Review by discoinferno84

Reviewed: 10/17/11

Take these broken wings and learn to fly again...

Corneria is on the verge of collapse. It served as the military headquarters for decades, but any remaining remnants of its former glory are buried under rubble and cinders. The last line of defense has been breached; Andross’s forces are burning the main city to the ground. The few survivors still loyal to the army are making a hasty retreat, taking whatever can be salvaged and leaving the bodies behind. Despite all of the power and resources at his command, General Pepper is facing certain defeat. With the fate of the entire Lylat planetary system on the line, he does something he should have done ages ago and calls the Star Fox team. They’re not part of his troops – mercenary services come with a hefty price tag – but the time for practicality has long since passed. The arrangements have been made, and now all the withered old dog can do is pray that a rag-tag bunch of ace pilots can rectify his failures.

It’s kind of funny, looking back on it. Nearly all of the Cornerian army has been wiped out, yet they honestly expect four anthropomorphic fighter pilots to somehow win an entire war? General Pepper must have been desperate. Are all the other pilots in the Lylat System that inept? Such questionable logic, however, adds to the game’s charm. As Fox McCloud, you get to deal with your team’s wonderfully exaggerated personalities and cheesy lines. You’ve got Peppy’s sagely wisdom (sans the overblown accent from the original version), Falco’s rudeness and sarcasm, and Slippy’s unfaltering ability to be constantly annoying. There’s the whole subplot of Fox avenging his father and following in his footsteps, but it gets overshadowed by the unintentionally hilarious rivalry with villainous Star Wolf team and the interactions with the various NPCs. Since the dialogue that made the original Star Fox 64 so memorable remains almost completely unchanged, longtime fans are going to be in for quite a nostalgia rush.

The levels make it even better. All of the missions are back, from the Independence Day-style battle at Fichina and the asteroid belt to the ambush in Sector Z and the mind-blowingly awesomeness of Area 6. The old secret level warps and alternate pathways are waiting to be rediscovered as well. Regardless of how you approach the campaign, you’ll have one basic mission: kill any enemies in sight. It doesn’t matter how many there are; just blast as many of you can into decently-rendered shrapnel. Since all of the targets’ placements in the scrolling stages never change, it’s just a matter of playing a level enough times to memorize everything. You’ll frequently have to save your teammates from getting killed - for some reason a bunch of ace pilots are incapable of ditching a pursuing enemy without your help – which can determine the outcomes and orders of your mission. Picking up items leads to boosted health, firepower, and the overall high score. Given the increasingly fast pacing and some surprisingly challenging areas, it might take a few playthroughs before you finally master everything.

That’s especially true if you’re going for the medals. Aside from the usual goal of shooting everything that moves (including Slippy whenever possible), there are extra objectives for each mission. The game keeps track of your kill count, and will grant you one of three shiny emblems for your efforts. Others are a bit less straightforward; destroying all of the searchlights on Zoness, switching the train tracks on Macbeth, and wiping out Sector Z’s missiles are vital to your success. It’s not just for bragging rights; attaining these rewards can help determine the stages you visit, and which NPCs can provide assistance. Star Fox 64 3D takes the idea and runs with it, featuring a Score Attack mode that strictly focuses on earning awards. It’s much harder than it appears; some of the requirements for the golden medals are downright sadistic and force you to be at the top of your game. It’s a nice incentive for those who have already mastered the campaign and want to keep playing. Regardless of the fun and replayability of the missions, the Score Attack provides some much-needed longevity.

The same can’t be said for the multiplayer. Star Fox 64 allowed up to four friends to climb into the Arwings and blast each other out of the sky. Its massive maps, small assortment of items, and undeniable addictiveness made it a great experience. The updated version has all of this, and it makes a few additions. The weapons cache has been boosted to almost Mario Kart-level wackiness, ranging from cloaking devices and homing missiles to temporary shields and a fiery invincibility technique. The enemy AI isn’t so great, though; even on the highest difficulty settings, they’ll either all gang up on you or inexplicably kamikaze. Such inconsistency is unsatisfying, especially when you compare the fights to some of the more challenging ones in the regular campaign. Your best bet is play with other gamers…if you can find any. The gameplay is limited to local wireless, which severely limits its playability. Considering the connectivity and technological capability of the 3DS, the lack of an online multiplayer is a huge oversight. It’s even more aggravating if you know that the previous handheld Star Fox game – on the original DS, no less – had such features. Not only is it an obvious mistake, but it makes the game seem like a rushed and lazy port.

Instead, it focuses on the 3DS’s other abilities: motion sensing and the 3D graphics. You can choose an alternate control method that lets you steer your vehicle by moving the entire handheld as you play. It’s an interesting idea that few titles have utilized. The problem is that, despite its clever design, the motion controls are horribly impractical for this style of gameplay. When you’re blasting enemies during rail shooter-type missions, why bother steering with the screen when the default control stick is far more accurate and responsive? Immersion is good, but getting that high score is better. The game tries to make up for it by dazzling you with all kinds of visual effects. All of the stages have been redone with the new graphics, and the difference is astounding. The murky depths of Aquas are actually visible, Zoness actually looks like a polluted wasteland, and the secret warp levels are psychedelic and seizure inducing at the same time. The improved texturing of the vehicles, the fluid animations, and the slick lighting give the game a kind of polish that few other 3DS games have attained. Needless to say, Star Fox 64 has come a long way.

That doesn’t make it perfect, though. Yes, it has all of the cheesy dialog and the nostalgia-ridden levels. Sure, the secret paths and optional medal objectives add a ton of replayability. The graphics are arguably the best on the 3DS. But that doesn’t save it from its painfully obvious flaws. The inconsistent AI makes the multiplayer matches completely bizarre, and the lack of an online feature is a massive, glaring oversight. While the optional motion-based commands allow for some immersion, it’s nowhere near as practical as the superb control stick. It feels like it was tacked on to showcase the 3DS’s capabilities as opposed to being useful. Had there been more attention placed on other aspects, the game could have been one of the finest Nintendo remakes in recent memory. Star Fox 64 3D is as great as its namesake, but it could have been so much more.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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

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