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Sitting down to play the most recent addition to the franchise “Star Fox Zero” for the WII U it was somewhat crushing to find that they’d once more screwed up what should be a simple format. Still if there could be any title in the franchise which could be considered the highwater mark for the series it would be “Lylat Wars” or if you were outside Europe “Star Fox 64”.
Following on from the original “Star Fox” on the SNES and a fairly ground breaking game for its time thanks to the use of the Super FX chip which simulated 3d graphics in a time when games where predominantly 2D. This game while a remake of the original game at the same time also gutted it’s cancelled (despite being finished) sequel “Star Fox 2” giving the game many of its best ideas including the rival “Star Wolf” team. The game meanwhile was packaged with the “Rumble Pack” which slotted in the base of your controller providing the kind of vibrations we now take for granted and with none of the added weight this chunky peripheral added.
Plot wise its pretty standard space opera stuff, as you play Fox McCloud the leader of the Star Fox Team whose father James McCloud was part of the original Star Fox team until he was seemingly killed in a double cross by Star Wolf member Pigma Dengar. Now along with your team of fellow hot shot pilots you have to battle across the Lylat system to the planet of Venom to defeat the rogue scientist Andross.
The game play for the most part takes place in a “Corridor Mode” style of gameplay with the player forced down a fixed path straight through the environment. However there are sections of the game where it switches to an “All-Range Mode” enabling the player to move around freely inside an arena environment meaning that it’s kept largely for boss fights with the exception of the planet “Katina” which wholesale rips off “Independence Day” finale as you attempt to take out an alien mothership.
While for the most part you are confined to the cockpit of the Arwing depending on the route through the planets you take you also get to pilot the “Landmaster” tank aswell as “The Blue-Marine” submarine which help to keep the game from becoming too repetitive. At the same time all the vehicles are highly responsive making them fun to pilot with any frustrations coming from the environmental dangers or overwhelming enemy numbers.
Unquestionably an immersive if short experience there is something so enjoyable about flying a mission while radio messages from your co-pilots or enemies pop up below as they issue taunts or ask for help. At the same time you will find yourself wondering how either Peppy or Slippy managed to become classed as top pilots especially when they constantly need rescuing every five minutes while Falco just dismisses any help you give him. That being said the various lines such as “Do a barrel roll!” still hold the ability to bring back those waves of nostalgia regardless of how many times you’ve played though the campaign. Still if the voices get too annoying you can always change the language to Lyatt and have them burble nonsense at you instead.
Considering that series creator Shigeru Miyamoto is a big Thunderbirds fan, you can feel its influence through the game especially in terms of the vehicle design such as the “Great Fox” which houses the various Star Fox craft. Equally when it comes to the villains they are all quite cartoonish and OTT, with even Andross appearing in robes similar to “The Hood”. Still the villains throughout are all highly memorable with the rival “Star Wolf” team making for a fun counterpart, especially when both teams get to square off in a massive dogfight, which depending on the route taken you get to play twice as the defeated team return sporting cool looking cybernetic upgrades.
Outside of the campaign there are is a fun multiplayer mode with the option available for four player split screen as players can battle out in a point match were you have to shoot down your opponent a set amount of times. Battle Royale where the last player standing winds, aswell as a time trail based around destroying enemy fighters. While initially locked to the use of the Arwing, by earining medals in the campaign players can unlock the Landmaster tank aswell as the ability to battle on foot while armed with a bazooka! While perhaps not as fun as the multiplayer in “Goldeneye” the idea of dogfighting against your friends still makes it a worthwhile feature, while one made unquestionably better if played against more skilled pilots.
My only real gripe with the game is how short the campaign is, something only made the more frustrating by how fun the game is making you wish that the experience would last longer. More so now that Nintendo have constantly screwed around with the format, rather than just give us more of the same in the sequels which followed. That being said this remains a great game and even if some of the graphics might not be as crisp as they once were, this remains a fantastic shoot em-up and the kind of game we sadly don’t see more of.
Title: Star Fox 64 / Lylat Wars
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Platform(s): Nintendo 64