Review by SuperSmashBro13

Reviewed: 09/19/11

A great game full of aerial action, but is it worth buying over the original?

It’s a pretty well-known fact among gamers keeping up with modern gaming technology. The 3DS’s launch titles weren’t that great. Most 3DS players are looking forward to the games Nintendo is promising for the future: Paper Mario 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 3DS, Kid Icarus: Uprising...and, for awhile, Star Fox 64 3D. Now that the last game in the list I mentioned is out, how does it fare?

Star Fox 64 3D is, as its name implies, a remake of Star Fox 64 (which was, in turn, a remake of the original Star Fox. Yes. This game is a remake of a remake). The 3DS’s visual technology naturally brings up the question, “Now what can we make?” A Star Fox game was a no-brainer. Soaring through space with laser beams and enemy airships flying at you? Sign me up!

This review will attempt to address two questions: How does this game compare to the original Star Fox 64, and how does it fare as a game in general?

PLOT: 6/10. Anyone who’s played SF64 knows how the plot (or the lack thereof) unfolds, and there’s nothing new here in that department. All dialogue, except for a few snippets (such as Falco’s retort of “Hey, Einstein! I’m on your side!” starting with “Hey, genius!” when the developers probably realized Einstein doesn’t exist in the Lylat System), remains untouched.

The game takes place in the Lylat System, a different kind of solar system whose inhabitants are all talking animals. Some years before the start of the game, General Pepper exiled the mad monkey scientist Andross to the wasteland planet of Venom. When strange activity brewed from that planet, Pepper sent the Star Fox team, consisting of James McCloud, Peppy Hare, and Pigma Dengar to investigate. In the process, the greedy Pigma betrayed the team and got James and Peppy captured. Although Peppy barely escaped with his life, James was not so lucky. Peppy returned home to Corneria to inform James’s son Fox of his father’s death.

At the beginning of the game, Andross has built an army for himself and formally invaded the rest of the Lylat System. The last defense, Corneria, is now under attack. Pepper sends for the new Star Fox team: Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, an older Peppy Hare, and Slippy Toad. With the prototype aircraft Arwing, they’ve been hired to sweep aside Andross’s forces and confront the scientist himself in battle.

And the plot basically ends there. Depending on how you complete most stages, your seven-stage path to Venom will change. Because of this, there is no “right” way to reach Venom, although there is a canonical ending to the game. There’s a loose back-story told through all of two small paragraphs before each stage. Usually it’s “defeat the enemy bioweapon” or “don’t go flying around giant boiling stars with those Arwings we spent zillions of space bucks on!” (Alright, that last part may have been exaggerated a bit.) All in all, the story isn’t focused on much, possibly because of the way the stage system is set up.

To the best of my knowledge, all or most of the voice actors from SF64 return to reprise their roles here. The problem with that is, of course...not many people really liked the voices of the previous game. Aside from the dialogue being simplistic and kind of corny (a deliberate tactic from our beloved Shigeru Miyamoto), the voice acting actually isn’t bad if you stop to think about it. Maybe it’s Slippy sounding like a girl or Fox sounding like he’s been kicked between the legs that brings players to think the voice acting is sub-par. I believe they did fairly well given the dialogue they were supposed to speak. Still, don’t expect a whole lot in terms of character development, story, or voice acting. It’s about as basic and simple as it can get while still being able to legitimately claim it has a story.

GRAPHICS: 9/10. The first thing that will likely cross your mind on playing the first level is “Holy crap!!” The development team definitely spent a lot of work on the environments, and with the 3D effect, the feeling of immersion is only heightened. Rolling water, boiling lava, barren deserts, and frozen landscapes honestly look better than anything the Wii has to offer. It’s amazing what a simple handheld can do. Quite often, it looks like the real thing. I have to take my hat off to whoever did the graphics for this game. Great job with the environments.

But if the graphics are so sweet, why don’t I give this a 10? Notice I keep saying the environments are awesome. Everything else just hits the “pretty good” category. Character and fighter ship models are better than what you’d find on the DS, but I get the impression they don’t exactly push the 3DS to its limits, you know? Then again, the development team didn’t have all the time in the world to make everything look sharp. It’s easily forgivable, especially when you look at the landscapes again. Take any stage from SF64. Any one at all. Close your eyes. Now imagine it totally realistic. Bam! You have SF64 3D! The game frequently took stages I thought I knew and reimagined them to the point where I thought I was going through something different. You have to see it to believe it.

What really pushes the graphics rating down to a 9 is the animation. It has barely changed since SF64, which is disappointing. The ceremony bit during the end sequence should have looked great on, you know, an EIGHTH generation system, but Fox and friends still move unrealistically like their fifth generation counterparts. Maybe that was the point, but there comes a time when nostalgia turns into the perception of laziness.

SOUND AND MUSIC: 7/10. All the music has been redone, which is something I always look forward to in a remake. Even Ocarina of Time 3D didn’t do that. That said, it’s nothing mind-blowing or different from what we’ve heard. It just sounds a tad up-to-date. I even noticed the music seemed a little quiet. At times, it sounds like only two instruments are playing. The graphics may immerse you, but the music probably won’t.

I’ve covered the voices in general, but I’ll go into them a bit more here. Most of the old voice actors return (to my knowledge) to voice their own characters. Yup, it’s a whole new generation of people thinking Slippy is a girl. Sometimes I just wish they would stick with the voice actors from Assault, who were my favorite. For once, Fox didn’t sound like he’d ingested a small amount of helium.

Oh yes, when I say the dialogue and voice actors are the same, I mean EXACTLY the same. They may be rerecording the dialogue, but the voice actors try to match the original voices, right down to pitch and intonation. I find that a little irksome because now it feels forced. The first voices were a bit cheesy, but now they’re cheesy AND forced. Andross’s evil laugh is also lame. That’s just a random thought, but it is. His animation laughs about four seconds longer than his voice. It doesn’t sound intimidating anymore, either.

To sum it up, the music is pretty good, if quiet, and the voice acting is a little awkward to listen to, but on the whole everything is acceptable. Except for Andross’s laugh. You’ll know what I mean when you hear him.

GAMEPLAY: 8/10. The game has two modes of control: Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 64. If you’ve played SF64, you’ll fit right in with a couple of playthroughs. If you haven’t, the controls are a bit more confusing. More on that later.

There are fifteen stages in the game, although you’ll only play through seven at a time during Main Game. Each stage has you piloting some sort of vehicle (usually the aircraft Arwing, but twice as a Landmaster tank and once as the Blue Marine submarine) while shooting enemies in your way and dodging obstacles and fire. Further, there are two kinds of flight within Arwing stages: 3D Scroll Mode and All-Range Mode. 3D Scroll Mode is your basic rail shooter where you’re taken on a guided tour through the level. All-Range Mode allows you to fly anywhere at will in a limited circle. In general, your goal is to get from point A to point B, fight a boss, see how many points you got, and move on to the next level. Some stages are completely All-Range Mode, but all end with a boss of some sort.

After beating one level, you will be taken to the next until you reach the final stage, Venom (although the kind of stage you play on Venom will be determined by how you get there). Most levels have two different ways to beat it (one stage has three). The way you beat it determines which stage you’ll proceed to next. The “easy” way is usually by playing it simple, beating the primary boss, and leaving. The “hard” way is often something different each time. It could be earning a certain number of points by shooting down enemies and bosses. Could be finding an alternate path during the level. Could be defeating all the enemies within the time limit. Essentially, the “easy” path goes up the right side of the Lylat System while the “hard” path goes up the left. After you beat a stage in the Main Game, you can play it again in Score Attack, but you can’t unlock any additional levels that way. Most stages don’t last much longer than several minutes, so if you know what you’re doing and you don’t die repeatedly, you can easily beat the game in under an hour. Hey, no Star Fox game has ever been long.

To avoid being shot down (or dying in some other manner), you must master the vehicle you’re controlling. The Arwing can barrel roll to repel enemy fire, and it can also perform loops and U-turns at certain times. Early stages won’t present much of a threat, but it gets pretty challenging later on. Both airborne enemies and natural obstacles can hinder you equally as well, so master those controls.

By the way, Star Fox is a team, so it’s not just you. Your three other failures...I mean, partners must be taken care of. No, they’re not very useful, although they can help you in subtle ways. Peppy gives (usually unneeded) advice. Slippy allows you to see the boss’s health meter if he’s present. Falco, being the ace pilot, helps shoot down obstacles you either can’t destroy or have a hard time getting to, and he also helps find an alternate path during one level. Their help would normally be appreciated, but they’re just so inept as pilots. This is one aggravation from SF64 that, sadly, wasn’t changed at all here. Scripted parts of most stages will put your comrades under fire, and if they receive too much damage, they’ll be gone for the rest of the stage and all of the next while they recover. All-Range Mode is a beast, though, since enemies can randomly tail your partners, and your partners naturally cry for your help since they seem to have forgotten how to brake or do a somersault (you’d think Peppy, at least, would listen to his own advice). It’s not uncommon to have all three of your partners ask for help one after another during an All-Range Mode level. I’m not saying they should shoot down your enemies (because that would detract from your score), but they should at least learn to fly an Arwing. Isn’t that, you know, their job?

A big new addition to Star Fox 64’s gameplay is Score Attack Mode, where you can play any stage you’ve already beaten. There are three Medals to be earned for each stage, all of them obtained by getting a certain number of points. As Score Attack is entirely for replay value, I’ll talk more about it in the appropriate section. Strangely enough, not only does Main Game have its own Medals (with only one Medal per stage), but the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 64 modes of Score Attack have separate Medals as well. I don’t know if it’s worth it, but it adds replay value if you’re interested.

Another thing touted about SF64 3D is its new Battle Mode. Most Star Fox games have had a Battle Mode of some sort, but this is the first (to my limited knowledge) to feature computer-controlled opponents. So if you have no other homo sapiens to play with, you can effectively duke it out with yourself. There is no Wi-Fi support, so unless you have friends who also have 3DSs, you’ll be playing against computers a lot. Unfortunately, Battle Mode is a bit limited, with only four stages and a handful of restrained options to go with. You can‘t even select the number of opponents. It’s a nice way to chill out and kill some time, but I think they should have expanded on it some more, especially with how much it was advertised.

REPLAY VALUE: 9/10. One of SF64 3D’s simple joys is finding all the alternate paths and exploring each new stage. Anyone who’s played SF64 pretty thoroughly will know all the secrets and likely will unlock all the stages in the minimum three playthroughs. If you’re unfamiliar with it, though, you may spend awhile toying around the stages trying to find the alternate routes. As a hint, try stages in Score Attack if you don’t want to spend so much time in the Main Game looking for secondary exits.

In Score Attack, you can replay any stage you’ve already beaten in the Main Game. As I’ve explained, there are three different Medals you can potentially earn for every level: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. You earn Medals by getting a certain number of points from shooting down enemies and defeating bosses quickly. You’re doing pretty well if you get a Silver, but getting Gold usually takes a lot of practice and strategy, such as knowing when and how to deploy Bombs. If you want to get Gold in both Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 64 Modes, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time. The Main Game has its own Medals, most of which lie somewhere between your typical Silver and Gold requirements, so strive for that as well.

After beating the Main Game once, you’ll unlock the Sound Test, where you can listen to all the music in the game. By fulfilling certain other requirements, you’ll unlock Expert Mode, a tougher variant of Nintendo 64 Mode. That, presumably, has its own Medals as well. And if you ever get bored of the campaign missions, you can cool off in the (admittedly limited) Battle Mode. Replay value is definitely one of SF64 3D’s strong points.

CONTROL EASE: 7/10. Nintendo 3DS Mode uses the 3DS’s built-in gyroscope to move around. This, according to Shigeru Miyamoto in the Iwata Asks interview, was to appease players who saw the inverted Y-axis controls differently than he did. To turn the Arwing, you physically move the 3DS. I’ll admit that this makes the game more immersing, but at the same time, it’s difficult to get used to. I’ve heard people say they like to combine the gyroscope and Circle Pad controls by using the gyroscope to move up and down and the Circle Pad to turn left and right, but...that doesn’t make sense to me. If I’m going to use the Circle Pad to move at all, I’m naturally tempted to use it all the time. The same goes for the gyroscope. Whatever works for you, I guess. Funnily enough, you can turn the gyroscope controls off anytime, which kind of defeats the whole point of 3DS Mode. If you’re that concerned about the Y-axis, though, you can invert and revert it on the pause screen at will. There’s a solution for everybody.

Complications will arise even if you are using Nintendo 64 Mode. I wasted a lot of Bombs thinking I was hitting the boost button quite a few times. Since performing somersaults and U-turns is also activated by boosting and moving the Circle Pad up or down, it’s easy to accidentally somersault when all you meant to do was boost and fly up. As far as I know, you can’t turn those settings off, so it’s sink or swim.

It’s also kind of funny how the Touch Screen was a big deal for the DS, but its use is almost nonexistent in SF64 3D. You can select a few options and receive incoming messages with it, but that’s all.

GAME LENGTH: 6/10. As I said earlier, if you know what you’re doing, you can easily beat this game in about forty-five minutes or less. The true charm of the game comes in its immense replay value, but the Main Game itself is incredibly short. How long you stay attached to setting records and shooting computer players determines the real game length. I do wish future Star Fox games would put a greater emphasis on story and length, though. I don’t think Star Fox has ever really experienced a deep story before.

TOTAL SCORE: 52/70. That’s an average score of 7.43. A little less than my GameFAQs review rating, but fairly accurate.

FLAWS: The game’s story mode is very short, and the story itself is lacking. The controls can be a bit hard to grasp at first, especially for those new to the series. While the environments are very pretty, everything else is merely “pretty good,” and the animation is sub-par. The dialogue has not been changed from its simplistic and cliche origins. Your partners still tend to be headaches, and the “new” Battle Mode is pretty limited and doesn’t even feature Wi-Fi.

CONCLUSION: I always ask myself one question when I see a new remake: Is it worth owning even if I have the original? For the most part, I say no with SF64 3D. Yes, it embellishes on the original and enhances the experience, and it even throws a handful of new modes and features in. At the same time, it’s nothing, well...mind-blowing. There’s nothing that leapt out at me while playing it, nothing that made me say, “Wow, this is way better than the original!” It’s the same game you know and hopefully love if you played it, just updated with some of the kinks ironed out. I consider it more like the Companion Guide to Star Fox 64. If you’re a diehard fan of the series, of SF64 in general, or just want something more substantial from SF64, this is definitely the game to get. If you’re none of those things, I would suggest passing this one up if you own the original and waiting for the next big 3DS game to hit the market.

Even so, this is a great game. Barrel rolling through hordes of enemies and narrowly dodging trap pillars in an ancient temple is fun stuff. Score Attack really adds replayability to the game, and the awesome environments and cool stereoscopic 3D make the game so pretty to look at. If you don’t own SF64 but you do own a 3DS, this is a great game to add to your collection. If you’re unfamiliar with how Star Fox works, watch a few videos online to get a good idea. Since there’s not much of a plot, you won’t spoil too much by watching the later stages in the game, such as Titania and Area 6, which are good examples of the more challenging levels.

To sum the whole review up, this is a good game to buy, especially if you like setting and breaking records. Since the stages are pretty short, you won’t feel like you’ve thrown a whole lot of your time away if you don’t meet the mark you wanted. If you own the original in some format, there isn’t much reason to buy this in addition to it. But hey, to each his own. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in it even if you do get it alongside the original.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Star Fox 64 3D (US, 09/09/11)

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