Having started out strong earlier this year, the 3DS has quickly become a sputtering mess, due in no small part to its poor launch line-up and the revelation that Nintendo will be selling extra hardware in order to complete the handheld device.
And then along comes Star Fox 64 3D, a remake of the N64 classic game, in order to once again appease the increasingly disappointed and jaded Nintendo fans. But can this fourteen year old classic still stand tall today, or does it come off as a piece of retro-engineered space debris?
Straight from the get-go, Star Fox 64 has one major strength that it wields to a precise advantage, namely the fact that its the only game in the space-fighter genre, sitting on the 3DS game library shelves. Its a genre that has been relatively, and sadly untouched in recent years, something that Star Fox takes full advantage of, with large-scale space battles and aerial dogfights aplenty.
The story of Star Fox begins in the Lylat system, a region of space that is under attack from various enemy forces under the command of the mad scientist Andros, and help has arrived in the form of Star Fox and his motley band of space-aces. And for some reason, a useless and hyper-annoying sidekick toad named Slippy has joined them for the ride.
The narrative is light and brief, with a few cut-scenes popping up between missions, while your in-game communication system is filled with chatter related to the mission at hand. Star Fox isn’t your most plot heavy game around, but then again, when the focus is clearly on blasting anything with an engine trail in the sky, it doesn’t need much of a setup either to get players involved.
The voice-cast is capable enough to deliver their lines, with certain voices corresponding nicely to the character at hand, but it would have helped to have some decent presentation in these sequences, as any speech heavy scenes seem to resemble a Muppet talking while its on a mixture of acid and cocaine.
The meat and bones of Starfox however, is obviously in the combat, and here is where the game made its name so many years ago. Playing primarily as an on-rails shooter that tasks gamers with being an agile flying ace while taking down enemies and avoiding obstacles, the game can quickly become an intense battle to stay alive, as you laser-blast and bomb your way to victory.
Not all the combat is in the sky and outer space however, and you’ll find yourselves in levels that take place underwater and on dry land, with an appropriate new vehicle to match. These vehicles are obviously less nimble than your space fighter craft, but they make up for it with added bonuses such as more powerful weapons and better armour.
Levels also have more open, three dimensional arena areas that allow you to fly around picking off enemies and engaging in boss battles. You’ll find yourself having to take down some imaginative end-stage bosses, such as giant robots, battleships and creepy floating heads, targeting their weak points while you blast away using a series of manoeuvres such as u-turns and 360 flips in order to hit those sweet blind spots.
Star Fox 64 has also been teasing players with gyroscopic movement system, something that makes use of the 3DS sensors to allow for players to physically move the ship itself by leaning the 3DS console in the appropriate direction. Its a great idea, but unfortunately, the implementation comes off terribly, as the movements needed to do some basic dodging and barrel rolls will most likely result in you accidently assaulting anyone who are within reach of your personal space.
Instead its best to just stick to the tried and tested analogue stick, which makes combat far more intuitive and easier, as well as making barrel rolls and Himmelman turns much less frustrating.
The visuals in Star Fox 64 have been picked up quite a few notches, considering the age of the title, with the 3D effects popping out nicely, and the colours being of a bright and expressive quality that makes the intense action easier to follow. Some textures and landscapes still feel flat however, and the 3D does get in the way of the targetting reticule at times, making combat needlessly awkward without some constant adjustments.
After the end credits roll, Star Fox tries to coax gamers back into the cockpit with a multiplayer mode and Score Attack option. While Score Attack is great for perfectionists, as it allows you to replay levels and rack up some points, the multiplayer leaves much to be desired, as it only supports local play, with no real online functionality at all. There’s a lack of lobbies for matchmaking, or leaderboards to track the best score, while the camera mode option feels like a quick gimmick.
The maps also feel claustrophobic and unnecessarily cluttered, resulting in clunky matches that seem to drag on for far too long.
Tight and intuitive controls make Star Fox 64 easy to pick up and learn, as well as provide some gentle learning curves for more advanced moves. The gyroscopic gameplay on the other hand, should have been abandoned at the start of the project, as it makes combat needlessly difficult while putting anyone around you in danger of being concussed by your frantic piloting.
Design and Presentation: 7/10
Â More of an update to the visuals than a complete overhaul, its still plainly obvious that is a 14 year old game, despite all the polishing. While the 3D is effective and adds to the experience, you’ll come across scenes where the frame rate will drop, especially when under water. New cinematics and voice work help add to the experience however, despite the characters coming off as possessed puppets.
The single-player is a nice lengthy campaign, while the score-attack options keeps things interesting by asking players to constantly improve on their scores and look for hidden events. Unless you’ve got friends with similar tastes however, you’ll find that the local-only multiplayer is a complete waste of time.
Its not the greatest game to emerge from Nintendo, but at the same time, Star Fox 64 is a solid title that makes good use of its genre to fill in a niche need. Fans who can remember playing this game on the N64 might find that the nostalgia wears off after a while, but for younger gamers who are new to the franchise, this might be the perfect gift to get for their 3DS.Â
Last Updated: September 21, 2011