|Release: September 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
I played a lot of games at this year's E3, but only one reminded me of those first few days of absolute wonder gamers had when they saw a pseudo-3D polygonal game for the first time. The game was Star Fox 64 3DS, and it's doing for stereoscopic 3D what the original Star Fox 64 did for polygonal graphics.
First things first, this game is Star Fox 64 in every way. If you remember those long days of sitting on your floor in front of a CRT TV with the strange three-handled N64 controller in your hand, then you'll take to this game like a fish to water. Items are in the same place. Enemies are in the same place. Bosses have the same weak point. Everything is exactly as you remember it, and that's a good thing. This is a walk down memory lane for most gamers, and we don't need it tarnished by the addition of a Starbucks on the corner.
Even though the gameplay is one hundred percent Star Fox 64, that doesn't mean the graphics are stuck back in the N64 era. A booth rep explained that the graphics were totally remade and redesigned from the ground up, and it shows. There is a lot of intricate detail on the Arwings this time around, making them look more like their modern day counterparts than their blocky predecessors. Environments and enemies no longer look like strange conglomerations of polygons glued together with flat textures painted on top. Bosses in particular have been given quite the face lift, looking rather imposing when compared to their counterparts from 2.5 generations ago.
The demo only allowed us to play through a short portion of the single-player campaign, but anybody who's ever played the very first stage of Star Fox 64 should remember it well. As I said before, the stage is pretty much exactly the same, right down to Peppy Hare's iconic "Do a barrel roll!" One thing that's changed, however, is the frame rate. The Nintendo 64 version was known for dropping down to a crawl when the screen became overpopulated with enemies. However, the 3DS version runs smoothly at all points, never missing a beat.
One of the things that works very well with the Star Fox formula is stereoscopic 3D. You are always flying into the background, and as a natural result of that, objects are constantly coming right toward the screen. I'd actually say that this is one of the few games in which stereoscopic 3D actually helps you in a gameplay sense, because you can use your natural depth perception to figure out how far away from you an enemy is. If you can keep the 3DS in the 3D sweet spot, you'll be dodging lasers and missiles with the best of them.
This is actually where I find one peculiar design flaw. The game can be controlled with the analog pad and face buttons/triggers, just like you remember from the old N64 days. However, the game also can be controlled by tilting and moving the 3DS to control your Arwing. This too is very fun, but is simply incompatible with the 3DS's stereoscopic 3D function. As you tilt and twist the 3DS, you get out of its 3D "hotspot," and images start splitting apart, causing you to take hits and die rather quickly. As I said before, it's fun, but you basically have to turn the 3D off to be able to use this control scheme.
The single-player is fun, just like it was back in the Nintendo 64 days, but multiplayer is easily the game's biggest draw. Just like before, you will be doing flips, turns, and barrel rolls to evade your opponents while taking time to drop a well-planned bomb to blow up the competition. However, this time around, the 3DS allows you to use its camera and microphone to talk to the competition. Remember those floating head boxes you saw in the original Star Fox 64? Well now you and your buddies are in those boxes, complaining about getting hit.
Unfortunately, the game does not support Wi-Fi play, which seems to be a massive oversight on Nintendo's part. On the upside, the game does support download play, so one cart can host a game of up to four players. I'm not sure if it's a welcome tradeoff for Wi-Fi play, but at least it's something. Personally, I would kill for a Star Fox leaderboard.
Star Fox 64 3D is a good game because Star Fox 64 is a good game—it's really as simple as that. If you want to jump into the cockpit of an Arwing and relive the days before Fox fought dinosaurs, then this is the game for you.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer