Tech News on G4
'Star Fox Zero misses the mark
May 2, 2016
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
A lot of ideas sound great on paper, but when implemented, do nothing more than crash and burn. Marrying a Star Fox game to the Wii U gamepad's unique control scheme sounds like a match made in heaven, but in reality, this combination just doesn't fly.
Star Fox Zero was delayed for a few months from its original November, 2015 release date in order to tinker with the controls. Typically when this happens to a first-party Nintendo game, the end result is something that offers superb gameplay and a ton of fun. With Star Fox Zero, there are certainly glimpses of a soaring and epic space shooter, but the final product just doesn't work often enough.
Zero plays much like previous Star Fox games ("Adventures" notwithstanding), with players controlling protagonist Fox McCloud's Arwing as it weaves, boosts, and barrel rolls across a variety of environments.
The difference between Zero and other Star Fox games is that Zero allows - or forces, really - players to aim using the Wii U gamepad. Looking at the gamepad screen offers a first-person perspective from the Arwing cockpit, with the typical third-person view being shown on the TV screen (this setup can be swapped at any time at the push of a button).
The game starts off spectacularly. Fox and his cohorts skim the water as they hurtle toward Corneria City, and it's only seconds before they're blasting away at enemies that appear from above and below. It's an on-rails section (most of the game switches between that and "all-range" mode, which allows for more freedom of movement).
It's here that the controls work best, though they're still not perfect. I found, for instance, that I was constantly recalibrating the centering of my targetting reticle while playing Star Fox Zero. To be fair, doing this is as simple as pressing a button, but it still happened enough that it was distracting, and it made certain sections of the game more difficult than they should have been.
Levels that implement all-range mode can be thrilling, but I found a lot of the boss battles were more of an annoyance than anything else. Many of these battles involve machines that are massive, and while I would fly in for a run to blast all the glowy weak spots, turning around to do the same thing again took forever.
The game also features new vehicles, including a two-legged walker version of the Arwing (a feature of the cancelled Star Fox 2 for the SNES), a Gyrocopter, and a tank known as the Landmaster.
On their own, each vehicle generally feels okay to control, but many of the game's scenarios require the player to swap between different modes on the fly, and none of these sections felt right to me. It took me several hours to realize that the game itself wasn't difficult - it was the controls themselves that were making things difficult. That's never a good sign in a video game.
Star Fox Zero attempts to switch things up by peppering in different objectives, such as stealth missions (which seems to be a predictable go-to for any game looking to change things up) and missions where computers have to be hacked using a weird robot attached to the Gyrocopter.
Yes, they successfully offer something new to the Star Fox series, but none of these mechanics feel as fun as simply flying the Arwing in deep space or across an ice planet.
The game seems short at first blush, although it offers plenty of additional hidden missions for those willing to scour environments for secrets or earn the highest accolades. The problem is, I had no desire to do this, simply because it would have meant more frustration while I fought the controls.
Star Fox Zero offers some serious eye candy - the levels often convey a wonderful sense of scope, and are plenty colourful - which is sure to be appreciated by fans waiting for the series to enter the HD age.
Sadly, there's not much more that hooked me. The plot is barely-there and the voice acting is kinda goofy (which is great if you're just looking for a throwback to the old games, I suppose). I also found the difficulty to swing wildly in certain sections of the game, including the final boss, who I found to be unfairly tough - and again, a lot of that was due to the controls.
With an alternate control scheme, Star Fox Zero may have been improved, but as it stands now, there simply isn't enough good stuff to outweigh the bad. It aims high, but misses the mark.
Star Fox Zero
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G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.