Star Fox Zero Preview – E3 2015

June 30, 2015

When Nintendo released Star Fox 64 3D on the Nintendo 3DS, Miyamoto made an off-handed comment that its sales would determine the franchise’s future. When the game failed to make a significant splash on the sales charts, many were left worried Star Fox would be put back on the shelf. Fast track to E3 2015, and suddenly Star Fox Zero has become one of Nintendo’s main Christmas releases for the year.

Star Fox Zero is neither a prequel nor a sequel to any of the previous games in the franchise. Instead, it’s more of a ‘reimagining’. The demo we played at E3 showed off a redesigned Corneria level which began exactly like the original N64 version. It’s here that the game teaches you the new controls which admittedly felt daunting during our play-through.

Essentially, you still control the Arwing using the left analogue stick to move up and down, while the right analogue stick is used to boost and brake. Aiming your laser is now handled by the Wii U gamepad, which displays a first person view of the cockpit. The idea here is that you have better control of aiming by using motion controls. It felt a little disconcerting during the on-rails sections, but hopefully this improves with longer play sessions.

The actual level played out very similar to Lylat Wars in that you still had to dodge collapsing buildings, fly through rings and assist your fellow pilots when enemies tailed them. Towards the end you even had the option to follow Falco for a harder part of the course. However, the boss on this path is completely different and requires the use of a new mechanic of the Arwing – transformation.

The Arwing changes from a jet fighter to a Walker, which humorously looks a like a mecha-chicken. This form lets you walk on the ground at a slower pace while still firing lasers at enemies. This leads to some interesting fights as you’re encouraged to explore and discover different ways of defeating enemies and completing the level.

The Arwing’s All-Range mode was also featured in the E3 demo. Due to the ability to switch between transformations at will and the new aiming system, this made Star Fox Zero feel different than its predecessors. That can be good or a bad depending on your view point, but it’s nice that the game feels like it’s bringing something new to the table rather than being a complete re-tread of past titles.

Upon completing the level we unfortunately ran out of time to check out more of the game. Nintendo has revealed that most levels will be able to be played using the Arwing and Landmaster tank (which also has its own transformation), which will pave the way for unique scenarios. There will also be special challenges that will add replay value.

We’re cautiously optimistic about the quality of the final product, but we hope Nintendo are able to bring back that magic they’re generally so good at conjuring – balancing nostalgia with new fun gameplay.