Watch out Fox! It’s a Starfox 64 3D Review!

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS.

Another of Nintendo’s N64 gems gets the 3D treatment but does it make the grade?

It seems that remakes are the ‘in’ thing at the minute in the games industry. On virtually every system we are seeing re-imaginings and remasterings of titles from bygone eras. Nintendo has been no exception to this, already releasing a remake of Ocarina of Time to critical acclaim on 3DS and with Konami’s remake of Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D it seems that Nintendo’s newest handheld will see more than its fair share of remakes. So the question is: how has Nintendo handled bringing Fox McCloud and his team to life on 3DS? The short answer is: brilliantly!

It’s hard to believe that the original Starfox 64, or Lylat Wars as it was called back then, is a 14 year old game. So for those of you who are either too young to have played, or just can’t remember what the original Starfox was all about, let me explain the adventures of Fox McCloud and his team.  Starfox 64 3D is a shooter adventure set in the Lylat System. You take control of Fox McCloud and along with his team-mates, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare and Slippy Toad, you shoot your way through various fast-paced levels with the goal of defeating the evil Andross and saving the Lylat System. This is the real meat of the game with 15 stages to complete, although they can’t all be seen in one play-through. Nintendo has offered two gameplay modes for players to choose from that have subtle differences to one another.

The first is 3DS Mode which is a more balanced mode that utilises the 3DS gyroscope to give players a more tactile gameplay experience. 3DS Mode is slightly easier than the difficulty found in the original to compensate for the new control method. This means that it doesn’t take too long to complete the required stages to finish the campaign, although the games length is increased thanks to the fact that multiple playthroughs are required to see all 15 stages. Even with these multiple playthroughs, there isn’t much more than 5-7 hours gameplay on offer.

The other gameplay mode is Nintendo 64 Mode which recreates the original challenge of Starfox 64, while including improvements to graphics, control and sounds. It is slightly longer than 3DS Mode, but once again there is less than 10 hours of gameplay in total.  Whichever mode you choose to play it though, Starfox 64 3D is an all-action shooter that provides plenty of thrills, and minimises on the spills thanks to the improvements offered by 3DS.

The most obvious of the improvements to Starfox 64 3D comes in the form of graphics. Like Ocarina of Time 3D, Nintendo has made excellent use of the extra horsepower available with 3DS to give Starfox 64 a stunning visual makeover. Gone are the polygonal ships, blocky environments and underwhelming enemy design, all of which are replaced with outstanding vehicle models (the Arwing looks fantastic!), and beautifully rendered stages and enemies that no longer look like a mishmash of pixels. Starfox 64 3D excels in the fine details; particle effects are particularly *cough* impressive with water and lava particles, laser fire, explosions and building destruction demonstrating the visual splendour that can be achieved on 3DS.  The Lylat System never looked so good, and this is as much to do with the smaller details as the larger ones.

However, the most visually impressive addition to Starfox 64 3D is, of course, the use of 3D. The added depth looks fantastic, and it’s pretty incredible barrelling through space as meteors and lasers jump out at you. The graphical improvements in this fast-paced game are packed with detail, and even with the 3D slider turned all the way up, there is no hint of slowdown; Impressive, I think you will agree!

Graphics aren’t the only area where improvements have been made to Starfox 64 3D.  Anyone who has played the N64 original will know that the level of control offered by the N64’s trident controller was superb.  Nintendo, though, has somehow managed to improve over the original. The 3DS circle pad is a more than ample replacement for the analogue stick and provides a tight but fluid control scheme, ensuring that the Arwing flies better today than it ever did.  The raised shoulder buttons make tight turns and barrel rolls simple to pull off, with the D-Pad making somersaults and U-turns as simple as a press of a single button. The remaining face buttons, A to fire lasers, B to brake, Y to fire bombs and X to boost, are effective and efficient despite being smaller than the equivalent buttons of the N64 pad.

The use of the gyroscope for the Arwing is a bit hit or miss though.  The actual use is accurate and effective, rather than a tacked on extra like in some other recent remakes.  The problem comes from using the gyroscope with the 3D, as you are forever popping in and out of the 3D ‘sweet spot’ (which is both disorientating and a great strain on the eyes) when the screen goes in and out of focus.  In a game that requires you to be fairly accurate it can become fairly annoying.   This is a shame as the gyroscopic controls give each of the stages a different feel than the one offered by the conventional control scheme that is much more tangible and rewarding.

While the graphic and control improvements are likely to have been universally welcomed, the game’s audio might not receive the same response.   The original Starfox 64 was known for its outstanding soundtrack that gave the game a real atmosphere. While it has largely been left untouched, there are slight tweaks as well as changes to the voice acting that die-hard fans will be sure to notice. The script remains the same, but Slippy the Toad is now voiced by a different actor.  It’s not necessarily bad thing, but those who expected to get a note for note remake on the audio will be disappointed.  That said, however the music, voice acting and sound effects are excellent. When heard through headphones it gives Starfox on 3DS that atmosphere the original created so brilliantly.

Unlike the remake of Ocarina of Time, Nintendo has made certain additions to their remake of Starfox 64. The most notable of these is the addition of two new vehicles, meaning that the Arwing is no longer Fox’s only tool of destruction! At certain points you are given the chance to pilot the Landmaster tank (which made its debut in Namco’s Starfox: Assault), and the BlueMarine submarine.  Both of these vehicles have a very different feel to them. The Landmaster is a slow, cumbersome vehicle that packs a real punch and is surprisingly enjoyable to use.  The BlueMarine, though, feels lethargic which results in a much less enjoyable gameplay experience. This is a huge disappointment, as the underwater stages are a visual delight that would have been the real highlight of the game could they be navigated as fluently as Arwing and Landmaster stages. These new stages have a very different pace that is slower than the Arwing stages, but just as action-packed, making them that little bit more intense. The slower pace means that you get to enjoy the scenery more, and it’s safe to say that it’s here you can see the extra grunt provided by 3DS.

Away from the campaign mode, other additions have been made. A score attack mode has been added where you can replay any stage already completed in an attempt to earn a new high score. Unfortunately, there are no online leader boards within this mode, so there is little incentive to play.

Multiplayer was an extremely important part of the Starfox 64 experience and it will please long-time fans to know that the offering in this version is just as impressive as the original. Multiplayer retains the four-player formula with three additional modes available. The first is survival mode where players have one life each and the last man standing wins. The second is point battle mode where the player who scores the designated amount of kills first wins; and the third is time limit mode where players have a set amount of time to score the most points. Mario Kart-esque power-ups have been added, ranging from cloaking devices to force fields, which make the multiplayer a bit more frantic and hugely enjoyable.

Each of the four stages available is big enough to ensure the action is fast-paced and competitive. The inclusion of a video feed of your friends while you’re playing makes sure that the competitive nature of multiplayer in Starfox remains. Multiplayer is fluid, responsive and virtually lag free which is all the more impressive when you discover that it’s all coming through a single cartridge and download play.

You may have noticed that there isn’t any mention of online multiplayer. Sadly, Nintendo has neglected to include any facility for online multiplayer, with the explanation being that they wanted to retain the close-quarters competition that the original created.  This was a massive error on Nintendo’s part. Starfox 64 3D is a game that suits online multiplayer and it would have been a great example of just how far Nintendo’s online infrastructure has developed.

After Nintendo’s success in remaking Ocarina of Time, they picked another classic N64 title and spruced it up for a whole new generation of gamers. It’s an impressive remake that manages to improve upon the original without spoiling what made it great the first time around; seamlessly introducing the new additions, ensuring that fans of the original don’t feel like they have spent $40 on what could be seen as little more than a graphical overhaul.  It would have been another perfect remake for Nintendo had they chosen to include online multiplayer, but even without it, and the relatively short lifespan, Starfox 64 3D is well worth the price of entry just to see a genuine classic get the 3DS treatment. Fast-paced, exciting, thrilling and with plenty of charm and character, it’s another must have 3DS title and a prime reason for picking up the system, especially now that is been reduced.

Starfox 64 3D receives a 4.0/5.0.

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

September 23, 2011 - 8:30 am