It's a strange juxtaposition that Nintendo is showcasing the cutting-edge tech of the 3DS by relying heavily on remakes of old Nintendo 64 games. Earlier this summer, we were treated to a remastered edition of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and now Nintendo is going back to the nostalgia well with Star Fox 64 3D. While the core game is just as entertaining as it was nearly 15 years ago, the few included new features fall flat, and the lack of new content makes this a ho-hum remake. It's tough to ask someone to pay $40 to do all the same barrel rolls they've already done hundreds of times before.
The stages, bosses, obstacles and enemy placements in the 3DS version of Star Fox are identical to its predecessor, but upgraded with a new coat of paint. The enhanced processing power of the 3DS has allowed Nintendo to smooth out textures and add more detail, bringing new life to the worlds. The enhancements really showcase the volatility of nature on the planets of the Lylat system, with the roiling seas of Zoness and the fiery flares of Solar convincing you that it's not just enemy ships that stand against you, but also the very planets themselves. One of the game's more impressive feats is managing to throw all sorts of action on-screen at once without seeing performance suffer one bit.
From a purely action standpoint, Star Fox remains the gold standard in on-rails shooters. Enemy attacks come fast and furious, and the 3-D effect makes the bombardment of lasers and energy blasts all the more intense. I distinctly remember being able to breeze through almost any stage on the original Star Fox 64 while easily nabbing gold medals and coming out with nary a scratch on my ship. The interceding decade and a half has been unkind to both my reflexes and my memory, though, as I found myself nearly overwhelmed on more than one occasion. Even though the game has been shrunk to fit the small screen, it still hasn't lost its pulse-pounding pace.
So far, I've basically been talking about all the things that made this game great in 1997 (minus the 3-D effect), but why should gamers care about the title now? That question is harder to answer and ultimately demonstrates why this game isn't the 3DS' long-awaited killer app.
As with many other titles released on the 3DS, Star Fox features optional gyro controls. Also, just as with every other game that utilizes them, you'll want to turn them off right away in order to actually play the game. Tilting and turning the 3DS is a fun novelty, but it's far too imprecise a control scheme to work on a game that puts so much emphasis on pinpoint accuracy and twitch reflexes. Also, moving the 3DS completely wrecks the 3-D effect, so using the gyroscope forces you to trade one of the game's worst features for one of its best. It's not a fair exchange in the slightest.
Star Fox also misses a major opportunity with multiplayer, eschewing online play for local-only affairs. In a world where most of our games are played online, Nintendo's stubborn insistence on forcing players to be in a room together borders on tragically nostalgic. Part of this is attributable to Japanese culture and the fact that lots of gamers tend to congregate on subways or in other areas to play with others, but American audiences all but require online play in order to enjoy multiplayer. What could have been the game's marquee feature instead winds up as little more than a marketing bullet point on the box.
The game's greatest sin is the lack of anything new that would compel users to buy a game they already probably played to death a long time ago. As mentioned before, everything about the game's stages is identical to the original, so why buy it again? Is it really too much to ask for Nintendo to scrounge up a couple of new levels or a mode we haven't seen before just so we're not paying for the same game twice?
When you get down to it, Star Fox 64 3D is the very definition of cashing in. Nintendo took an old game, upgraded the graphics, added some useless "features" and then put it on the market for full price. The thing is, the original game is so good that every gamer should experience it. Star Fox was a groundbreaking title in its day, and the core gameplay still holds up to this day. If you've never played this title before, then the 3DS offers the best version of the game, but anyone who's already saved Slippy (or let him die) more times than you can count and explored every nook and cranny of the Lylat system may as well stay retired. Much like Peppy, we're all getting a little too old for this nonsense.
More articles about Star Fox 64 3D