Fox McCloud and co. have had a facelift, but does that mean they can still hang out with the cool kids?
The original Star Fox 64 came out in 1997 and is looked upon by many as one of the greatest rail shooters ever made. Despite the fact that the more recent outings involving Fox McCloud and his band of humanoid animal pilots have never lived up to the greatness of Star Fox 64, many gamers still look upon the series fondly and hope that one day a new game will be made in the series. Well, that day has come, sort of…
Star Fox 64 3D is, as the title may suggest, a fairly straight forward remake of the acclaimed N64 title. Although there are a couple of small additions to the game, and a massive visual and audio makeover, the core single-player experience is identical to that of the original. All of the stages, bosses and even the story itself have remained untouched, offering flashbacks to those who enjoyed the game back in ‘97.
But this is where the game shows a weakness. The original game was incredibly short, with most players able to complete the story in less than a couple of hours. Sure, back then gamers were encouraged to go back and play through again and again, thanks in large to the different routes that the player can discover along the way. But the fact is that most gamers nowadays, who quite often complain about the length of a game, would likely explode over the idea that a full priced title should offer less than a couple of hours gameplay. And despite the feelings of nostalgia, the impressive visuals and the few extra features that have been tacked on, I have to say that I would have trouble justifying the price as well.
Fortunately, the game is structured in such a way that short bursts of gaming are suitable, something which works perfectly with the handheld format. Played in short bursts, and with the replay factor of finding new routes and discovering everything that the game has to offer, Star Fox 64 3D will feel longer than it actually is and, for many, avoid that feeling of being cheated out of a full length title.
The visual upgrade may not entirely make up for the games’ length, but it goes a long way towards easing the pain. Aside from the length, Star Fox 64 had very few faults. The gameplay, level design and story are all highly regarded, which explains why they are more or less untouched. But the visuals back in 1997, although pretty cool back then, have not aged well. But Star Fox 64 3D has been rebuilt from the bottom up, providing fresh, crisp textures and impressive lighting, all the while maintaining the classic Star Fox feel.
The 3D effect, which is an obvious addition for a 3DS game, is a bit of a mixed bag. Considering the nature of the game, it would be easy to assume that using 3D would be an enhancement throughout. And it is true that some parts of the game are particularly impressive with the 3D pumped up. But in other areas the effect seemed less effective, not harming the gameplay, but not enhancing it in any way.
The audio too has been given an overhaul, with most of the original voice cast being brought back into the studio to re-record their lines. I am not a big enough Star Fox 64 fan to notice any differences myself, but I have heard some fans complain that the feel of the audio has been lost and that even some lines of dialogue have been changed. For the fanatic fans, this may be an issue. But for most gamers, like myself, these issues make absolutely no difference at all, and the audio sounds great.
Of the other new features added, the gyroscopic controls are largely pointless. They work okay, although lacking in the precision of the standard controls, as the player finds themselves moving around their living room. But this is a gimmick which would not be missed if it were removed completely. It is fun for a few minutes, after which the player will return to the more standard set up.
The multiplayer Battle Mode has been improved with some impressively large maps and some new pickups. The game can also take photos of the player, using the front camera, and display them in the game, which is a fun gimmick. However, the shine of the multiplayer wears off once it becomes apparent that it can only be played locally, which is a real missed opportunity.
All in all, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I was not a massive Star Fox fan myself, so the nostalgia factor is largely lost on me. The way I see it is that Star Fox 64 3D is an impressive looking and sounding game, with wacky characters, a good story and brilliant gameplay. But it is also very short and lacking features that we come to expect from modern games, which is how many gamers who never played the original will see it. For the fans, it is a no-brainer purchase. For everyone else, it is still a very good game, the best of its genre on 3DS, and certainly worth trying out. Just don’t be surprised if you are left wondering what all of the fuss is about.