Star Fox Guard Review

Star Fox Guard

Star Fox Guard is the complimentary tower defense title that comes bundled with Star Fox Zero. Though Star Fox Guard doesn’t have the depth to stand on its own, its innovative execution does make it a worthy companion piece.

In Star Fox Guard, players take control of a new employee at  mining company owned by Slippy’s uncle Grippy (who are the primary characters you’ll encounter in the game, though the rest of the Star Fox crew do make cameo appearances). As it happens, Grippy’s mining facilities have been getting repeatedly attacked by robots, and it’s your job as the new recruit to help control the facilities’ defense systems and prevent the robots from ruining Grippy’s business. You do so by keeping focus on the facilities’ camera systems, and firing at the robots with lasers. Where the game turns this simple tower defense setup into something more unique is how it uses the Gamepad to create a more unique take on the genre.

The TV screen presents the action through thirteen different screens, with twelve of them presenting what’s currently being captured by each camera, and the central screen being whichever camera the player is currently focused on. Players switch which cameras they’re using by tapping on buttons on the Wii U’s touchscreen, which shows an overall map of the current stage. The idea of switching between cameras has been compared to Five Nights at Freddy’s, but Star Fox Guard seems to have more gameplay and a tone that’s less desperate for attention.

It may all sound a bit simple, and in essence it is, but the game can pack on quite some challenge (and even a little stress) once the robots begin showcasing their variety and begin showing up in bigger waves.

There are two different categories of robot enemies: Combat and chaos. The combat-based robots are the ones who are trying to get to the core of the facility to destroy it, and destroying a set number of them will complete the level. The chaos-based robots will mainly serve to get in the way of your defenses, as they try to destroy your lasers and disable your cameras in a variety of ways.

Star Fox GuardEach stage has a different setup, as well as multiple mandatory missions and the more fun and challenging optional ones, which may throw a unique twist into the mix (like limited ammo, or a time limit). After completing each mission, a friendly robot built by Slippy, called the Re:Bot, will collect the metal from every robot you destroyed, which will add to a cumulative score that will ultimately unlock the aforementioned optional missions, as well as upgrades and power-ups for the cameras and lasers. Players can even see how their scores rank against other players online.

That’s all there is to it, really. Again, it’s not exactly a hefty game, but it is a great and fitting companion piece to Star Fox Zero. The visuals somewhat charming, though a bit underwhelming, and the same could be said of the musical score. But the core gameplay remains fun and surprisingly addictive, with the only real complaint with it being that the buttons on the touchscreen are a bit too small, meaning that you may often lose precious seconds as you double check to make sure you’re hitting the buttons on the touchscreen.

So Star Fox Guard may not exactly be a fantastic addition to the Nintendo family, but if Nintendo decides to make similarly smaller (and presumably less-expensive) games to bundle with their bigger adventures, I’m certainly not going to argue with it. Many great movies are accompanied by delightful and often charming short films that add to the appeal of the feature. If Nintendo wants to produce more big game/little game combos that create a similar dynamic, as they’ve done here, then count me on board.

 

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Star Fox Zero Review

Star Fox Zero

We’ve had to wait nearly twenty years for it, but Star Fox 64 finally has a proper follow-up in the form of Star Fox Zero on Wii U. The on-rail shooting, arcade-style gameplay the series is known for makes a long-awaited return. Zero brings the series back to its roots, dropping any and all baggage that came into the series in the post-N64 era. So in many ways, Star Fox Zero is something of a dream come true for longtime fans of the series. Unfortunately, not all is well in Star Fox Zero, and despite being a stellar effort in many ways, some technical problems do prevent it from becoming the Nintendo classic it might otherwise have been.

Star Fox ZeroThe core gameplay is exactly what we’ve been asking for for nearly two decades. That is to say it’s an expansion of what Star Fox 64 accomplished. Players take control of Fox McCloud, who pilots a variety of vehicles: The classic Arwing is the most common of such vehicles, and serves as the basis for the game’s shooting action. Though a twist from the unreleased Star Fox 2 has been integrated into the Arwing, as it can now transform into the Walker which, as its name implies, brings the action of the Arwing to the ground. Meanwhile, 64’s Landmaster Tank returns with a transformation of its own, and can in certain levels become the Gravmaster, which fittingly takes the Landmaster gameplay to the air. Finally, a new vehicle called the Gyrowing makes its debut, which has less emphasis on combat and more emphasis on deploying robots to hack into computers.

The vehicles, as well as their transformations, give the gameplay a nice sense of variety. Unfortunately, while the essence of the gameplay recaptures what Star Fox should be, the controls can often feel overcomplicated, and can hinder the otherwise entertaining experience.

Star Fox Zero utilizes both the screen on the television and the screen on the Wii U Gamepad to showcase the action, with the former giving a traditional Star Fox style viewpoint, while the Gamepad displays the action from Fox McCloud’s cockpit. The Gamepad’s motion controls are used to aim the targeting reticle, and that works well enough, so I kind of wish Nintendo and Platinum Games had kept the Gamepad features there.

Focusing on both screens can become distracting, especially during segments that take on an “all-range mode” and certain boss fights. What’s worse is that at times the game will require the player to switch their attention to the Gamepad screen exclusively, without really informing the player of such. It can be a bit jarring, especially in instances such as cinematics, which are displayed on the television screen while the player is still controlling the action through the Gamepad. Though some aspects of the controls feel more natural as you grow accustomed to them, other control elements are just too convoluted. I appreciate Nintendo for trying new things, but there are times when a more traditional route can be more beneficial (look no further than the Wii U’s own Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for proof of just that).

The often awkward controls are what ultimately prevent Star Fox Zero from becoming the definitive Star Fox experience. But on the plus side, the shift back to an on-rails shooter puts the series back in the right direction.

Much like Star Fox 64, Star Fox Zero’s adventure can be completed in a few short hours. But also like Star Fox 64, Zero presents players with multiple alternate routes to traverse the game, giving it some replay value, which is taken to another level here.

Star Fox ZeroStar Fox Zero manages to trump 64’s replay value by adding additional levels and routes after you beat the game. Alternate routes can similarly be unlocked by replaying a completed level at certain points. Additionally, each level contains hidden medals, which can be found tucked away within the level itself or achieved by performing certain requirements, as well as high scores that the player can shoot for. To top it all off, Star Fox Zero includes a “Training Mode” which, despite the name, is more akin to a challenge mode, giving player’s something else to shoot for.

If Star Fox Zero has any other drawbacks, it’s probably in its overfamiliarity to Star Fox 64. From locations, character banter and even some boss fights, the game teeters very closely to being more of a remake than a sequel. If video game remakes worked the same as movie remakes, with the same story being retold through a modernized vision, then Star Fox Zero would in fact be a remake. The story is a reboot of star Fox 64’s (and, as an extension, a reboot of the original SNES Star Fox), which is fine, but perhaps a few extra original beats may have helped Zero build more of its own identity.

Star Fox ZeroStill, I’m reminded that Donkey Kong Country Returns played very much like a modernized Donkey Kong Country, and it opened the door for the bountiful ideas of Tropical Freeze. If Star Fox Zero can relaunch the series as successfully as DK did, then we should look very forward to what the future has in store for Fox McCloud and company. Online multiplayer would definitely be a desired addition in a future installment (hint hint Nintendo).

Star Fox Zero also shines on the aesthetic front, with gorgeous, vibrant visuals and a great soundtrack that revives old tunes and introduces a few memorable ones of its own.

Despite the familiarity and cumbersome control issues, Star Fox Zero is a welcome return to form for the series in many ways. It provides a fun adventure with loads of content and some nice replay value. But perhaps its biggest achievement is that it remembers what it means to be a Star Fox game. Its issues may hold it back from being a Nintendo classic, but as it stands, it’s just kind of great to have Star Fox back and doing what it does best.

 

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