Star Fox 64 3D is Nintendo’s updated version of 1997’s Star Fox 64 which is actually a massively updated version of 1993’s Star Fox for the SNES. Nintendo has once again decided to tell us the story of Fox McCloud and his team of ace pilots known as Star Fox. For those unfamiliar with the story, the evil Andross is out to cause some trouble and Commander Pepper asks the Star Fox team to put an end to his treachery. Star Fox 64 is regarded by many as the pinnacle of the Star Fox series.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the HOTS and the NOTS of Star Fox 64 3D.
Unlike some other iterations in the Star Fox series, gameplay is relegated to vehicles. Most levels have the player piloting an Arwing (a space jet),a small number of levels have players manning the Landmaster (a high tech tank), and one mission features a submarine called the Blue-Marine. The classic gameplay of Star Fox 64 is very much untouched. Steering the Arwing is smooth as butter just like it was 14 years ago. Star Fox 64 3D also features the ability to use the gyroscope controls and the circle pad simultaneously After a few minutes of practice, I found that the gyroscope controls gave me the same ease of movement and precision aiming with the circle pad. When using gyroscope controls, tapping A at any time resets the gyroscope so you can find whatever position is comfortable for you and find your bearings at any time. The circle pad is still used for the somersault and U-turn maneuvers. During the tutorial, players are given the option of playing with gyroscope controls (3D mode) or without (N64 mode). 3D mode is easier due to the unorthodox control method employed. When maneuvering, players can command their Arwing to break, boost, somersault, and U-turn. The circle pad is used to somersault and U-turn even when playing with gyroscope controls.
In combat, the Arwing has several tools to deal with the opposition. Your craft has a laser gun, a charged shot and smart bombs. The charged shot allows you to lock onto enemy bogeys and you can either fire the charged shot or shoot a bomb that will track the enemy! Combat is very satisfying. When you shoot down an enemy, that enemy can be seen falling out of the sky and exploding. When outmaneuvering the enemy, you really feel like a space ace. The game keeps recording your score and even rewards high scoring players with medals. In addition, this game features multiple paths just like the original Star Fox 64 which can be unlocked by meeting special requirements.
Power ups can be found throughout the galaxy of Lylat. These include the laser upgrade, smart bomb pick ups, silver rings, gold rings, and wing repairs. Laser upgrades increase the attack power of your ship’s lasers and charge shots. Silver rings replenish your health. Gold rings are a special pick up. Collect three gold rings and lengthen your health bar. Collect 3 more and get a 1-up! Wing repair pick ups are a special pick up that only appear when your wings are damaged. Of course, the smart bomb provides one additional smart bomb.
All-range mode returns. In this mode, the Arwing can turn a full 360 degrees instead of maneuvering while perpetually moving forward. This is the only time the Arwing can U-turn. Usually, All-range mode is relegated to boss fights, but a few levels use all-range mode exclusively.
Graphics and sound
The graphics has improved immensely since Star Fox 64 3D. The jets look less like triangular pieces of cardboard that were glued together and more like actual jets. The 3D effect makes the space adventure really come to life and adds a new sense of urgency as obstacles fly toward you and your Arwing. The explosions look and sound satisfying, the lasers sound like a cartoon (which fits the style when you consider the talking animals) and all the voices have been rerecorded. I think the rerecorded voices are an improvement, but some may miss the original deliveries and the original “Do a barrel roll!”
The beloved multiplayer of Star Fox 64 returns with some new maps and more. You and three friends can go head to head in three competitions: Survival (last man standing), timed battle (most points at the end wins), or point battle (whoever gets the decided amount of points first wins). There is one very interesting option in the battle menu: Power ups. Power ups can be toggled on or off. When this option is on, boxes with question marks ala Mario Kart appear on the battlefield. Players can acquire a random power-up by touching these boxes! These include the homing missiles, transposer, stealth mines, supernova, cloak and the smart bomb. Homing missiles fire a barrage of, well, homing missiles. Transposer switches your position with the closest enemy ship. Cloak makes you invisible to enemies and prevents them from locking onto you. Stealth mines drop 3 mines behind your craft and they detonate on enemies who venture too close to their proximity. The Supernova pick up gives you one gigantic laser shot which can be difficult to control. The bomb, again, gives you a bomb to fire. The power ups really make the multiplayer more interesting, but purists may denounce the random element these power ups introduce to the game. Nevertheless, a very neat feature is that character portraits are replaced with live video via the 3DS camera when playing wireless multiplayer!
The multiplayer menu gives players many options and Star Fox 64 3D even allows you to play against CPU bots to practice your skills!
Gyroscope controls are limited
Once I got used to the gyroscope controls, I was eager to take on the challenge of playing the game by pitching and turning in real life. However, my dreams were dashed when I found out gyroscope controls can only be used in the easier campaign mode. It would have been nice to see the developer show confidence in its secondary control scheme by allowing gyroscope control as an option for the original difficulty. As a plus, gyroscope controls can at least be used in multiplayer.
Your teammates are still whiny
Occasionally, your teammates will insist they need help or have an enemy following them. If you don’t rescue this teammate, he will be absent for one level. Just as in the original, I found this to be a mildly annoying aspect of the game because your team encourages you to use the somersault when you’re being followed, but they don’t use this tactic themselves. Your teammates also have limited voice clips, so be ready to hear the same messages several times while playing. Finally, be careful with your shots because sometimes the AI likes to drop directly into your line of fire in the middle of a fight.
The plight of the Lylat system’s peril is very thin and only exists to move you from level to level blasting every enemy in sight. Character development is minimal and the story is very predictable. The story is not offensively bad, however, and will not distract players from the main event: the exciting, explosive light show that is Star Fox’s signature gameplay.
Wireless/local multiplayer only
Star Fox 64 3D provides players many options for battle modes and customization. Unfortunately, wi-fi or online matchmaking is not one of those options. If you want to play with some friends, all you need are four 3DS systems and one Star Fox 64 3D game card. It’s great that multiplayer can be enjoyed as a solo experience and with local wireless play, but wi-fi would have added much more life to the game’s content and increased the incentive to play multiplayer when your friends aren’t around.
Star Fox 64 3D’s story campaign will take about 40 minutes for most players to conquer. There are some incentives for replaying like unlocking all of the alternate levels, earning each level’s medals, and playing with and without the gyroscope controls. Skilled players, however, will have earned all of the gold medals and unlocked all of the alternate levels in just a few days. It would have been wonderful if new levels were added to Star Fox 64 3D.
Despite the disappointments that are the lack of online multiplayer and the lack of new single player content, Star Fox 64 3D is a robust blast from the past that delivers almost everything fans were hoping for. The smooth, precise controls return and so does the addicting multiplayer with a few tweaks. This could very well be the best game in the Star Fox series to date.