|Dev: Nintendo EAD, Q-Games|
|Release: September 9, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Fantasy Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Nintendo's putting the 3DS back on the right sales track by harnessing the power of remastered classics. Despite some critics crying out for legitimate sequels and fresh material, the numbers don't lie, as the recent entry of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D is already well past the million unit sales mark. Star Fox 64 3D attempts the same enhancement recipe, utilizing many of the 3DS features lacking in the original N64 version from 1997. Despite a few disappointments, the game is technically superior, while maintaining a challenging and engrossing adventure through superbly crafted levels.
New fans will most likely find the story to be clichéd and overused, but it will ring true with longtime fans nonetheless. It's a tale of galactic invasion where a small band of heroes must take on a seemingly endless horde of enemy forces and defeat the evil genius behind the calamity. The varied cast of animal characters, still sporting the simple, puppet-like mouth movements provides a refreshing, albeit timid, return to a visual style not bogged down by realism.
You take the cockpit as Fox McCloud, and along with your faithful wingmen, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, and Slippy Toad, you'll repel the minions of Andross, battling in space and on planets in low-altitude, corridor-style levels. Most of the time you'll be strapped into your Arwing, a spacecraft equipped with upgradable lasers, bombs, and the ability to perform evasive tricks such as summersaults, u-turns, and the über famous barrel rolls. A couple missions have you take control of the tank-like Landmaster, or the submarine-type Blue-Marine, both of which handle similarly to the Arwing but are designed for different venues.
The visuals are greatly superior to the original, with all the characters displayed with smooth lines, a more vibrant color palette, and great detailing. Everything else in the game is noticeably improved, from the buildings and enemies to the dynamic water effects (especially the toxic ocean of Zoness) and lava waves of Solar. That being said, none of the elements have received a major design overhaul. Although everything looks smoother around the edges, the geometric polygons are apparent, hindering this updated version from competing in a fresh visual environment.
What does stand out, both literally and figuratively, are the 3D effects—no game on the portable to date has presented a more perfect translation. Even with the constant action happening onscreen, everything fits just right without straining the eyes. Part of the success must be given to the style of gameplay; most levels take advantage of a corridor design that keeps you moving straight ahead from start to finish. Gauging the enemies' locations improves strategy while giving the illusion of a large playing area in a tight diameter.
However, the 3D works in opposition to a new control scheme. With its brand new gyro controls, the game allows you to maneuver as if you were grasping the yoke of an airplane, tilting the 3DS up, down, left, and right to steer in that respective direction. It requires a little extra time to adjust and is less tight compared to the classic controls, but it certainly adds a new gameplay element. Of course, with the glasses-free device, deviating from the sweet spot creates blurred images, so you'll unfortunately have to choose whether you prefer the motion controls or 3D effect; you just can't have both.
Because of the new controls, the game offers two different modes to play. The Nintendo 64 mode remains the classic format, while the Nintendo 3DS mode offers the option of using the gyro controls. Additionally, you are granted continues on the 3DS mode to temper the more difficult approach.
Whether you become attached to the plight of the Cornerians or not, you'll be hard pressed to find a level that doesn't beckon to be replayed again and again. Each is uniquely designed, has the perfect clear time, and presents optional routes and plenty of combo opportunities. There is a hit indicator that grows with each downed enemy, with bonuses for taking out multiple bogies using a single charged shot. This counter becomes important, since reaching a specific milestone awards you with a medal for that level.
Aside from the main campaign, there is a Score Attack mode where you can obtain another medal, either bronze, silver, or gold, depending on your final hit total. Achieving milestones unlocks many different extras, from a sound test to an expert mode (which ups the challenge factor significantly). Also, don't expect to claim a gold medal on your first try—or even your first ten tries. Success hinges on memorization of every inch of every level, knowing how to maximize your hit combos, acing the flight controls, and plenty of trial and error. Despite sounding like an arduous task, the aforementioned pristine level design coupled with the engaging action will surely keep you coming back.