Star Fox Zero was a good game. I think it’s going to age well.


#1

Earlier last week, I did a run of Star Fox 64 for the first time in over a year and had a great time. So I decided to go ahead and give Star Fox Zero another play to see how it aged and whether I would enjoy the game with a hindsight perspective knowing about its poor reception and heavy reliance on the two screen concept that seemed to have sunk the Wii U.

And I have to say, it’s actually an amazing game. The critics and general population just misunderstood it. The gyro controls work rather well despite what people would have you believe.

In many ways, the game plays like an on-rails version of Splatoon with its gyro aiming. And now that I have become used to gyro-assisted aiming for the past few years, the game really feels “tighter” and there is less to manage from a mental standpoint.

Dogfights with Star Wolf in all range mode feel a bit disorienting, but it’s by design. Tracking your enemy and trying to flank them while they do the same to you feels genuinely exciting.

Using the Gamepad just to occasionally snipe while strafing around targets now feels like second nature. And the level design is actually pretty great. It’s refreshing to have a modern cinematic video game with an arcade focus on racking up high scores for a change.

And the graphics are kind of like a modern take on the N64 visual style. It’s kind of like modern pixel art, but instead of referencing the 8bit or 16bit eras, they focus on the N64 with some added lighting. The look feels very clean. And the framerate feels solid.

When it released, I think people were really down on Nintendo that year. The Wii U was not getting many games from Nintendo anymore as development resources shifted, the Switch reveal was still about 5 months away and nobody knew what to think, Nintendo was radio silent about Zelda which suffered another delay, and then they had just revealed that Zelda would be the only game they show at E3.

I also think that players were trying too hard to use both screens to play Star Fox Zero rather than just relying on the 3rd person viewpoint for 80% of the game and then looking to the Gamepad as needed, resulting in a rather disorienting experience. People just seemed “done” with the Gamepad concept and Nintendo in general and as a result, Star Fox Zero got a very bad rep.

Sure, it’s not as mind blowing for it’s time as Star Fox and Star Fox 64 were for their times. But it’s still a really great game that plays well and is filled with an old school Nintendo charm that is rarely seen in action games today. It’s a bummer that reviewers panned it so hard.

It’s a solid 8.5/10 title. And the two-screen concept works and adds to the experience in my humble opinion. The Wii U Gamepad still feels like a device from the future. And in some ways, the Switch is a step backwards from it. And I think Star Fox Zero illustrates this with its two-screen-action setup.


#2

Thanks for this write up - you make me want to give it another go. I played very briefly then got busy with life, so I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t really grab my attention at the time.


#3

I also really really enjoyed the game and my only downside with it was related to story flow (how you just go all the way from one side of the system to the other near the end at one point of the game when previously it felt like you were battling your way across they system). I also unironically loved the controls so was constantly surprised at how much shit the game caught all around. It is definitely one of the must own WiiU games and one of the things that makes it so great for me is something that will not be able to be utilized in remasters/on other systems.

It’s not even like I’m some Star Fox/Nintendo superfan that will defend anything they do either. Game was great for me. Thanks for the write up.


#4

Thanks for mentioning this. I thought I was taking crazy pills but glad I’m not alone in thinking this.


#5

Same, why I never bring it up. Not that there wasn’t an issue with it desyncing, but it wasn’t that big of a deal to me.


#6

I think you hit the nail on the head explaining why it didn’t get a fair shake at release. A lot of it is circumstantial around the time, and I’m sure some of that revolves around the new friction that comes from learning wholly new control schemes in today’s world of unlimited entertainment options.

The level design being good pleases me. But I do have one question. I sighed when I saw footage in the run up to release where the alternate paths looked shoehorned in (I think there were warp gates). I’m guessing the branching options aren’t handled as organically as Star Fox 64?

This thread has reminded me that I have a copy of this sitting around which I haven’t played yet. I also want to try Star Fox Guard - that also seems like an interesting experimental game!

Paper Mario Color Splash is another game which I think will age well. I really like it and still find it is, most of the time, a very entertaining and interesting adventure game with a great risk-reward battle system. But because Nintendo doubled down on trying to make a new formula for the series work many didn’t give it a fair shake or dismissed it without thinking why things were designed the way they are.

There’s also Code Name: STEAM, which is a fantastic strategy game. While I appreciate it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea many didn’t stop and think about why the game’s new approach to the genre was the way it was. In STEAM the vital resource is information. there’s intentionally no overhead map so you have to position your units - and use your Steam - in ways that give you a superior vantage point over the enemy. The developers know this and the level design is almost always excellent - there’s a castle maze, a cramped library, an open city street with multi-layered paths, an underground train station, a graveyard…but it was dismissed by many simply because it didn’t have a map even though that intentional omission made way for fascinating level design.


#7

I haven’t even opened my copy of Star Fox Zero…


#8

The first one isn’t. But most are as organic as in Star Fox 64. In fact, some are really well hidden and I only found out about them when googling to answer your question just now :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


#9

You’ll never defeat Andross!


#10

Ehhhhh. I wouldn’t be as harsh as this guy since globally I still liked Zero but I think he nails all of the major and minor issues the game has on the head

-Tying laser level to hits (instead of wing damage) and not having it carry over between levels was a really stupid idea that essentially meant you were never at full power

-Making it so you can only ever have one extra life at a time was really, really stupid.

-The focus on All-Range mode levels that don’t have much of a scoring technique to them between going out of your way to kill every enemies (on the ones that don’t have time limits) ruins the scoring aspect.

-The game is short by modern gaming standars but too long to be comfortably played in a single sitting even if you go out of your way to pick the shortest route (in which case you play through a lot of dud levels), which is never good for a game like this.

-The branching path system is handled in a very clumsy and artificial way. All of the alternate stages beside Fortuna are short and shallow, you get booted back to the main path after completing them and the two asteroid levels are boring and tedious. This makes sense where you read back some development interviews and see Miyamoto mention the game deliberatly was going to not have any alternate routes and replayability was going to come from replaying stages with different vehicles. The branching paths were implemented after the final delay, but imo they should’ve done it right or not done it at all.

-Having SF64-style shortcuts for the loop and immelman was stupid and pointless when the two actions could now simply be performed by pressing a button and it was far too easy to trigger them by accidents. Funnily this is my big issue with the controls as I didn’t mind the gyro either.

I’d still say Zero is the best of the post SF64 Star Foxes (though not that much better than Assault) but it’s very flawed.


#11

I enjoy how the game controls immensely once I got a hang of them. It’s only difficult if you are trying to micro manage two screens of if you have a massive display. The visual style and production values feel like a great successor to the n64 style that I love, and that helped it a lot in my books. I feel like it’ll visually age the best in the series from all the games released up to now. The branching paths do feel a bit shoe horned in compared to the SF64 and the above users comment about it being added late in development makes total sense to me. All in all I enjoyed it a ton but do wish they made it more score focused like SF64.


#12

There’s no question that this game had a rushed development and it shows in the final product. I actually agree with those flaws.

But I think it’s a great rail shooter regardless. And the controls worked (which was biggest complaint).

It’s not as good as Star Fox 64 but I’d say it’s in the same league and very replayable (just my humble opinion). I made the thread because I think it’s a misunderstood product, and I stand by that assessment.


#13

Wow, that’s really surprising. I guess they picked the wrong footage in that Direct - I thought they’d all be warp gates or something.

The issues highlighted by @Glowsquid are also very interesting though - for example how the alternate paths do feel clumsy on a macro level. I think I would have preferred Miyamoto’s original approach there, since what is described sounds like it would become a box-ticking exercise finding them all.


#14

I’m wondering if this could be a good one for my sons… Anyone played it 2-player? If so, how does it fare?


#15

I liked the coop a lot. Basically, one person flies on the big screen using a Wii U Pro controller, while the other person shoots using the Gamepad view with gyro controls.

It’s basically the same game otherwise.


#16

Thanks for the response, I’ll try it out with my boys and see how they like it! :slight_smile:


#17

I bought this game on clearance and have never opened it but it’s a game I really want to play!

@Peltz I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. I’m definetly going to give it a chance now.


#18

Awesome. Glad to see a few others giving it a chance.


#19

I gave this game a really legit shot. I wanted to like it so bad, appreciated the aesthetic, the music, level design, etc. But the control gimmick was driving me NUTS!


#20

You’re not alone. The reviewers and general public seemed to agree with you :man_shrugging:t2:.

Different strokes and all. All I can say is, if you’re willing, try giving it a shot without focusing too much on the Gamepad screen at all. Focus most of the attention on the main screen.

Totally understandable if you don’t like it though. There are tons of games I want to enjoy that I can’t play to save my life (racing sims, RTS, most rhythm games, most 2D fighters, and Shmups until recently).

There’s a bit of a learning curve with SF0 just like these others.