Fox McCloud and the rest of the gang have had a less than stellar ride when it comes to their space adventures. From a change of developers on more than one occasion to a change of genre the series is in desperate need of a boost. So what better way to do that than remake what was perhaps the best Starfox title of all, Starfox 64 (or Lylatwars as it was known over here) Along with Ocarina of Time 3D this was Nintendo’s first attempt at proving that they were bringing AAA titles to their new handheld but is a remake of a ten plus year old game enough to satisfy their fans?
Fox along with his team mates Falco, Slippy and Peppy have been tasked with taking on Andross who has threatened to take over the Lylat system. Not only do they need to take on his followers in their huge contraptions, but also tackle his endless army of minions. The story is wafer thin, but thanks to the likeable characters (Slippy excluding) it helps to keep you invested in what’s actually going on.
Visually this is leaps and bounds ahead of the Nintendo 64 version. The Arwing has even more detail, water looks fantastic and the 3D rather than feeling like a taped on addition really adds to the experience. You’ll find yourself in deserts, oceans, fiery planets and more. The sound too is no slouch as music has been given a fresh lick of paint while voice work has been completely re-recorded too. It’s just a shame that the script itself hasn’t seen the same attention as conversations are still abrupt and sound very clunky.
While the look and sound may have changed the gameplay remains exactly the same. You’re still fighting your way through the same locations and against the same enemies with your same set of moves. It played great back in 1997 and it still holds up well to this day. So if you’ve had a go on the original then you know what to expect.
For those of you lucky few new to the game here you’ll find yourself sticking to a pre-determined path where you can move about the screen performing barrel rolls to deflect attacks, loops to out manoeuvre enemies and boost and brake. Pressing A fires at enemies while holding locks onto them in order to home in on especially pesky pests. Bombs can be collected to take out entire screens worth of baddies and rings provide extra health and lives. Stages follow two types. The first being a simple A to B escalating in a final boss battle while the second having you defend or attack a certain area. These levels offer a bit more freedom and offer a nice alternative. Furthermore you can even use the Landmaster in some stages as well as a submarine in one other. Again a nice change of pace and strategy. The stages while familiar also feel fresh thanks to their new look and the varying paths throughout the story it helps with repeated playthroughs. Each level offers something exciting that you’ll want to see all of them.
So does Starfox bring along any new features? Not really sadly. Well not any that make too much of a difference. The story mode is the same but now offers a save function (thankfully), you can now compete for medals in the new score attack mode and finally using the gyroscope within the console the game can be played entirely by tilting. Oddly enough this control option works really well and is a great display of the consoles underused feature. Sadly the same problem that has plagued other games applies here in that when using this you’ll often find you lose the sweet spot in terms of 3D. It’s best just to switch it off. Again while the score attack is nice to have it’s a bit of a let-down that there are no online leaderboards whatsoever. This is a console Nintendo boasted would offer much more in terms of online and to have such a high profile game like Starfox completely dismiss it is shocking.
When you’ve finished single player, if you have a friend or two around you can give the multiplayer a try. Offering a handful of stages and weapons you must try and take down as many opponents as possible. It’s good fun but seriously limited by the lack of online. Also why did Nintendo take out the Landmaster and on-foot options? Back on the Nintendo 64 these two options made for some very strategic and fun game types. On the bright side the game makes use of the camera on the system and only one copy of the game is needed to play with up to three others.
Starfox 64 3D is a faithful update for the Nintendo 64 classic that delivers a visually stunning game full of brilliant moments and excitement throughout. The overall campaign may be fairly short but it’s hard not to come back to try and better your score over and over again. While it seems there were plenty of missed opportunities in terms of additions what we have here is still an enjoyable portable adventure.