Starfox 64 3DS Review
Starfox 64 3DS is Fox McCloud's most important mission in his 18 year history with Nintendo. Coming after the sudden 3DS price drop, but before the flagship release in Winter of Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land, it's his job to keep the faithful entertained while they wait for the plumber. Does he succeed? Well, partly...
For the uninitiated, Starfox 64 3DS is a remake of Fox's 1997 N64 outing of the on rails space shooter, starring the characters first seen on the SNES (complete with nifty polygonal 3D graphics made possible by the inclusion of a Super FX Chip). He's well suited to the mission - it's obvious from the opening video onwards that space combat is an ideal candidate to be given some extra depth by 3D. It works well during the main space sections, but especially well on the boss battles, particularly on the disembodied head, Andross who pops right out of the screen.
The 3DS handles multiple enemies on screen with ease
The game itself is pretty straightforward - fly from one end of the mission to another (in third person), shoot everything you see, and try to keep an eye on your comrades (if they die, you fly without them for the next mission). Boss, free flying and even brief land sections serve to break things up. The plot is little to write home about - Fox and his pals must stop evil scientist Andross from destroying the Lylat system (the game was also known as Lylat Wars) by visiting various planets and destroying his henchmen, before moving on to the final showdown with Andross.
The graphics have been significantly improved, and the voices have been re-recorded. Anal retentives will object to the slight vocal changes, but for the rest of us, this is a very polished update, and the most effective use of 3D on the device to date. Space combat (like racing) is well suited to a feeling of depth and motion.
One of the few tweaks is the introduction of gyroscope controls, which allow you to control your ship by tilting the device. These feel too imprecise, and moving the device doesn't work too well in combination with the narrow field in which the 3D works best. It's a neat little tech demo but doesn't add anything to the gameplay, and I found myself turning this off after the first level.
Bosses are impressive
The main problem is that Starfox 64 3DS is a very short game by modern standards, with a full play through of the single player campaign possible in less than an hour, although there is replay value given by 25 alternate paths through the campaign. There’s also a medal system which leads to unlocks, and completed levels can be played in score attack mode. Conversely, the bite sized missions do mean that Starfox 64 3DS works well on a mobile platform, lending itself easily to quick snatches of gaming on the go with missions completable in under 10 minutes. Difficulty on the standard 3DS mode is lower than that of the selectable N64 mode, so veterans should probably choose that, unless they’re attached to the gyroscope controls, which don’t operate in N64 mode.
The saddest thing is that it's just another remake. More than six months after launch, we still don't have an original game from an established Nintendo mascot on the 3DS. This is a well polished version of an established classic, and the 3D works well. But the platform is crying out for originality, not just remakes, however good.
There's no new content to the main game (other than being able to select a planet rather than being tied to the path chosen as in the original N64 game), and it's a shame that online multiplayer couldn't be added, meaning that for multiplayer, many will have to be content to dogfight with bots unless they happen to have access to a friend with a 3DS. On the upside, the game does support single-cart multiplayer, so two copies aren’t needed. We liked the somewhat unique feature of the game activating the camera so that you can see your opponent’s reactions, but this is another reason to lament the lack of online multiplayer- you can already see them, because they have to be in the same room.
Then there's the price - the recent Zelda remake represented pretty decent value at £30, given the length of the game. Die-hards will doubtless gobble this up, but for newcomers or casual fans, it feels a bit steep for a short game that costs a lot less on the Wii’s Virtual Console. Guess we'll have to wait for the plumber after all.