NS Review – Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

Enter Star Wars paraphernalia. It’s everywhere nowadays. Stormtrooper this, Wookie that, Darth Vader something else, R2-D… honestly? I’m probably in the minority of Science fiction fans who prefers their galactic escapism completely void of Jedi mind tricks. So it baffles me why I’ve always had a soft spot for the likes of Bucky O’Hare and the to be more back on topic here – Star Fox series. Perhaps it’s the anthropomorphic aficionado in me just waiting to bust out of its 2001 monolith closet willing an able to shield me from all of the glaring homages.


Enter Wii U. Enter 2016. Enter series instalment number six. Enter Star Fox Zero. Enter GamePad controls.


NS Review - Star Fox Zero (Wii U) 02

BLAMMO! Right in the er… soft underbelly?


That’s right, although Zero stays true to its original on-the-rails-ish spacecraft shoot ’em up canon, prepare to get inundated and or infatuated with the dual screen unison it strives to immerse you with. I’m not saying just because they invented it that every piece of software created for the Wii U demands GamePad sorcery. However, I’m rather chuffed to report this one has the guts to make it near enough a necessity whilst Bucky O’Hare-ing bucking the all too familiar afterthought trend. Enter trust.


Zipping up once again into the fur of Arwing pilot Fox McCloud it’s your task to save the fictional Lylat System from some very disgruntled primates with the help of your Cornerian pals. This is done from multiple perspectives, none of which requiring your alias to stand up straight. First and foremost you have the SNES era staple third-person viewpoint plopping you behind your craft, the right-in-the-thick-of-it cockpit view and a rather disorientating at first to control ‘Action view’ – this operates very similar to any 3D game with a camera lock-on enemy mechanic. Two of these viewpoints will always be streaming simultaneously during each level and it’s up to you where to focus and when to blink. Now, all of this does seem to come across as quite daunting and believe me there’s certainly some practise makes perfect to digest (and that’s what training mode’s for). But yet, to truly embrace what the developers have harnessed try your darnedest not to resist the action angles on offer because once it all clicks it’s a testament to why this game exists.


Enter example. Imagine you’ve just torn your way through a shed load of oppressive mighty laser cannon toting space frigates in Sector B (which is an exhilarating venture in itself). Only to be now sprung upon by heckling space mercenaries. You’re in control of your own live broadcast of the scenario; Firstly you could lock-on with the Action view to take stock of the situation whilst barrel rollin’ off their attacks. Next you take a chance to somersault for the dogfight advantage in third-person. Lastly snapping your retinas to the GamePad (or telly depending on your viewpoint setup) to hammer in some finesse’d blasts upon their pesky hides making them regret everything they just unjustly blurted. Aaand scene! Enter smug satisfaction.


NS Review - Star Fox Zero (Wii U) 01

“What does the Fox say? Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!”


True to the series the main story is a short arcade style two to five hour blast through with repeat plays stemming from the branching paths leading you and your team from start to finish. From the Corneria opening I counted nineteen different dot-to-dot variants which you can navigate to the finale via. If your observant enough you will eventually discover them all on subsequent plays. The level design offers up a pleasant mix of space and planetary locales, set pieces and epic boss bouts all worth investing in. My particular favourite being a rather heart pounding escort level where you’re tasked with not only disarming three gargantuan missiles beelining for a warp hole against the clock, but also protecting the Great Fox (your team’s space shuttle of operations) from armour sapping tic like drones all whilst being badgered yourself by minor enemy attacks. Enter tension. There really isn’t a dull moment to be had in any level with Platinum Games and Nintendo unquestionably pushing the cinematic appeal of the franchise. The same can be said about the sound design and orchestration. I have been fortunate enough to experience it with a subwoofer whomped 5.1 surround so I really felt every thundering heavy cannoned beam near miss complimented by the Wii U GamePad’s desperate Arwing warning bleeps. Not forgetting the character specific fanfares and static infused quotable remarks from Peppy and the gang, “Do a barr…” Enter quote temptation resistance. A stellar job all-round making smart use of every available audio output.


What exactly do you pilot this time? Using a rather odd at first to handle curious button layout each craft roughly manoeuvres the same. The analogue sticks are mapped to trajectory and movement with the motion controls being at the root of aiming reticle precision (can be turned off though mind you). Each also have an alternate ‘transformation’, the Arwing rejigs itself with a touch of a button into its land based Walker alternative adept for claustrophobic surroundings. The returning Star Fox 64 Landmaster (tank) now has a temporary airborne Gravmaster mode. Whereas the new sluggish Gyromaster entry (the hover-ish type one) can birth a chirpy lil’ robot fella to help you manipulate enemies and the environment to your battlefield favour. Yet again the make-believe machinery assortment on offer manufactures every set piece to be refreshing enough to warrant revisits. Enter “just one more go!”


The genuine aura this title protrudes practically gags for you to continuously replay and perfect it. If the main story branching paths and varying ways to eliminate bosses weren’t enough of a hint, then there are also the hidden medals to be earned, time and hit highscore personal bests to be trouncin’ – if of course you can weather the eleventh to twenty seventh time you’re prompted to use your motion controls by Mr. Furry, Feathery and Slimy that is! I for one have embraced their charismatic banter now, even mimicking them in true YouTube jungle remix fashion, “No-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-not you too fox!” The post to Miiverse option crops up a surprising amount compensating for the lack of online leaderboard functionality, shame, but hey-ho that’s Ninten-do! As for the co-op mode available within each level, it’s an a-okay jaunt nothing too fancy. One player does just the gyro shooting whilst the other does the piloting and analogue shooting. It creates a kind of quasi head-to-head, but really you’re both just blasting towards a joint objective. Unfortunately the GamePad player gets the sore end of the deal due to not having direct control of their orientation. Enter post retch GamePad screen clean-up.


NS Review - Star Fox Zero (Wii U) 03

Fox me once, shame on you; fox me twice, shame on me!


Star Fox Zero is Starwing Star Fox rebooted for the Wii U GamePad generation. If you can barrel roll with it playa, you’re going to have some serious arcade fun here absolutely no doubt, I know I have and still am pursuing my highscore personal bests a week later. However, if you have zero tolerance for that concept then it is probably better you stick to the Lylat wars of yesteryear due to the fact you will be expected to manage multiple perspectives in some of the more pivotal narrative moments. From start to finish and beyond it’s an experience all about growing accustomed to the control scheme and the historically often forgotten about second screen. Don’t be ashamed to sink some time into the training mode and if you find yourself continuously firing up that particular Floatilla boss mission to shave off just a few more precious seconds then you’ve probably fully grasped the delectable meat of the package. It could be considered a misstep bypassing a competitive multiplayer all together, but if you love yourself some highscore braggin’ rights Miiverse has got you covered.


So, can a lover and loather of Star Wars put aside their differences and enjoy Star Fox Zero in both equal measures? Well, if they both share a mutual respect for shoot ’em up game design that utilises the canny usage of two video outputs and even more audio outputs within a critter heavy Sci-Fi setting, then yessiree I think they can! Enter controversy.


Star Fox Zero & Star Fox Guard (which Conor has reviewed here!) will be released worldwide this week Friday (22/04/16) available in both disc and digital eShop formats. This Nintendo Scene Review wouldn’t have been made possible without press copies kindly provided courtesy of Nintendo UK.


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