Star Fox 64 3D Review (3DS)

Star Fox 64 3D lands on the Nintendo 3DS with both a thud and a bang. And it will entirely be up to your past experience and your love of Star Fox 64 to decide which is greater. Thud or bang?

Star Fox 64 3D is the long-awaited remake of what many consider to be the last real great Star Fox title. That title was Star Fox 64, released for the Nintendo 64 way back in 1997. The game was more recently re-released in its original form via the Wii Virtual Console in 2007.

Star Fox 64 made waves when it first swooshed in on the gaming scene. It was the largest game Nintendo had ever developed at that time, and it effectively took the same gameplay as the original Star Fox (polygonal on-rails flight shooting) and upgraded it with significant gameplay and aesthetic enhancements.

Star Fox 64 featured the most voicework that Nintendo had ever provided for a videogame, and pretty good voice work at that. Or at the very least, the voices fit the look of the characters to a tee. The voice acting was a big deal because the original Star Fox (released for Super NES on 1993) only contained giberish audio-wise, when the characters spoke, with accompanying text.

In addition to voicework, Star Fox 64 provided true polygonal 3D graphics, far and away improved over the simple polygonal colors of the original. Star Fox 64 also marked the debut of a “rumble” or “force feedback” feature in videogames! Before Star Fox 64, force feedback was unheard of. This shaking of the controller, allowing you to “feel every hit”, was provided via an included “Rumble Pack” that snapped into the bottom of the N64 controller. The game also featured a four-player simultaneous split-screen multiplayer mode, where players could battle in the Arwing, or using the Landmaster Tank, or on-foot using a bazooka, with the latter two having to be unlocked by earning medals in the story mode. Three multiplayer modes were included, Point Match, where you earned points for shooting down opponents, Time Trial where the player with the most enemy kills wins, and Battle Royale where the last player standing is the winner.

It’s ironic then that the 3DS version of Star Fox 64 3D is lacking in some of the key features that made the original so innovative. Having said that, it also offers some improvements; making for a conundrum on how worthy of an update it really is.

System: 3DS
Also Available On: None. Available for Nintendo 64 and Wii Virtual Console in the original, unenhanced version.
Released: USA September 9, 2011 – EUR September 9, 2011 – AUS September 15, 2011 – JPN July 14, 2011
Players: 1-Player Story Mode. 4-Player local multiplayer.
Genre: Flight Action Rail Shooter
Save: 1 Save File With A “Guest Game” Mode. Guest Doesn’t Effect Your Medals Earned (But Total Score Is Saved). The Game Saves Automatically After Beating A Mission.
Online Support? NO. This is a big deal.
Developer: Q-Games and Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Country of Origin: Japan
Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 Years or Older. Contains: Fantasy Violence.
Price: MSRP $40

Corneria, fourth planet of the Lylat system. The evil Andross turned this once-thriving system into a wasteland of near extinction.

General Pepper of the Cornerian Army was successful in exiling this maniacal scientist to the barren, deserted planet Venom. Five years later, General Pepper noticed strange activity coming from Venom. James McCloud, Pigma Dengar, and Peppy Hare of the Star Fox team were sent to investigate. Upon their arrival, Pigma betrayed the team, and James and Peppy were capture by Andross.

Peppy barely escaped Venom and returned home to tell Jame’s son Fox about his father’s fate.

A few years have passed. Andross has again invaded the Lylat system. General Pepper has turned to a new Star Fox team headed by Fox McCloud to save Corneria and free the Lylat system once again.

Watch the story in this video showing off the Story and Training Mode.

Star Fox 64 3D returns the team from the original game, Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad and Falco Lombardi into a “new” mission. The primary gameplay has you shooting down enemy fighters, dodging obstacles, defending your teammates, shooting open doors/crates, etc. and defeating massive bosses as you travel from planet to planet in the Lylat System.

The primary vehicle in the game is an aerial fighter called the Arwing, which you control in the majority of the missions. There are two control methods, a classic N64 Mode or a 3DS Mode. The classic mode has you controlling the vehicles in the game by using the Circle Pad on the Nintendo 3DS and the Facebuttons. Whereas the 3DS mode allows you to move your vehicle using motion controls by simply moving the 3DS system itself (making use of the built-in accelerometer and gyro features). One cool aspect of the 3DS Mode is that you can also use the Circle Pad to control your ship, and then using the gyro to make slight adjustments. It actually works really well for the most part.

This video shows off All-Range Mode.

To control the Arwing, you can swoop down or up using the Circle Pad or Gyro and the L or R buttons to make sharp turns. If you double Tap L or R you will perform a Barrel Roll that deflects bullets. The A Button shoots, the B Button Brakes, the Y Button shoots your Bombs while the X Button performs a Boost. Pressing down+B will perform a U-turn (flipping you around, only in All-Range Mode) while pressing Up+X performs a Somersault (allowing you to fly high upward and over then back down to your original position). Normally the game is played “on-rails”, which means that your ship automatically flies forward, while you make adjustments left, right, up or down or anywhere on the screen within a certain confinement, while always accelerating. Objects fill the levels as do environmental obstructions or paths, and you can take different routes through each level depending on how you fly.

All-Range Mode is also featured in certain stages, where you can fly anywhere within a set boundary, these sections are mostly reserved for boss fights or certain levels, and are not on rails.

Two other vehicles are also featured, the Blue Marine sub and the Landmaster Tank. The Landmaster moves along the ground, where you can roll with the L and R buttons or hold them both to hover. The Submarine has you shooting off Torpedoes with the X button which both destroy enemies and light up your path.

When you first start the game, after going through the Training Mode, which teaches you the ropes (like tapping the screen to intercept certain messages, which often gives you bonus items) you are then taken to a world map which shows you all of the levels, mostly represented by planets. Depending on how you play each level, you can take certain routes through the galaxy. There are three basic routes: Red/Hard, Yellow/Orange/Medium, or Blue/Easy. Although depending on how you play a level, you can say, start out on Hard, then fail and go down to Medium, but then succeed in the next mission and go back up to the Hard Route.

Basically each level generally has a single mission to accomplish. If you fail that mission, you will go back down to the an easier route, if you succeed you’ll continue on the route you are on. One of your key goals in each mission is to keep your wingmates alive. All of them will help you out by shooting down certain enemies and the like, but at preset parts of a level they will be attacked. If you don’t defend them by shooting down the craft that’s attacking them, they’ll take damage. If they take too much damage they’ll have to retire from your current mission, and will have to rest for the entire next mission while their ship is being repaired.

Peppy will tell a bosses Weak Point and will give you advice and strategy tips throughout missions. Peppy is the only member who can analyze the health of bosses, if Slippy doesn’t survive to the end, then you’ll have to fight the boss “blind”, without being able to see how much energy he has. Falco meanwhile will reveal alternate routes in a stage. Some levels and their alternate routes can not only lead you back to the Hard Path (which leads you to the Best, and hardest, ending) but can also reveal one of two completely hidden stages.

The levels in Star Fox 64 3D are extremely varied, even though not a single new mission or new level has been added. You will race across water and land-based planets, fly above planets made entirely of fire, use the Landmaster Tank to roll across desert planets, use the Blue Marine to make your way through sea-worlds, fight through Asteroid Belts, fly in All-Range Mode across Satellites, and more.

This video shows off the fire-planet of Solar.

The graphics in Star Fox 64 3D have been significantly updated from the original, and the result is that the game looks extremely nice on the glasses-free, stereoscopic 3D, widescreen display of the Nintendo 3DS. Because of the enhanced graphics, the game looks like a modern title and looks extremely pretty. Having said that, if you played the original but haven’t played that game in years, you’ll be hard-pressed to notice the difference. The game will pretty much look the same to you, although you’ll notice it’s still pretty.

The game makes pretty good use of the stereoscopic 3D effects, although I must say that the 3D did absolutely nothing for me, and did not make fighting the tiny flying ships on the screen any easier to hit. Nor did the often-touted new “depth” of the graphics help any.

I did highly enjoy using the Motion Controls to play the game. When you first try it out, you’ll be surprised at how well it works. Although certain missions make better use of it than others, and sometimes the game is easier to play with the original controls.

Did I say easy? Man, Star Fox 64 3D is one heck of a HARD game! This game is tough and will really tax anyone who is not a master of the original N64 version. If you are a master at that game, then nothing has changed here. The game is exactly the same so you will also be a master at this version. But those who haven’t have quite a bit of game in front of them. I can not imagine mastering each level on the Hard Route. In addition to beating the levels, you can also aim to earn a Gold Medal on each stage. But doing so requires you to destroy a whopping number of enemy ships. If you are not on your toes throughout, you will be hard pressed to earn a medal. This is actually a good thing, as those who love Star Fox will end up playing a ton of it to earn all of the medals and beat each stage on all three routes, as well as find the two hidden levels.

So when I said the game lands with both a bang and a thud, here is what I meant. The game LOOKS impressive (immediate impression? BANG!) and controls extremely well (despite the small enemy ships being even harder to see on the small 3DS sreen) using both the classic or new controls. The single-player game is lengthy and although its short, you will want to replay levels a trillion times until you’ve effectively memorized every enemy ship location and obstacle. Some people will not think that is very fun…

This video shows off the Landmaster Tank.

The thud sound is also the sound of extreme disappointment. Star Fox 64 contains offline multiplayer only. NO ONLINE PLAY SUPPORTED. This is a huge missed opportunity. The fact that Nintendo took all this time to remake the game and then choose to still release it without online play in 2011 in inexcusable. Any other developer in the world would’ve included full online multiplayer in both deathmatch-style modes and probably would’ve gone the extra mile to include four-player co-op, considering that there are already four ships in the game. Co-op seems like a natural addition.

Instead Nintendo ADDED nothing but a four-player local multiplayer mode, where the 3DS cameras are used to see your opponent (who is likely sitting in front of you, big whoop, eh) and then take pictures of them as they are shot down. While it is fun to play locally, not many people will have three friends with 3DS. Thankfully you only need one copy of the Game Card to play. But not being able to play opponents around the world sucks.

Not only that, but people who were hoping for some cool additions in this version will be sorely disappointed. It is the SAME EXACT GAME released 14 years ago! Nothing has been added. No new planets to explore. No new mini-games to play. No new characters. No epilogue mission. No prologue mission. No downloadable content… Nintendo could’ve even kept the entire game intact, while adding new missions as optional side-missions, or as I stated, as an epilogue or prologue. That way they could’ve kept the integrity of the original while supplying fans with something extra. They decided against that.

Okay so Nintendo didn’t provide any new gameplay outside of the local multiplayer, so they must’ve added some neat Extras that get unlocked afterwards right? Extras that you can unlock by earning Medals or purchase depending on how many enemy shots you get in each mission, RIGHT?

WRONG. Nothing. In the span of a minute I can think of a number of very cool extras that Nintendo could’ve and should’ve added. How about Character Profiles for each of the characters in the game? In addition to Slippy, Peppy, Falco and Fox, whom everyone loves, guest characters like Katt (who went on to have a starring role in Starfox Adventures for the GameCube) and Bill also made their debut in this title. So did Fox’s father, James, and the evil Star Wolf team headed up by Super Smash Bros. Brawl-playable character Wolf O’Donnel, with Pigma Dengar, Andrew Oikonny, Leon Powalski and of course, the evil Andross, also big parts of Star Fox 64 3D. So why on earth are there no character profiles of these characters, who many Nintendo fans fondly admire. *cricket sound* The only place you get character profiles is on the official web-site! Ugh!

What about a Bestiary, that tells you the name of each enemy craft, its weakness, origins, level its seen at, and a details breakdown and description of each boss? Why is the original Star Fox not an unlockable? Many kids these days are too young to remember Star Fox for the SNES, and may have never played it. Why is there not a “History of Star Fox” giving the history of each Star Fox game and a timeline of the events? Why is there no Star Fox retrospective, telling Nintendo fans all about the in-depth history behind the making of the groundbreaking original Star Fox and its Super FX chip that gave it its unique graphics; and giving fans an in-depth look at why “Star Fox 2” was cancelled and never officially released. Why is Star Fox 2 in full playable form not the final unlockable in this game. This would have been the perfect time to make it available. Why do we not get any behind-the-scenes videos showing off the voice actors and having Shigeru Miyamoto give his take on the significance of Star Fox 64 3D and how he thought it was a killer-app to be remade for the 3DS, and why he thought it had to be seen in 3D.

I could go on and on. Instead I won’t, because no extras are included. And ironically, it even LACKS the rumbling that made the original stand-out! Why was a rumble cart not included for this 3DS version? The mind boggles. Having said that, there are a few extras included in the original Nintendo 64 version that are replicated here, they are: a Score Attack mode, an Expert mode that’s even harder than the Hard Route path, a Sound Test that allows you to listen to the games music and sound effects, and an alternate title screen and “costume” for Fox that only the greatest players will be able to unlock. These extras are welcome. Fine and dandy. But the point is that there is nothing NEW. Oh, except for a pretty cool piano piece added to the end during the 3DS credits (something Nintendo also did with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D).

Overall, those who love Star Fox 64 will love this version. The excellent rail-shooting holds up well, the game controls nicely, looks great, makes pretty good use of the stereoscopic 3D effects, and is a deep game that is very difficult to master and finish 100%. But for those who mastered the original and know how to beat Venom’s Hard Path like the back of their hand, they will likely be disappointed that this is the same exact game they played way back in 1997. Repackaged for $40 bucks with a prettier sheen. So depending on what side of the fence you are on, this game will either shine or fizzle. “DO A BARREL ROLL!” indeed.

Star Fox 64 is a fun game. It’s difficult, has medals to earn for players who are willing to pump a lot of time into mastering each level, and offers three basic routes through the galaxy (Red, Yellow and Blue for Hard, Medium and Easy). Best of all, the game looks great and controls extremely well, using the motion controls of the system. Overall, I have to say that the game still holds up well today.

Star Fox 64 3D looks extremely pretty with it’s new 3D sheen. The stereoscopic 3D effects (glasses-free!) are done really well, and do add a new layer of depth, although I didn’t find that it changed the game or made it easier to just distance at all. But that’s just me. My one major complaint is that the small screen does make the game even more difficult, as it is hard to see the tiny ships sometimes.

Star Fox 64 3D has a pretty good soundtrack, the voice intro is cool with a great narrator, and the character voices fit each character extermely well. Despite Slippy being annoying (I think that was the point) and Falco being a mean bastard, the voices, music and sound effects combine for a nice aural package.

Star Fox 64 3D makes use of the Motion Controls of the 3DS to play the game by moving the system which works very well. It also supports stereoscopic, glasses-free 3D graphics and uses them well, but other than that, the game is exactly the same as the original game. While it holds up well, the fact that you can’t “feel every hit” due to this version removing the force feedback is disappointing.

Star Fox 64 3D is a HARD game. Expect to replay levels literally 30 times or more before you can master it and earn a Gold Medal. “Good Luck” unlocking and beating the Expert Mode! But while all this is fine and dandy, and the game does include a lot of levels and hidden stages, the fact that the only extra gameplay is to REPLAY these stages over and over again does hurt the title a bit. Those who don’t absolutely fall in love with it, will not want to attempt to keep playing each level to get a better score. There is a Score Attack Mode and local multiplayer (which can be played in Singe-Player against the bots), but the fact that there is no online support kills the infinite replay value this game could’ve had. And those who are masters of the original Nintendo 64 version will find nothing to hold their interest.