E3 2015: Star Fox Zero’s Aerial Acrobatics
Star Fox Zero is a reboot in more than just the name. This is a return to form for classic Star Fox gameplay, hearkening back to the days of Star Fox 64 when the series truly shined. The console may say "Wii U" on it and the visual quality may reflect current standards, but controlling the game is just like playing the older games back in the Star Fox glory days. Star Fox Zero is a perfect blend of old and new ideas, and while some of the new implementations may be awkward the game is off to a fast start.
Everything I once loved about Star Fox has come back in this new game, starting most importantly with the control scheme. The basic concepts are the same; you fly with the two sticks and perforn iconic somersaults and Barrel Rolls with a few simple flicks, but a few new additions make things a bit more complicated. First is the gyroscope implementation of the Wii U GamePad, which allowed me to look around the current landscape via the first-person view on the GamePad screen while maintaining the classic gameplay on the TV. It's not a bad idea, but as it stands the tech is rather clumsy and continually throws the aiming reticle off course. I appreciated the ability to press a single button in order to reset my aim, but I didn't anticipate having to press that button more than others during my demo time.
The first-person view on the GamePad screen, however, is a nifty little piece of tech. Aside from a closer view of what's ahead, this quick shift in perspective allows me to aim more precisely at a target, especially boss characters with specific weak points, and score a quick succession of hits with higher accuracy. The dual perspectives also allow for multiple approaches to an enemy, as seen in a battle against small spider-like creatures. While the TV showed me exactly where they were in the area, the GamePad screen allowed me to target their backs and take them out in quick order no problem. There's some adjustment to the different ways to play, but they're all implemented fairly well outside of the constant reticle centering.
The demo also introduced me to one of Fox McCloud's newest toys. The Walker is a transformed Arwing activated by flying low to the ground and pressing the A button, turning the fighter jet into a mechanical raptor-like creature with ferocious speed and firepower. This new form allowed me to stay low against enemy fire and counterattack with little worry about being hit, and I can totally see a lot of players using it to their advantage, though I wonder if other Star Fox vehicles like the Landmaster will have different forms as well.
I have only one nagging doubt, and it's not really a pressing issue more than it is a perceived laziness on the part of Nintendo: the demo I played took place on Corneria, which should come as no surprise to anyone, only the first half of the level matched the exact layout of Corneria from Star Fox 64. The same enemy placement, the same hidden rings, and the same building structures from the classic Nintendo 64 title found their way into this demo, and while it was super cool to see the re-imagined Corneria play out in front of me I hope that the final product's Corneria will be a little more unique. I'm interested in Star Fox Zero for what new things it will bring to the series, not what it can rehash from older games.
Star Fox Zero is an impressive return to form for Fox McCloud and his team, and the foundation for a really fun game is definitely in place. There's a few things that need tweaking, not the least of which is that damned aiming reticle nonsense, but if Nintendo can get those ducks in a row then I have full faith in this game being another great Wii U experience.
Star Fox Zero is scheduled to launch this fall exclusively for Nintendo Wii U.