It’s almost hard to believe, but there was a brief period of time where the release of a Star Fox game actually meant something. The first Star Fox brought polygonal 3D gaming to the masses in the form of a fantastic space-shooter, while the sequel demonstrated how games could feature a cinema-style presentation through the use of cutscenes and voiceovers. And then...well, the franchise pooped itself into a black hole. Fortunately, Nintendo chose to resurrect one of the series’ best titles, Star Fox 64, only now in full stereoscopic 3D.
Now I can’t stress this enough: I was a huge fan of Star Fox 64 back in the day. I replayed the campaign endlessly, turning the game into more of a process, all in effort to achieve the best score possible. Needless to say, I knew the game inside and out, forwards and backwards, right-side up and upside down, inverted and non-inverted...you get the picture. And so I was understandably excited when Nintendo announced the game would be getting some love with an updated version on the Nintendo 3DS, complete with improved visuals, spruced-up audio, and a brand new multiplayer mode.
It’s important to note that, like Ocarina of Time 3D before it, Star Fox 64 3D is basically the exact same game as its predecessor. Every enemy, every building, and really every level is exactly as you remember it...only prettier. The game is still focused around charting a path through 16 possible levels to the end, with each play-through taking about an hour. However, many levels are accessible only by finding secret exits, or by accomplishing specific goals within a mission. What this amounts to is having to play the campaign a minimum of 3 times in order to see everything, though you’ll likely end up playing it much more. In short, there’s a lot of replayability here, especially if you’re going for the medals and unlock ng even harder difficulties.
As with the original, you’ll be piloting one of three vehicles: the flying Arwing, the rolling Landmaster, or the underwater Blue Marine. Though you’ll be piloting the Arwing for most of the game, the other vehicles provide a fresh change of pace. The Landmaster is especially nimble and responsive while the Bluemarine....well, isn’t (as should be expected--it’s a submarine!). Even without the vehicles, every level manages to feel distinct, with many offering several unique types of gameplay elements.
Okay, enough about the gameplay, let’s talk about what’s changed! First up: the voices. Every line in the game has been re-recorded in an effort to offer much cleaner sounding audio than the compressed sound bytes of the original. And Nintendo even managed to bring back several members of the original cast, though even the new members do an admirable job of matching those of the original. With that said, I can’t help but long for the original voices. Hell, the new recordings may actually be better, but the originals are so ingrained in my me, that anything but just sounds...wrong.
What doesn’t sound wrong, however, is the remastered music. It’s all been entirely redone, and while still adhering very closely to the original soundtrack, also isn’t afraid to mix things up a little bit. It sounds great and should be especially pleasant to fans of the original.
The graphics also look splendid, with each level having been completely remodeled, offering a level of detail far beyond the original. The water effects are especially breathtaking, particularly when matched with the lighting effects on Zoness. Unfortunately, there was at least one instance where the improved visuals actually--if inadvertently--negatively impacted the immersion. In the first level, an alternate path awaits those who fly through waterfall into a concealed entrance. In the 64 version, the waterfall was completely opaque--once you flew through it, you were already on the other side. In the 3D version, the waterfall has been granted a nice level of transparency...except for the fact that the canyon wall visible is now visible behind it...which wouldn’t be a problem if they had actual,ly modeled a path for your Arwing to fly through. Instead, you end up flying straight through a wall like a ghost. This bizarre oversight, though minor, seems incredibly amateurish for a remake, particularly when it introduces an issue not found in the original.
Star Fox 64 3D is yet another Nintendo title to take advantage of the 3DS’s gyroscope, allowing you to steer the Arwing simple by making subtle movements with the 3DS (similar to the additions made to Ocarina of Time 3D). And the result actually works very well, with the Arwing responding instantly and--with enough practice--surprisingly accurately. There’s only one problem: there’s no reason to use it. Unlike in Zelda, where it actually allowed you to aim faster and more accurately, controlling Star Fox with the gyroscope is noticeably less precise and actually more cumbersome, particularly since the 3D effect is easily ruined by tilting the system too far. It’s rather telling that Nintendo even crafted a “3DS” mode for that makes subtle changes to the campaign to make it easier for gyroscopic players. Again, it’s a fun option but just one we can’t really see any reason to use.
Despite my complaints, Star Fox 64 3D really is a lovingly remastered version of the timeless original. The game’s worlds have never looked more alive and the updated music is fantastic to listen to. Alas, it just so happens that the original 64 version actually holds up rather well--even looking especially splendid when played on the Wii’s upscaled Virtual Console. And after going back to the original, I realized something...sometimes things are better left as is. Sure, the graphics in the original may be dated but hearing the original voices and music really brought back memories no matter how imperfect they may be. Oh, and for a game so dependent on accuracy, going back to an actual control stick felt oh-so-good but I’ll still take the Circle Pad over the gyro controls any day.
Don’t get me wrong through, Star Fox 64 3D is still an excellent version of this title and arguably a better choice for those new to the game, free of memories of the original. For those who lived and breathed the N64 original, you’re best off either dusting off the old classic, or grabbing it for $10 on the Virtual Console. If you’re new to the game, and especially if you have trouble playing games with dated visuals, Star Fox 64 3D is still a fantastic rendition and well worth your time.
For better or worse, Nintendo scrapped the multiplayer of the original and reimagined it with larger, all new arenas, and many more power-ups (though you have the option of using only the classic items). The good news is that you only need one copy of the game to play multiplayer with up to 3 other friends. The bad news is that the game does not have online support, which is especially surprising considering the game’s use of the 3DS’s camera, allowing you to see your opponent’s face as you blast them to pieces. This would make perfect sense in an online game; less so in one where I can glance at my friend in real life for a second and see his actual reaction.
The multiplayer dogfighting plays much as you’d expect: like an expanded version of the campaign’s all-range mode but with friends! The new power-ups are pretty cool, such as the Slow Burrs that attach to the enemies’ craft slowing them down, but add an element of luck that feels like it’s almost undermining the otherwise skillful dogfighting--but to reiterate, they can be disabled.
While there are three different multiplayer modes, they all play basically the same: kill your opponents and avoid that same fate. Unfortunately, there are no objective or team based games at all, greatly limiting the depth and replayability.
The multiplayer modes may be limited but there is a decent amount of variety. The four levels and the 7 new power-ups all feel distinct, and there are several options to change the parameters of the match. And if you don’t have any 3DS-owning friends, you can even play against the computer, but as expected it isn’t terribly exciting (even if they do put up a good fight).
Ultimately, the multiplayer in Star Fox 64 3D is an adequate diversion, but one that likely won’t draw much attention once more multiplayer-focused 3DS games, such as Mario Kart 7, arrive on the scene. It is disappointing though, that with all the care invested in restoring the campaign mode, that the developers found it wise to discard the the original multiplayer completely. Sure, it wasn’t anything particularly special, but it would have been a welcome addition, particularly as it allowed for ridiculous match-ups such as Arwings vs Landmasters vs characters on-foot. Yeah, the last group didn’t really stand a chance, but damn was it rewarding to take down an Arwing ten times your size!
Genre: Shooter, Action
Release: September 11, 2011
Available On: Nintendo 3DS
Star Fox: Loved
Star Fox 64: Loved
Star Fox Adventures: Meh
Star Fox Assault: Kill it with fire!
Crimson Skies: Loved