Beginning life as one of Shigeru Miyamoto’s Wii U concepts, Star Fox Guard brings the world of Star Fox to a wholly new genre, with a unique take on tower defence that would be virtually impossible to replicate on other consoles. As an employee of Grippy Toad – Slippy’s Uncle – you’re tasked with protecting his company’s precious metals from an array of metal rustlin’ robots, using a range of laser equipped video cameras strung about your base. Available both as a freebie with Star Fox Zero or as a downloadable title on the eShop, Guard’s take on dual-screen gameplay may actually be the more successful of the Star Fox titles releasing this month.
What makes this game unique is the way it utilises the Wii U’s gamepad. The main screen displays a central control camera, with twelve feeds displayed all around it. The touchscreen meanwhile shows a 2D display of your base, and the corresponding numbered cameras, with a tap on one bringing it up in the main feed where you can take direct control of it and its laser. The basic gameplay boils down to simultaneously trying to watch twelve screens for movement, before finding the correct camera on your touchscreen and blasting the invading robots to smithereens.
Before each mission you’ll see where the majority of robots will be coming from, though not their type or when they’ll appear. You’re also able to reposition cameras along the base’s walls so you can tailor everything as you see fit, covering blind spots or shoring up areas where it looks like you’ll be overrun. Different robots have different abilities, with Combat Class including heavily armoured, gorilla-shaped robots as well as cloaked attackers who don’t show up on your gamepad’s radar. Chaos Class range from simple cannon fodder robots which distract, through to those that attack the cameras and put them out of action or disturb their viewpoint.
Destroying robots leaves precious metal that your robotic pal Re:bot collects at the end of every stage, with it all contributing to your player level. Levelling up grants you access to new camera types at various points, starting with a lock-on camera that can hit up to five enemies at once, to a slow cam that does as you’d expect, as well as unlocking additional missions with slightly different mechanics on each stage.
Different planets have their own conditions, from the clear and fair Corneria through to Titania and its blasts of sand that obscure your vision. They’re hardly the most innovative of level conditions, but they add extra difficulty and make each engagement more unique.
There’s some really fun opportunities for multiplayer to be found in Star Fox Guard, and having someone shouting out the camera numbers to go for while you play the role of gunner is great fun. Playing with my son made for some very loud, fraught battles, and it’s here that both the Wii U and Star Fox Guard prove that the concepts it allows for should have seen it find more success than it has.
With Nintendo’s continued growth into online features, My Squad lets you make your own squad of bots and upload them for others to face off against, while Rival Squads lets you download and battle other players teams. You’ll earn precious metal every time your team wins, so it’s a good way of helping to boost your level.
The squad creator is nice and simple to use, though the tutorial makes it seem much harder than it actually is. You’re given tracks in which to place your robots, with different droids worth a set number of points, and a limited budget depending on the stage you choose. It’s all controlled via the touchscreen, making it pleasantly intuitive, and you can test out your creation as you go.
As you progress in the main game you’ll also unlock new robot types to add into your squad, with the aim of harrying rival players being your primary goal. It’s a great addition, and I found it a lot of fun trying to put together a winning combination of robots of my own while taking on teams uploaded by others.
The graphics are basic but solid, with the different robot types appearing chunky and recognisable. The levels themselves are structurally quite similar, with different layouts set against a planetary backdrop, though the added hazards that later levels have help to set them apart.
Musically, it shares some themes with Star Fox Zero, while Grippy and Slippy Toad’s audio and panicked alarms coming through the gamepad’s speakers just as they would in its partner game. Audio design for both entries is stellar, and really help to ground the world, though Guard also has a singing toad robot Re:bot, whose adorable and repetitive chirping is strangely hypnotic and soothing.
Smaller and tighter in focus than Star Fox Zero, Star Fox Guard utilises the Wii U’s abilities in a far more cohesive and enjoyable manner than its bombastic sibling. Fun and frantic, it marks a unique take on a well known genre, which, with typical flair, Nintendo have made their own.