There’s no denying that the Nintendo 3DS got off to a rocky start, rocky enough that a significant price cut has already taken place less than 6 months after the initial launch of the system. The 3DS has struggled not because it’s a bad machine, but because the software has been pretty weak. The eshop wasn’t ready at launch and the closest thing to a killer app the system had was a port of a 2 year old fighting game. Well, the times are finally changing.
In June the 3DS received its first big Nintendo release, The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time 3D, and now here in September we have number 2, Star Fox 64 3D. Now, the contrarian is going to argue just how great these titles could possibly be considering both are re-makes of Nintendo 64 games that are each over 10 years old. And in the case of Star Fox, we’re talking about a remake of a remake as the original was a remake of the original Star Fox for Super Nintendo. And really, it’s tough to argue the point. Yes, both are remakes and while the graphics have received a complete overhaul the games themselves are still largely the same. OOT benefited by having the Master Quest added to the package which had previously only been released for Gamecube as a bonus for those who pre-ordered Wind Waker. Star Fox 64 3D is still largely the same as well, but there are a few additions worth covering.
First, the game can be played with a new control scheme that utilizes the system’s built in gyroscope technology. This means you control Fox by moving the 3DS around instead of using the circle pad. It’s kind of interesting to mess around with, but if anyone claims to prefer this scheme over the circle pad I’ll probably give them a pretty queer look. It’s just not very intuitive, and I have yet to use it in game beyond the tutorial. Star Fox also has a new gameplay mode simply called 3DS. It’s basically an easy version of the N64 game. Enemies are easier, continues are allowed, and Fox can take more damage. The one cool addition is the ability to select what world you go to next, rather than letting the game dictate what path you’re on.* It’s an easier way to experience every level in the game instead of figuring out how to beat each level in order to advance in a different way.
*For those who never played the original, the game advances depending on how you finish a level. There’s a designated easy and hard finish for each level and opting for the hard way is the only way to experience the game’s true ending.
The last big addition is obviously the 3D. I will say, of all the 3DS games I’ve played so far Star Fox 64 makes the best use of the effect that I’ve seen. Using 3D actually adds to the experience, in a minor way. It helps you more easily judge what enemies are closest and prevents the enemy polygons from overlapping as much giving you a clearer picture. That said, I still tend to opt to play with the effect turned off as I just find it too distracting. I also tend to move the 3DS too much which causes a blurring effect when the 3D is turned on. Which also renders those special 3DS controls useless if you wish to have the 3D visuals turned on.
Outside of those changes the game is basically the same experience. That is to say, it’s a lot of fun and presents a satisfying challenge. On Nintendo 64 mode, the game goes old school and ‘Game Over’ means what it says as there are no continues. The game does save after each level so you can leave and come back, but it only has one available save slot. There is however a handy ‘Guest’ mode that allows a friend to play on your 3DS without saving over your game.
The visual upgrade is quite nice and gives the game a nice, clean, look. Let’s face it, the visuals of the Playstation/Nintendo 64 era have aged rather poorly. I’d argue even worse than the 16 bit era, so the enhanced graphics are quite welcomed. The gameplay is fast and frenetic and you may get pissed from time to time. The good thing though is that practice makes perfect. I never owned any Star Fox game before this one because I was always terrible at them, but it didn’t take me long to beat this one (not the hard route, mind you). In fact, that is one of the downsides to this game as the single player game is very short and will take most gamers a little more than an hour at most. It’s a game that’s made to be replayed though and one that expects you to come back and try to beat your best score.
There is a multiplayer component as well, but I haven’t tried it. It’s kind of cool in that you only need one gamecart to play with friends, the downside is that it’s local Wi-Fi only. Why Nintendo continues to screw up online play in their games is one of the great mysteries of life. This makes the multiplayer a negative. Another negative for the game is the voice acting, it’s horrible. I don’t care for any of the voices, maybe I’m just picky, but I find them awful. Another negative, and this is going to sound kind of odd, are the ending credits. They last nearly 10 minutes! That might not seem like a big deal but this is a portable system. If you finish the game while riding on the train you’re kind of out of luck for the next 10 minutes while the ending credits slowly trickle by. I never understand why some games force the player to watch the entire credit sequence, it doesn’t make me appreciate all the hard work these individuals did, it just makes me resent them.*
*Upon paying more attention the next time through, I noticed that you do get the option to skip the credits right away. Not sure if you’re SOL if you miss that and I think you miss out on the little story-line bit at the end, though no one is likely to play this game for its plot.
The cons for this game are, in the end, pretty minor. If you’re someone who enjoys arcade-like flight simulators or someone who enjoyed the previous incarnations of Star Fox I’m willing to bet you’ll enjoy this take. Really, the biggest con for this game is that it’s a remake and I’d understand if some people just aren’t all that enthusiastic about re-buying a game they may have already played to death (especially for those who picked up the Virtual Console version for their Wii). If you’re in the mood though for some Star Fox action, Star Fox 64 3D delivers. Now Nintendo, let’s see an awesome, all new, original game for the 3DS please!