The year is 1997. My 14yr old self had demolished Super Mario 64, gathering all 120 stars and finding Yoshi, and was looking for a new challenge. This is where Star Fox 64 came in. A flight combat game, it featured amazing graphics, epic battles and an odd device called a ‘Rumble Pak’ (surely that’ll never catch on?). In short it was yet another reason why there were no regrets for purchasing an N64 over a PlayStation.
The news of a 3DS remake left me with mixed reactions. On one hand I was thrilled at the thought of being able to once again take control of Fox McCloud, blasting through the Lylat System, but there’s always the niggling worry that perhaps those “epic battles” weren’t actually that epic, and the whole thing would tarnish the memory of a much loved franchise. Well, let’s find out.
For those who missed out on the N64 experience (shame on you) the game puts you in the boots of Fox McCloud, leader of the Star Fox team and Arwing starfighter pilot extraordinaire. Whilst cruising through space (as one does) Fox receives an urgent message asking for assistance; his old enemy, Andross, has declared war on the Lylat System. As old school stories go it is serviceable, providing a nice transition from level to level, just don’t go expecting an in-depth masterpiece.
The first thing fans of the original will notice is just how nice everything looks. Whilst some textures betray the game’s N64 origin, for the most part the upgrade has been well worth it, with levels such as Zoness looking spectacular. The 3D has been done well too; never particularly strong, but very effective in certain situations such as enemies appearing behind you, and when you do a U-turn.
Another new feature for the 3DS version of the game is gyro controls. This has been plugged heavily by Nintendo, and it allows you to pilot the Arwing by tilting the 3DS. In all honesty I wasn’t overly keen on using the gyro, even with the special 3DS mode that apparently balances the game to take the controls into account. With that in mind I headed into the N64 mode.
This mode uses the Circle Pad control scheme, and it’s pleasing to report that it’s as smooth as silk and an absolute joy to use. In no time I was flinging the Arwing all over the place, doing barrel rolls, U-turns, loops and tight left/right turns.
In terms of attack, you start off with your bog standard laser, which can be upgraded by collecting icons throughout a level. You can also do a charged shot, which locks onto a target, and if you place it correctly it’ll take down multiple enemies, which will earn you more points. Then there’s your bomb, which is pretty self-explanatory.
All 14 levels from the original game are present and correct, although you’ll never play through them all in one game. This is because key levels feature split paths. An example of this would be the very first level. By completing a certain set of actions your team mate, Falco, will lead you off the main path to fight a boss, and after you defeat it you’ll head off to a new planet.
However, if you don’t manage to get Falco’s attention you will complete the level as normal, and set off to traverse an asteroid field. It’s a good system, and one that positively demands that you replay the game several times.
It’s amazing that after all these years the level design has held up so well. Each one is packed full of tense battles, secrets, and enough fodder to keep even the most trigger happy of people busy. There’s plenty of variety too, with some levels being on rails, whilst others take a more free-roaming approach and allow you to fly anywhere in a set area.
You aren’t restricted to just your Arwing either, as there will be times you’ll need to explore the depths in the Blue-Marine sub, and pound the enemy troops with the Landmaster tank. Each new vehicle handles very differently to the Arwing, and comes with its own special weapons and abilities.
The only real downside is the fact that the game is so short, and perhaps relies a bit too much on the idea that you’ll be going back to the Score Attack mode to try and earn medals. Score Attack is enjoyable though, and getting gold on every level will take some doing.
There’s also the multiplayer to consider, although it’s here where the biggest gripe occurs. Why oh why wasn’t online multiplayer included? Star Fox is absolutely begging for this feature, and it is actually a sin (I’ve checked the Bible) that it isn’t there. There seems to be some sort of aversion to including online components in 3DS games.
Instead of online there is a local multiplayer mode, allowing you and up to three other friends to partake in a bit of aerial dogfighting. However, I don’t HAVE three other 3DS owning friends, rendering this pointless. You can play against bots, and in all honesty it’s quite good fun, but you’re constantly thinking of the missed opportunity.
- Looks great.
- Effective use of 3D.
- Circle Pad control scheme is a joy.
- Level design is still top notch.
- Multiple vehicles.
- Multiple routes to find.
- You’ll want to return to chase those medals.
- Local multiplayer has the potential to be great.
- No online multiplayer.
- A few more levels would have been great.
Star Fox 64 3D is a great reminder why, for all these years, fans have been crying out for a new (proper) entry into the series. It remains a great game, which looks fantastic and plays just as well. However, the decision not to include online multiplayer, which would have boosted the game’s longevity substantially, is baffling.
Yes, the game is good, but it could have been so much better.