Thinking back to the early days, popping in that Star Fox cartridge, flicking the switch on the Super Nintendo and hearing that ominous opening music leading up to the Star Fox Teams pixelated faces, greeting you with a racing beat, asking you to press start. A true nostalgic rush that hits hard. You can’t help but to smash on that start button.
Star Fox Zero does none of that. It makes one wish to rip the Wii U from the TV and throw it and the inept controller it’s tethered to, straight into Sector-Z. Never to be seen or heard from ever again. It’s a frustrating five hour dogfight, not against those opposing the Star Fox Team but with the motion controls.
With every barrel roll, every somersault, and quirky old one liners, you’re tied to this device that Nintendo has yet to figure out. If this is an attempt to salvage the Wii U Gamepad, to make it’s life meaningful, they have failed. Not only that but they have managed to force a beloved franchise, to myself personally and many others, into the black hole abyss that the Wii U Gamepad has become proving that a game cannot function, cannot be enjoyable, unless it gets one thing right.
When you move the thumb stick, or directional pad, or track pad, if done correctly, you can place yourself and the object in which you are controlling within the boundaries of the 3 dimensional space it occupies. Mario moves so many pixels to the right with a tap of the d-pad. Dragging an icon on our smartphones acts as such, giving us visual feedback as we place Flappy Birds in the uninstall area one last time. You know where it is, you know where it goes, where it’s going to be.
Star Fox Zero offers none of this. The “traditional” on rails portions, few as they are, have the opportunity to be somewhat enjoyable but the “All Range Modes” are insufferable. For the life of me I cannot place where Star Fox’s Arwing is. There is no mini-map. No indication of how far you are away from a locked on object, you just boost into the ether, hoping you don’t collide in the Great Fox, exploding on impact.
Star Fox doesn’t always pilot an Arwing which brings on more frustrations. Piloting the dreadfully slow Gyrowing, a cleverly named gyro-copter, as you navigate through tight corridors is an obnoxious task. The Landmaster, actually is enjoyable this time around as due to it’s slow speed, aiming with they Wii U GamePad felt natural.
At points where the Wii U Gamepad is forced, like most of the boss encounters, it fails to give to the sharp shooting it claims it’ll give you. You’re against yourself and the gamepad, flying the Arwing, looking down at the Gamepad to aim and shoot, while looking back at the TV to dodge whatever madness is on screen. It’s a hectic headache that’s not enjoyable and doesn’t add depth to the Star Fox series.
Getting past the motion controls and you may have an alright game underneath it all but even then Star Fox Zero doesn’t have much going for it. The campaign is rather short and while you can replay levels to collect medals and get high scores, none of them feel enjoyably enough to run through more than a couple times at most.
Everything about Star Fox Zero feels disconnected and disjointed. It feels like an old friend that you haven’t seen in a very long while has invited you over to hang out. You have no reason to decline so you hang out. You chat and reminisce about the good ol’ days and then you pop in Star Fox 64. That’s where it should stop but instead your friend asks you awkward questions, has you hang upside down while playing the game, tells you about their drug habits or about their last stool movement. You’re confused, lost and you want to leave.
Admittedly, Star Fox Zero may not be that bad but it left me asking if Star Fox even has a place in the future. Star Fox Zero feels so far removed from Nintendo’s standards of today. I’m honestly surprised of it’s release. Nintendo titles are known for their tight controls and almost question free design choices but Star Fox Zero had me questioning everything.
Disclaimer: This copy of Star Fox Zero was provided by Nintendo for review.