‘Star Fox Zero’ doesn’t live up to predecessors

Brian O'Kelly

“Star Fox Zero” could easily be confused as a modern remake of 1997 classic, “Star Fox 64.” The game features the same antagonist, locations, bosses and cheesy dialogue the original did, making the sequel a nostalgic experience but not one worth the long wait.

“Star Fox Zero” can be bold — just not in the way fans might have been hoping for. Taking a risk by implementing a nontraditional control scheme, Nintendo developed the game with the Wii U’s unique hardware in mind. Utilizing the Wii U GamePad’s second screen as a first-person cockpit view, the new control scheme radically changes how the game is played. In theory, this combination of merging the third-person view with a first-person GamePad would create a highly immersive and precise control scheme, but the controls are tolerable at best.

This unconventional control scheme works well for some segments of the game. During the on-the-rails parts, when controlling your Arwing’s movements is less demanding, using the GamePad to shoot adds a level of precision to combat that just didn’t exist in the previous games. Rather than having to align your ship to move your line of fire, players can utilize the GamePad’s gyroscope to aim anywhere in their field of view.

This quickly becomes a double-edged sword when entering off-rail segments, where players have to split their focus between the TV and GamePad to properly play. While the controls are never so clunky that the game becomes unplayable, they never feel as natural or comfortable as they did in “Star Fox 64.” Nintendo should have poured more time into making “Zero” distinct from its predecessors rather than playing around with an already solid control scheme.

However, even when the player gets to a point where they can look past the controls, they are likely to be disappointed with what they find. New mid-game transformations have been added, letting players switch piloting from an Arwing to a walking ship, but none of these transformations do an adequate job distinguishing themselves. These transformations seem to have been implemented solely for the purpose of doing something different with little thought on how to shake up the series’ gameplay in a fresh, exciting way.

Another new feature in the game is a hovercraft used in stealth segments of the games. There is little to say about the hovercraft segments other than they are highly tedious and seem like they were placed in the game purely to showcase the Wii U’s gyroscope. They are mundane and slow, which is out of place for a game about fast, extreme combat.

The game’s best aspects come from its aesthetic design, which is cohesive and boasts sophisticated visuals that range from the vast void of space to futuristic cities with cyan skies. The art elements of “Zero” echo the lasers, radiant stars and explosions seen in “Star Wars” films. The sound effects and grand musical score blend together to immerse the player in epic space combat, heightening the impact of the game’s more dramatic moments.

“Star Fox Zero” is an uneven tech demo crafted to showcase the hardware of a console that is already at the end of its life. Even with its clumsy, unnecessary control features out of the picture, the game simply doesn’t live up to its beloved predecessors.

Title: “Star Fox Zero”

  • Genre: Scrolling Shooter
  • Rating: E
  • Score: 3/5 stars