For a while now, StarFox Zero has been one of Nintendo’s most highly anticipated games. After all, it’s generated a lot of nostalgic buzz with players who grew up with it, and last E3 it became an instant phenomenon following its announcement in the Nintendo Direct special. So now that it’s here, we can all bask in its old-school glory, right?
Well, not quite. While the game definitely has its heart in the right place and looks like one of the best Wii U releases to date, there’s one significant hump that needs to be gotten over – the combination of analog and motion controls.
See, it’s confusing. Usually, a game relies on either one or the other in order to operate with efficiency, giving the player the best option for their play style. But StarFox Zero, oddly enough, requires both. Players will use the analog stick to fly around in a stage, while the motion controls enable them to use precision aiming, with the help of the secondary screen on the GamePad.
According to Nintendo, these two are supposed to co-exist to give you the most comprehensive control in a StarFox game to date. And yet, I can’t help but feel it’s conflicting. Not enough that you won’t get some enjoyment out of the game – it just feels like it’s an incredibly large wall to climb over, when Nintendo could’ve easily gone around and just say, “You know, we could just make it an option.”
See, Rodea the Sky Soldier made a similar mistake when it was introduced last year, taking away the Wii controls that made the original game so appealing in favor of a touch-screen system that simply doesn’t work at all. StarFox works on some level, but not nearly as smoothly as it could be. As a result, you’re likely to make mistakes often, especially when you’re introduced to the walker vehicle, which has the iffiest controls in the game. We’re talking about struggling with just turning, folks.
That’s a shame, because vehicle variety goes a long way here. Along with the Arwing and the Landmaster tank, you’ll also get access to a gyrocopter for stealth missions (which aren’t as bad as you think), as well as the walker (which, well, is). It’s a decent variety, mixed up with plenty of enemies to challenge you at every corner, but the lack of a solid control scheme is going to be a turn-off for some.
What’s more, when you head into All-Range mode with the Arwing, the controls flip around almost completely, so that you have to use the GamePad in order to get around the right way. It’s a headache that shouldn’t be taking place.
The rest of the game comes together pretty well. Platinum Games did a bang-up job on the visuals, bringing some stellar space worlds to life as Fox and his crew fly through them with ease. The characters look great, the Arwings are beautifully animated, and the frame rate barely dips. The music, too, is a treat to listen to, and the voicework is about on par with what you’d expect from a StarFox game – i.e. Slippy sounds useless, Falco is cocky, etc.
There’s also a secondary game thrown into the package, StarFox Guard. This is a game in which you have to man a station and use tower-defense style systems to keep enemies at bay. It’s an interesting diversion, but it’s not one that will stay with you for long. After all, this is a StarFox series, and you want to fly through space and shoot stuff – not defend a base with Slippy, of all characters.
StarFox Zero hits and misses at the same time, a rarity for Nintendo considering the roll that it’s been on. While I enjoy the presentation, the boss battles and the new vehicles, the controls have a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” combination that requires a lot of practice to get the hang of. Nintendo needs to patch in some solution so that players won’t give up on this game, because, honestly, it does NOT need to bow out like this. I want to see the saga continue, and with the controls that I remember growing up with.