps are a challenge in and of themselves, and learning to navigate their labyrinthine structures adds some deep strategy to multiplayer that was missing from the original. There are also new power-ups—including a cloak, shield, and homing missiles, among others—adding some welcome Mario Kart-like unpredictability to the experience. Finally, there’s the much-touted feature of the 3DS’s inner-facing camera capturing your friends’ real-time facial expressions as you play. In theory, it’s a neat feature, but you’ll probably be too busy trying to shoot your buddies down to notice. In the end, it doesn’t really add much to the gameplay, especially considering your friends are likely in the same room as you are, though the fact that multiplayer only requires one of the four players to own the cartridge softens the blow of the missing full online play.
The game’s story is unchanged from the original: The Star Fox team is recruited by General Pepper to save the Lylat system from the forces of the evil Andross, who is a monkey, or ape, or something. Suffice it to say, there are good guys, there are bad guys, and it’s pretty clear who’s who. The story isn’t deep, and has a whimsical feel. But the characters are well-defined enough to make you want to help your teammates (usually), or listen to the advice they give. If you’re new to the series or this game in particular, the story isn’t much of a draw, but it gets the job done, providing a back drop to move you and your teammates from mission to mission. But if you’re a veteran, don’t expect anything new here. I would have loved it if the developers went ahead and tried to flesh out the story, even in the most minimal ways. More missions would’ve been a welcome addition, but even cut-scenes in the form of animations or still-images—akin to the ones used in 2006’s Star Fox Command for DS—probably could’ve been jammed in with minimal difficulty.
The visuals for the 3DS version of this game have received a noticeable overhaul. Textures and polygons have been smoothed out, though there is still a bit of the infamous N64 “fog,” where enemies or obstacles from up ahead suddenly materialize in front of you. The 3D visuals are definitely a positive addition, too, which was a nice surprise. Despite the fact that I was getting ready to be disoriented by playing such a movement-intensive game in 3D, I was surprised by how quickly I grew accustomed to the effect. And for this title, the added depth definitely helps to draw gamers into the overall experience. Enemies that sneak up behind your fighter do so with an in-your-face quality that is unique to the third dimension. When you’re dodging a barrage of laser fire, it’s really coming right at you! In this instance, Nintendo made a great decision by picking this title for the 3D treatment.
The main question, though, is whether or not the upgraded graphics and 3D effects are enough to compensate for the aforementioned tiny field of view. I’m going to say yes, but not by very much. The N64’s graphics are pretty tough to look at these days, and until they release a graphically upgraded version for play on the Wii, the 3DS wins out.
The developers offer you two control choices: the traditional N64 scheme, or the 3DS-specific gyroscopic controls. Don’t be fooled: the gyro-controls are awful. The developers get points for trying something new, but since the screen of the game is attached to the controller, you’re forced to move your head along with your hands to continue seeing 3D visuals. Even if you turn the 3D off, the gyro-controls are far more annoying than fun or helpful during gameplay. Furthermore, the thumb-stick still moves your Arwing, and the gyroscope will pick up any little move or shift you may make, resulting in some confusing ship piloting. Simply put, there is zero practical benefit to this control scheme. I hate it. Fortunately, it’s completely optional.
Weirdly, the game seems to offer slightly different gameplay experiences based on which control scheme you choose, hinting that the gyroscopic game might be easier. But after playing through both versions a few times, I detected no discernable difference between the two.
The game sounds good—most of the time. The music is enjoyable, midi-symphonic fun from the late-nineties. Like many of Nintendo’s core properties, the music is infectious, leaving you humming or whistling the various tunes after you’ve turned the system off. On the other hand, the voice acting is consistently terrible. Remember how Slippy sounded like an annoying little bitch in the original version? Well, fear not—he bitches things up here, too. Across the board, the different characters sound like hammy high school drama club geeks pretending to be animals in spaceships. Fortunately, the sounds of laser blasts, explosions, and velocity boosts more than make up for the awfulness that is the dialogue.
This is a very fun game, no doubt about it. If you’ve been looking for an great game to play on the 3DS, and you’ve finished Zelda, then yes, you should pick this one up. But this isn’t quite the killer app Nintendo needs to spur lagging 3DS sales. My first inclination was to rate this game pretty high, but I think that was borne out of my fondness for Star Fox 64 as a game I’ve always loved, and not the overall value of this particular release. With so few great 3DS titles to recommend, having the opportunity to play a well-remembered classic makes this one seem better than it really is. In short, Star Fox 64 3D features a great game, but it’s not necessarily the greatest bang for your buck.
7.5 / 10