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While soaring through the Lylat system blasting Andross’ forces, have you ever found yourself yearning for a Star Fox game where you man a bank of security cameras owned by Slippy Toad’s mustachioed uncle? Probably not, but that’s exactly what Nintendo is giving us with Star Fox Guard, one of two new Star Fox titles hitting shelves today. Star Fox Guard is a niche product, something Nintendo clearly realizes as they’re practically giving the game away for free copies of Star Fox Zero, but hey, price isn’t always indicative of quality.
Is Star Fox Guard a worthwhile experience despite its somewhat offbeat exterior? Is Slippy about to become Nintendo’s next breakout star? Uh, I think we can safely say the latter isn’t happening, but let’s dig into the former question…
Star Fox Guard (Wii U)
Star Fox Guard stars Slippy Toad and his uncle Grippy, the Daniel Plainview of the Star Fox Universe. Ol’ Grippy is out to exploit the precious resources of every planet in the Lylat system, and his only defense against Andross’ robots are the security cameras set up by his nephew. That’s about all you get for a story.
Like most puzzle-style games, Star Fox Guard‘s visuals are mostly practical. There’s bits of flash here and there, but mostly they just aim to get the job done. Audio-wise, you’ll mostly be hearing clanking robots, with some less-than-endearing one-liners from Grippy and Slippy between the stages. If you’re looking for a compelling narrative or sumptuous presentation, Star Fox Guard is not the game for you.
While Star Fox Guard is a departure from other games in the series, its surveillance camera tower defense concept has already been done by Five Nights at Freddy’s and Night Trap before it. That said, the GamePad does add an extra dimension to the formula, and Nintendo includes a lot of their trademark touches. In particular, a large assortment of different enemy bots with unique patterns and methods of attack definitely set up some fresh scenarios. Hell, Nintendo even throws in the occasional big boss fight. There’s no denying Star Fox Guard has a certain unique oddball spirit.
You goal in Star Fox Guard is to keep stubbornly persistent waves of robots from destroying your mining machine, which sits at the center of a maze monitored by laser-equipped cameras. The GamePad displays a map showing the maze layout and camera locations, and the TV screen shows the view from your active camera, surrounded by smaller feeds from all the other cameras.
If you see a baddie approaching one of the cameras, tap that camera on the GamePad and its feed will move to the center of the TV screen. Once you’re in control of a camera, you can reposition it or fire its laser at any robots in the vicinity. Sound simple? Well, it gets more complicated.
Star Fox Guard expects you to keep track of a lot.
There are two basic types of robots – Combat Class and Chaos Class. Combat Class robots are out to destroy your mining machine, while Chaos Class bots are just there to cause trouble by destroying or otherwise disrupting your cameras. Completing a missions means destroying a certain number of Combat bots, and if even a single one of them reaches your mining machine, you’re done.
Both Combat and Chaos Class bots come in a wide variety of different forms. Combat Class enemies might carry shields, have cloaking abilities or come in the form of a big, laser-absorbing gorilla bot. Chaos bots may hack into, blow up or just straight-up steal your cameras. Combine a bunch of these different bots together and things can very quickly get pretty hectic.
Hectic is a good word for Star Fox Guard. Stressful might be another one. Most tower defense-style games allow you to let at least a few enemies slip past you, but Star Fox Guard‘s “let one through, and you’re screwed” approach keeps you constantly on edge. I’d be lying if I said the game didn’t inspire the occasional outburst of profanity. That said, all the robots follow set paths, so if you pay attention, even the most mind-boggling missions can be overcome.
…and then the giant boss robot shows up.
And hey, if you get tired of failing missions, you can design some of your own in My Squad mode. It’s a bit limited – you can’t design your own maze, and the robots can only travel along certain pre-determined paths, but it’s a decent distraction. Once you’ve finished your mission, you can upload it online for other folks to try. If they lose, you get points, or vice versa. It’s a nice little bonus you might not expect from a budget title.
As mentioned, Star Fox Guard comes packed with every physical copy of Star Fox Guard, or can be downloaded individually for $15, but despite the low price, it’s definitely a full-size game. The game’s 100 stages should take a solid 10 to 12 hours to complete, which actually makes Star Fox Guard more substantial than the “main” game it’s being packaged with. Add in player-designed missions, and you’ve got a pretty meaty package, although one that probably won’t have as much long-term replayability as Star Fox Zero.
Nintendo is giving Star Fox fans a full bonus game for the price of a movie ticket. That’s a pretty cool gesture. The game itself doesn’t feature any needless DLC, and feels like your typical polished Nintendo product. The game is compatible with the Fox and Falco Amiibo, but they don’t unlock any exclusive content – basically, you can use them once per play session to summon Team Fox to wipe out all the robots on the screen. A little over-powered, but not a big deal.
Star Fox Guard is a fun, challenging game that uses the GamePad well and has more meat on its bones than you might expect. That said, it also kind of a one-note experience. The game’s missions get progressively more challenging, but they don’t really feel different, just more complex. This is a game you’ll play in bursts here or there, but not something that will consume your life.
As a bonus, a snack that comes with the main meal, Star Fox Guard is great. As a standalone game, well, don’t quit your day job, Slippy.
Verdict: Worth a Chance
This review was based on a copy of Star Fox Guard provided by Nintendo.