While the Star Fox franchise is ostensibly about being a fox and flying amongst the stars – or indeed being a star pilot – the upcoming Star Fox game is also set to be one of the last few games to push the capabilities of the dual screen home console. In fact, with Star Fox Guard appearing alongside Star Fox Zero, it features two distinct new proof-of-concpet games for Nintendo’s fading console. Beginning life as Project Guard, Shigeru Miyamoto has crafted a unique tower defence experience in the Star Fox universe – and it’s one that would be hard to replicate anywhere else.
You’re cast as an underling of Grippy Toad, the Uncle of fan…erm, less than favourite, Slippy. He’s the head honcho of Corneria Precious Metals Ltd., and as his defence specialist you’re charged with protecting his precious metal mining bases. Protect it you will, as you’re beset by metal-rustlin robots, whose only function is to get into your base!
The standard base on Corneria features six entrances through which potential transgressors might arrive, and you’re gifted twelve security cameras fitted with laser cannons to take them out. The TV screen features all twelve of these camera feeds, while the Gamepad screen shows the base from above, and each of the numbered camera positions.
You can take control of any of the feeds by tapping the corresponding number on the touchscreen, before aiming with the analogue sticks and letting rip with the laser via a face button. Every round begins by letting you prepare, allowing you to position the cameras in a meaningful fashion so you have the best coverage for catching those rascally robots. You can even move them about in the heat of battle, though doing so will invariably take your eyes away from the main screen.
Combat Class bots attack your tower straight away, and if left to reach them will cause untold damage. Chaos Class bots meanwhile are designed to cause distractions and cause disruption, messing with your cameras and taking your attention away from the lethal bots that will undoubtedly be following in their wake. If you’re not sure which does what, there’s a helpful Robot Encyclopedia that you can peruse at your leisure.
Destroying Combat Class bots nets you points, with more points awarded the higher their level. Successfully completing a mission sees another toad appear, the mechanical Re:bot, who hops about the level picking up the remains of all the robots you’ve destroyed, adding to your tally, which in turn contributes to your rank that steadily increases as you progress, in turn unlocking “cool” stuff . You can even have a look at what unlockables are coming up with the rank tracker, tempting you into one more game. Or seven.
Right from the off, combat is frantic, and there’s a real sense of danger and high pressure watchfulness that I hadn’t really expected. I thought that I’d be able to simply watch the bottom screen for the telltale bots appearing, but the TV camera’s field of vision is much further than the bottom screen’s readout. Gameplay becomes an interesting mix of trying to watch 12 screens at once, while frantically tapping away at the touchscreen, before then trying to take the bots down. In our brief hands-on it really worked and was immediately compelling.
Each stage also has additional missions that can’t be undertaken until you’re a specific level so there will be reasons to return to each of them a number of times during your playthrough. Extra longevity is also be added by the game’s online functionality, whereby you can create a custom squad of robots which is then uploaded for other players to test their mettle against. You in turn can download other player’s squads, with your online battle ranking affected by your wins and losses.
Star Fox Guard looks to be an enjoyable distraction for those playing the main game, as well as being a worthwhile addition to the eShop in its own right. It certainly makes good use of the Wii U’s atypical talents, and I can see plenty of people being drawn in to stop those metal rustlin’ robots when it releases alongside Star Fox Zero later this month.