Review: Star Fox 64 3D

Boring prologue: Star Fox is an odd series for me, one that I never really got into before this. First there was the original eponymous game on the SNES — groundbreaking at the time for sure, now graphically dated and ugly. This aesthetic/shallow barrier presents a challenge for me to even complete the training stage, as sometimes I am not really sure what I am shooting at or why.

The 64 iteration was somehow skipped by yours truly much the same, although this time it was due to indifference in regards to the controls (I could not for the life of me figure out a summersault without running into random objects) and subject matter — that of sci fi nerdiness. Space stuff in general is not exactly my forte, unless it has Mario in it. Well, if Mario is in outer space a second time, anyway.

Years later, with forgotten GameCube and DS titles left in the dust, the 3DS system comes and almost goes and I am sitting here in a quandary — should I buy this game even though I have not particularly been interested in the series before? The total lack of anything to play coupled with my absolutely awful impulsive behavior negated the question entirely and I had it in my hands the moment GameStop opened on launch day.

For once, I can thank my persistent, life-long failure at trying to save money. Star Fox 64, 3D or not, is one of the best games I have played this year.

Simply described as a “rail shooter” with sections of “all range” combat (fly in any direction to generally fight a boss in the middle of a giant arena), it is also incredibly addictive and completely timeless. The action is fast, the enemies are arranged in formations reminiscent of classic arcade titles like Galaga, and the boss battles are epic and utterly satisfying.

A single play through will take an hour of your time, maybe 30 minutes more at most. This could be misconstrued as something quite negative, especially for a re-release priced at $40, but you will not play this just one time. Why not, you ask? (Italics?) There are two reasons: first, the game is so fun that an hour will melt away in an instant, and secondly, no single play through is the same. Almost every planet you fly in (not to mention those pesky submarine/tank missions) has an optional way of completing them, which in turn leads to previously unexplored worlds to conquer. There are so many different ways to get from point A to point B it is exhilarating.

Along with the process of opening up new planets to explore and racking up medals (kill a ridiculous set amount of enemies in a level), there is an actual story, too. Granted, it is of one that is a bit hackneyed; save the universe from the evil villain and whatnot. But what really shines here are the characters, all of which are memorable — sometimes unintentionally so, but nevertheless memorable. You are Fox McCloud, leader of the group, uhm, Star Fox, which also includes Slippy, Falco, and Peppy. Peppy might be the lesser of the supporting cast, but he’s still kinda cool. The best of the lot is definitely a tie between Slippy and Falco, both polar opposites in terms of personality and skill: Slippy is just awful at, uhm, everything, and also happens to be a total wuss — while Falco is a sarcastic asshole, one who quips negatively about everyone’s performance (including yours), but is at least capable of piloting and shooting down various enemies. Most of the time, anyway.

The story is constantly woven into the gameplay thanks to wonderful one-liners and excellent voiceover work. It is makes for an interesting combination — an addictive arcade/score attack title (albeit one with many paths to explore) that also has a story competent enough to feel at home in any simple RPG.

The original N64 release featured graphics that were amazing at the time (specifically, all the way back in 1997), but nowadays it almost looks like someone drank a gallon of green Kool Aid and vomited everywhere. OK, not that bad, but it has dated rather poorly. In complete contrast, the 3DS version looks absolutely wonderful. There are still occasional patches of blurry textures, but most everything has an ornate sense of detail and looks breathtaking — water and fire in particular. Wait until you reach Zoness. Woof.

The 3DS version also sports a few nifty options: one is 3D, another is gyro controls. I can not comment much on the gyro sensor, other than that it works pretty well, albeit with 3D turned all the way down. It is an interesting feature, but not comparable to the slide pad in terms of reliability and function.

The 3D is decent, but nothing spectacular. It provides some depth but not that much of it; my slider is all the way to the top and I barely even notice it sometimes. At least it’s not occasionally distracting like the hilariously intense 3D found in Pilotwings Resort.

There is also a beefed up, totally not online multiplayer mode. If you have any 3DS toting friends near by — any, seriously — it’s a very fun take on something akin to battle mode in Mario Kart. Each person’s 3DS camera also captures their face at the same time, providing a new layer of hilarity as you can see the disappointment one feels when they are shot down. Still, it is not online, and that absolutely sucks.

If you have not played through the original much like me, then by all means SF643D is absolutely worth every penny of that $40 — the very definition of a sublime game, and is the best version ten times over thanks to the amazing visuals and fun local multiplayer. If you have, though, maybe wait until it drops at least ten dollars. It will, too, at least online, probably in a month or so.

+ Probably one of the best games ever made, but a lot better.
+ Controls flawlessly with the circle pad.
+ Insanely addictive.
+ Best looking 3DS game so far.
+ Memorable characters/lines, great voice acting.

– No online multiplayer.
– It’s been released multiple times now.

*****/*****
(For those who’ve played it 5,000,000 times before: ****/*****)

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