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Fox McCloud has had a bit of a hard run. For a brief, shining period in the mid-90s, Star Fox stood alongside Mario, Zelda and Metroid as a true top-tier Nintendo franchise. Unfortunately, Nintendo started farming Star Fox out to developers who clearly didn’t understand or appreciate the series, resulting in a less-than-graceful plunge to the B-list. It’s been a decade since the last original Star Fox game, and nearly two decades since the last original game that was actually good. Understandably, most fans gave up hope long ago.
But wait! Star Fox Zero is here! Conceived by Shigeru Miyamoto himself and co-developed by the action masters at Platinum Games, this should be Star Fox‘s return to form! Right? Well, maybe. The game has been designed as a showcase for the Wii U’s maligned GamePad controller, and early previews were hardly ecstatic. Does Star Fox Zero fly high, or is it yet another crash landing? Let’s find out…
Star Fox Zero (Wii U)
If you’ve played Star Fox or Star Fox 64, you know what to expect here. The Lylat system has been invaded by the usual suspects, and once again Fox McCloud and his team have to save the day to avenge his father, James McCloud. I realize Nintendo likes to keep their stories straightforward and familiar, but the Star Fox universe is actually surprisingly deep. Nintendo could tell some legitimately interesting stories with Star Fox‘s varied characters, planets, and locales, so it’s a bit disappointing to see them recycling here.
Visually, the game is a mixed bag, and probably would have benefited from a more stylized approach. Environments, enemies and other objects are definitely on the chunky, low-polygon side, which is likely the result of the Wii U having to render the game on both the TV screen and GamePad. If the developers had gone with an intentionally old-school look, that would have been forgivable, but they still try their best to pretty things up with modern textures. The result is a game that looks dated, but not retro enough to be cool. Don’t get me wrong, Star Fox Zero‘s graphics do the job just fine, but they won’t ignite your boosters.
Thankfully, the game does sound great. Or at least, very authentically Star Fox-ey. Somehow Nintendo managed to round up all the voice actors from Star Fox 64, so everybody sounds as endearingly goofy as ever, and the soundtrack is suitably rousing stuff. Between the story, visuals and audio, there’s no denying Nintendo has very accurately recreated the feel of classic Star Fox here.