Tuning Up the Arwing
Of all the booths that littered the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center to form that thing we call E3, Nintendo’s was my favorite for the simple reason that they had separate demo stations for each of the playable games to accommodate multiple lines of people, instead of one big cluster of stations with a single mile-long line per game like most of the other booths at the expo.
Had it been the other way around, I probably would have given up in despair and left after an hour of moving ten feet and missed out on getting behind the proverbial wheel of the game that attracted the largest crowds, Star Fox Zero.
And thank goodness that didn’t happen.
What struck me right away watching the game in action as I waited in line, and even more upon actually getting my hands on it, was the feel of the game… the Star Fox-ness of it, essentially. In a way, SF Zero isn’t taking any huge risks with the formula laid down by the SNES original and refined in 1997’s Star Fox 64. Controls have been streamlined (speed controls and barrel rolls are now mapped to the right analog stick, for example) but for the most part the mix of on and off-rails Arwing-flying and laser-shooting feels firmly rooted in the glories of the past. The fact that the main level of the E3 demo was set in Corneria and felt like one big nod to 64’s intro level only serves to drive home that impression.
That is what makes the GamePad aspect of the game all the more intriguing, if a little unintuitive at first. While using the gyro controls to aim (think Splatoon… if you’ve played Splatoon, naturally) is easy enough to grasp, the controller’s chief feature, a first-person cockpit view on the second screen, requires some gymnastics of attention to wrap one’s head around. Worse, it kind of feels pointless during the on-rails sections, where targets can be hit just fine without having to waste time switching screens and making use of the improved precision Nintendo says the feature provides.
When things go off-rails and head into open areas, however, Star Fox Zero’s two-screen setup begins to make a lot more sense. With the freedom to watch the movements of surrounding enemies (as well as focus the camera on particular targets) on the TV and then switch to a focused offensive against them, dogfights become more dynamic and boss fights more epic in feel. The game’s other major new addition, transforming the Arwing into a walker with the push of a button, also makes it possible to quickly take to the ground and take out clusters of enemies, as opposed to flying around in circles to line up shots from the air.
From what I saw during my time at E3, these features have the potential to shake up enemy encounters in interesting ways, as notably evidenced by the demo’s boss battle against a giant spaceship. Though the option is there to win just by taking out its weapons from outside in typical SF fashion, it’s also possible to fly into an opening, transform into a walker, and destroy the ship from the inside. I’m hoping this is a sign that boss battles and other parts of gameplay will make more room for different approaches than in past games.
This new Star Fox game is kind of a weird one, one trying to ride the line between honoring the series’ past and reinvigorating it with potentially innovative features. While I still have some reservations about the necessity of the dual-screen setup and its learning curve, I’m nevertheless curious to see if Nintendo and co-developer Platinum Games can make it essential to the experience. Fingers crossed.
This holiday season is when, the Big N says, Star Fox Zero will arrive for the Wii U.
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
Images / Screenshots / Artwork
Our Star Fox Zero photo gallery currently contains 10 images. Click on any of the thumbnails below to see some of them, or the button to view more.
[View Star Fox Zero images / screenshots +]
[Watch Star Fox Zero videos / trailers +]
[View more Star Fox Zero articles (news, previews, reviews) +]
[View Star Fox Zero cheats / guides +]
MORE FROM GAMEDYNAMO