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Star Fox Zero

Platform(s): WiiU
Genre: Action
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: April 22, 2016


Wii U Preview - 'Star Fox Zero'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 7, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Falco, Fox, Peppy and Slippy save the Lylat system in this deep space dogfighting adventure.

Star Fox has been an awkward franchise in recent years. It feels like Nintendo has tried everything under the sun except a traditional rail shooter. It's understandable to some degree since the original games were incredibly short — you could complete Star Fox 64 in a half hour, though it was meant to be replayed many times. Thankfully, Star Fox Zero looks like a return to form and is, in many ways, the sequel that many fans have been awaiting.

As with the previous games in the series, the gameplay is divided into two types: Rail Shooter mode and All-Range mode. Rail Shooter mode is classic on-rails gameplay. Once you hit a major battle, the Star Fox team swaps to All-Range mode, which changes the game to a full 360 degrees of movement. The controls are identical between the two modes, except that the U-turn move is enabled. Anyone who played Star Fox 64 will feel right at home here.

The biggest change to Star Fox Zero is the new emphasis on the GamePad. Rather than the static cursor of the previous games, the GamePad's built-in gyro controller allows you to precisely aim by moving the pad. Star Fox will always aim his lasers roughly in front of his jet's nose. For larger enemies, this is generally all you need, especially with the charge shot, but some enemies are not so easily damaged. In the demo, we encountered walking spider tanks with glowing red weak points that were otherwise invulnerable. In this situation, the GamePad displays a cockpit view with crosshairs that make it easy to aim and target. Rather than swapping between two views, you change where your eyes are looking.

You don't use the GamePad controls constantly, but you can switch to them when you need to be precise and quickly look back at the screen once you're done. It feels like a natural part of the gameplay, and the added precision makes certain segments more fun. It's also semi-optional. You aim using the gyros regardless of what you do, so you can hit the target without looking down the scope.

Your Arwing in Star Fox Zero also comes with a new ability. At any time, you can transform from jet into a walking robot. The Walker is still very similar to a basic jet: You've got lasers, you can do a barrel roll, and the controls feel very familiar. However, instead of flying, you walk around with more tank-like controls than jet controls. The transformation between forms is almost instant and can be done at any time.

The ability to transform from jet to Walker offers some interesting potential. It allows you to stop, which is more significant than it sounds, especially in All-Range mode. You can take advantage of the Walker transformation to lay down focused fire on small targets rather than trying to hit them as you fly past. The Walker transformation is also a great hard stop, so you can brake, reposition yourself, and transform back to a jet. Sometimes, it provides greater movement precision than the somersault or U-turn.

The Walker also offers an easy way to fit into gaps. There are several small caves and overhangs that a jet fighter can technically fit through, but a Walker can fit through more easily. The boss fight in the demo actually requires this. Once you blow a hole in the giant carrier that is attacking Corneria, you'll be able to fly into it. Try to fly inside, and you'll be quickly crushed by the tight interiors of the ship. Transform into a Walker, and you can stroll down the hallway, find the engine, and blow it to pieces.

We only got a chance to play the opening level of Star Fox Zero at E3 2015, but what we saw looked great. Star Fox Zero is an incredibly straightforward attempt to make a sequel to Star Fox 64. The same feel, characters and general tone are all present. The new features fit surprisingly well and don't feel as distracting or intrusive as the on-foot segments in most of the post-64 era games. Fans who've long awaited a true sequel to Star Fox 64 may finally have the game they've been hoping for. Star Fox Zero is due later this year exclusively for the Wii U.

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