Friday, September 16, 2011

Star Fox 64 3D (3DS) Review

It's been a busy week here on SuperPhillip Central with more blog entries posted in a week than ever before, and we're still not finished. Thank the Nintendo press conference and the Tokyo Game Show for that. What I have in store for original content is a review of Star Fox 64 3D, the latest remake on the Nintendo 3DS. How does it shape up?

The infinitely quotable game takes flight on the Nintendo 3DS

In March of 1993, the original Star Fox soared onto the Super Nintendo with a special chip known as the Super FX chip. This chip allowed for intricate and impressive (for that time) three-dimensional objects such as arches and enemy fighters. Four years later, Star Fox 64 touched down upon the Nintendo 64 with an engrossing story, intense dog-fighting, and a whole Lylat System to explore. Now fast-forward to the present where a remake has been born in Star Fox 64 3D, utilizing the Nintendo 3DS's glasses-less 3D, improved textures, and updated music and voice work. Is all of these new features worth the hefty forty dollar price tag?

Back before the current Team Star Fox of Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Falco Lombardi, and Slippy Toad were together, the team was compromised of Fox's father, James McCloud, Peppy Hare, and Pigma Dengar. On a mission on Andross's home planet of Venom, Pigma betrayed the team, thus imprisoning James and Peppy. Somehow and someway Peppy escaped and came back to Corneria to inform the good guys the bad news. It's several years later, and now the new team has blossomed. The threat of Andross looms over the Lylat System of planets and stars, and it's up to Team Star Fox to stop the mad scientist from conquering the once peaceful system before it's too late. The highly cinematic style of the game tells the aforementioned tale through a narrative piece and cutscenes. It's your typical space soap opera, but it is effective nonetheless to give the player incentive to play the game.

Star Fox 64 plays in two types of ways. The first is as an on-rails shooter of sorts. You're always moving forward in your vehicle, blasting down opposing Andross fighters and avoiding enemy lasers. The other is all-range mode which allows you to fly your Arwing around in three-hundred and sixty degrees of freedom. When you reach the outer perimeter of the battlefield, you'll automatically be forced to make a U-turn. The game is controlled either by using the circle pad or using the gyro controls. The gyro controls take a lot of getting accustomed to, and they're more of a novelty than anything. My advice is to stick with the traditional controls and only utilize gyro if you're morbidly curious.

And thus an internet meme was reborn.

The Lylat System is compromised of fifteen planets, but there's only seven levels per play-through. Each play-through lasts about an hour depending on the player's skill level. So how does this work then? Players always begin their adventure on the planet Corneria and end on Venom. By completing certain requirements in a given level, the path the player takes switches. For instance, on the first planet of the game you'll have to rescue Falco from enemy pursuers before he retires from battle, and then you must fly through several arches. Then Falco will inform you of a secret path leading to Sector Y. If you fail to rescue Falco or opt not to fly through the arches, you'll travel to the asteroid belt of Meteo instead. Another example is on the toxic wasteland of the once-beautiful planet of Zoness. If you fail to destroy all searchlights and they detect you, you'll be forced to travel to Macbeth as opposed to heading to Sector Z. In order to get the most out of Star Fox 64 3D, you'll need to play through the game at least three or four times to play through all planets.

To further increase the longevity of the game, there's medals to earn through shooting down as many enemy fighters and scoring as many points as possible. There's three modes to earn fifteen medals in each: 3DS, N64, and Expert mode (Expert is unlocked once all fifteen medals are earned either in 3DS or N64 mode). 3DS is essentially easy mode whereas N64 mode is your normal mode where enemies do more damage to Fox and friends. Expert mode gives more enemy fodder for Fox to blast to kingdom-come, and it also gives our ace pilot his father's infamous sunglasses to wear. Obviously, damage given off by enemies is increased even more from N64 mode. In addition to these three difficulty modes, there's an unlockable Score Attack mode which allows players to go through a planet of their choice, aiming for the top score and one of three medals: either bronze, silver, or gold.

Teammates will often give advice to the player.
Heed their words to survive.

Going back to the fifteen planets of the Lylat System, there's a wide variety of missions and objectives to complete as well as themes and backgrounds to explore. The red-hot sun of Solar will slowly drain the shield health of Team Star Fox's Arwings as the heat is simply too much for them to handle. Meanwhile, the arctic planet of Fichina (once called and mistranslated as Fortuna in the original Star Fox 64) has Star Fox attempting to stop a bomb from exploding inside the Cornerian army's base. This is all the while trying to fend off Team Star Wolf, their fierce rivals. The arid desert planet of Titania has Fox piloting the Landmaster which is a powerful tank. As he rides along the ground, Fox must rescue Slippy from the clutches of the planet's boss. Furthermore, on Katina players must shoot down a barrage of enemy fighters in all-range mode as well as destroy the enemy mothership before it can destroy the Cornerian base it hovers over.

There's three different types of vehicles for Fox to pilot. Most of the missions will ask for McCloud to control the ever-graceful Arwing. The Arwing can perform barrel rolls to deflect enemy lasers, somersault, boost, brake, and in all-range mode accomplish incredible U-turns. Somersaults, boosts, brakes, and U-turns require their be some energy in the boost gauge. This gauge eventually refills after a few seconds or so. Two of the fifteen planets of the Lylat System has Fox inside the Landmaster tank. The tank can move its cannon up and down to blast enemies from land, sea, and air. It can also hover over potential dangers. The final vehicle which is only experienced on the ocean planet of Aquas is the Bluemarine. This Team Star Fox patented submarine can launch an unlimited amount of torpedoes to not only blow away enemies but also illuminate the dark and dank depths of the isolated ocean. All vehicles can lock onto enemies. Destroying multiple enemies at once with a lock-on shot gives bonus points. This is the key for earning medals and high scores on planets.

The Bluemarine is only used on the ocean planet of Aquas.

Items are an essential part of Star Fox 64 3D, and there's a decent variety of them. Silver rings bestow Fox with health (think hearts in The Legend of Zelda) while collecting three gold rings will boost Fox's shield gauge. Acquiring another trio of gold rings will give the player an extra life. Gathering smart bombs allows Fox to launch them at enemies as well as detonate them for a huge concussive blast. This is perfect for crowd control. When one of the Arwing's wings are broken off, Fox can collect an item that instantly repairs all wings. Finally, the laser upgrade increases the efficiency of Fox's lasers. The laser can be boosted several-fold from the original green laser to twin lasers to pulsating and powerful blue lasers. If Fox dies in a mission or he loses a wing, the laser goes back to its original state. In certain missions ROB 64 (helpful guide aboard the Great Fox) will drop item boxes to help McCloud out.

We've been broaching about Fox McCloud throughout this review, but we all know there's no "I" in team nor is there any "I" in Team Star Fox. Fox is helped out by his trusty crew of cocky and crude Falco Lombardi, old and experienced Peppy Hare, and always in trouble Slippy Toad. Each hero has his own usefulness. For instance, Falco will oftentimes pinpoint roads to secret paths. Peppy will inform Fox of a boss's weak point while Slippy, when he's not under attack, will identify a boss's health gauge for the player. In fierce firefights Fox will usually have to fend off attackers who go after his teammates. If a teammate takes too much damage, they'll be forced to escape from battle. This means they won't be in the next mission, you won't be able to get a medal on that mission, and their helpfulness won't be available to you. It's a triple whammy of misfortune.

Speaking of bosses, Andross has many tricks in his metaphorical sleeves. Some bosses are as simple as shooting the backside or aiming for a weak point. Others require a bit more finesse. One boss has you shooting the cannons on its shell, then shooting its eye with as much laser fire as possible. This all the while avoiding the immense amount of fodder it spawns from its cannons. Another boss requires the player to launch smart bombs at its two exhaust pipes, then at the vessels that shoot off missiles. When the crane is exposed, this must also be destroyed or else one of the previously mentioned vessels will be revived.

Spyborg's weak point is directly in its eyes.

If playing through the multiple paths (there's over twenty different paths to play through), going for high scores, and kicking Andross's monkey butt isn't enough for you, then try out the multiplayer. Through single cart download play, up to four friends can battle it out for supremacy on one of four maps. A glaring oversight is the lack of any kind of online play or online leaderboards. If Star Fox Command had online play, why can't Star Fox 64 3D? It just reeks of laziness. Regardless, if you can find friends with 3DSs of their own, you can fight against them freely. Though the face-cam that shows players' faces during and after battle is of an extremely low quality. Again, this would make sense to have this feature for online play, but why for people who are in the same room? Those without friends with 3DSs can select to play with very capable bots in one of three modes: Survival (last man standing), Point Battle (player who reaches set point limit wins), and Time Battle (player with most points by time limit is the victor).

Whether with friends or bots,
there's fun to be had in Star Fox 64 3D's multiplayer.

Going from multiplayer to presentation, nearly everything has been reworked in Star Fox 64 3D. From the updated visuals which look absolutely gorgeous (especially Zoness's jaw-dropping water effects) to the remixed music and voice work (which is the same cast of the original), this game is an intriguing package. The slowdown experienced in the previous game is virtually eliminated in this remake. Additionally, pushing the 3D slider all the way up allows for the ability to easily judge distances between objects and Fox's piloted vehicle. It makes shooting down and getting a read on enemies and objects all the more simple. This is a welcomed addition indeed. Throughout missions your shipmates will constantly chatter with some very unique dialogue. A new generation of internet memes can be born.

Overall, Star Fox 64 3D still stands as a terrific title. Those who think that once they reach the credits (which will only take approximately an hour) will be disappointed, but for those of us who aim to acquire every medal, achieve larger high scores, and unlock everything (even though the ultimate unlockable is on the lame side) will have a lot to enjoy. Star Fox 64 3D may not be worth the forty dollars to some, but there's plenty of content here to make a case that it is. Insert your own favorite line from Star Fox 64 here to conclude this review to your liking.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

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