Monthly Archives: May 2016

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed: Toot Toot Sega Warrior

 

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is the sequel to Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing, which was released a few years prior.  (I have a feeling these titles are going to make for a confusing post.)  I liked the original Sega All-Stars Racing a lot.  It was actually a pretty good kart racer for the Xbox and Playstation platforms, which have rarely put up much competition to the Mario Kart juggernaut.  However, All-Stars Racing Transformed just completely stomps all over its predecessor.  It outperforms it in nearly every aspect, and I feel it’s gone somewhat underappreciated.  Not only is it an excellent racing game, it’s an incredible tour of Sega nostalgia that I think will excite and delight any fan of the company’s long and remarkable creative history.

Honestly, I hesitate to call All-Stars Racing Transformed a kart racing game.  The series was obviously meant to combine Sega nostalgia with the Mario Kart formula, and I would easily consider the original All-Stars Racing a Mario Kart clone.  But I would argue that Transformed is more of an arcade racer.  The main reason is that the speed of the races are way higher than I think any Mario Kart has reached, not counting the 200cc DLC for Mario Kart 8.  And to go along with the faster racers, the tracks often feel massive in scale.  The game of course includes weapon pickups as well as a heavy emphasis on drifting around turns to gain speed boosts, and these features I think clearly tie it to the Mario Kart series.  But otherwise, I feel like Transformed manages to break out of the template of Mario Kart that its predecessor was firmly crafted in.

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As implied by the title, the big gimmick for All-Star Racing Transformed is transforming vehicles.  In addition to land-based racing, the racers’ vehicles will transform to take to the water (like a jet ski) or to the sky (like a little airplane) during certain segments of each track.  This initially draws similarities to the hang glider and submarine transformations that were introduced in Mario Kart 7.  However, All-Stars Racing Transformed makes far more effective use of these alternative racing methods.  While I felt like Mario Kart 7 and 8 only made very light, gimmicky use of the hang glider and submarine concepts, All-Stars Racing Transformed devotes substantial sections of each track to racing that doesn’t take place on land.  And most importantly, aerial vehicles and watercraft are fun parts of the racing experience.  Each of these modes are different enough to require reasonably different strategies for racing, but not so different that they feel confusing or bothersome to control.

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My favorite aspect of All-Stars Racing Transformed is that it does an impressive job of creating tracks that cover the breadth of the Sega-verse.  Tracks are themed around games pulled from the Genesis era up through the post-Dreamcast era.  There are a few obligatory courses themed around Sega’s headliner Sonic, but otherwise the game culls from a diverse arrangement of classic titles such as Skies of Arcadia, Burning Rangers, Jet Set Radio, House of the Dead, Shinobi, etc.  Each track feels giant and epic in scale, and they work well at evoking their namesake series.  The size, scope, and variety of tracks is probably the biggest improvement that All-Star Racing Transformed makes over the original All-Stars Racing, which reused a lot of assets between courses and the tracks had settings that were heavily repeated.  In the first game, for instance, there were three tracks based on the Casino Night zone from the Sonic series, three tracks that took place in Curien Mansion from House of the Dead, three tracks themed around Samba de Amigo, etc.  Transformed, on the other hand, has no repeated settings, and each course feels distinct and exciting in its own way.

I will say that while the tracks do serve as an impressively broad tribute to Sega’s history, the racer selection is not quite as varied as I would have liked it to be.  Several racers return from the original, like B.D. Joe, Beat, Amigo, Ulala, and the obligatory Sonic cast members.  There are also a few absolutely excellent inclusions to Transformed that weren’t in its predecessor, like Vyse from Skies of Arcadia and Joe Musashi from Shinobi (I’m a big Shinobi fan).  But there are some unfortunate absences that don’t make a return.  The original All-Stars Racing included some off-beat characters like the Bonanza Bros., Opa-Opa (Fantasy Zone), and Zobio and Zobiko (House of the Dead EX).  I know these aren’t super popular character in Sega fandom (well, maybe Opa-Opa is), but I really enjoyed geeking out over these obscure inclusions.  In addition, the coolest characters in the original were Akira & Jackie (Virtua Fighter) who raced together in a red sports car that resembled the Ferrari in OutRun.  What a badass idea that was!  Unfortunately, they don’t make a return for Transformed.  Ultimately, this game does have a good selection of characters, but I just felt that the original game really amazed me in that regard.

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I also thought the game’s soundtrack was a great collection of uptempo remixes of classic Sega themes that played well at pumping me up for some high-speed racing.  Particular standouts, I felt, were the remixes from Burning Rangers and Golden Axe.  There’s also a good remix of “You Can Do Anything” from the Japanese and European Sonic CD soundtrack.  (It is my great shame as a patriotic red-blooded American that I prefer this song to Sonic Boom.  Please, no one reveal this dark secret to my family or Obama!)  One big disappointment, however, was the lack of the iconic Samba de Janeiro from Samba de Amigo.  It was present in the original All-Stars Racing, but in the sequel it’s been replaced with a more generic latin electronic track.  I guess they just didn’t want to pay the royalties for that one.20160507212103_1.jpg

All-Stars Racing Transformed is a lot of fun, but it’s one tinged with sadness and regret.  The heyday of Sega and its creative prime have long since past.  Things like this and the Sega 3D Classics Collection on 3DS always serve as a bittersweet reminder to me of that.  They were always a restlessly creative company.  Nintendo may be innovative and produce games of immense polish and attention to detail, but they were never quite as off-the-wall as Sega.  Nintendo reached a point during the time of the SNES where it was mainly focused on evolving and refining its core series like Mario and Zelda, and they always relied on their well-established franchises to introduce new ideas and innovations.  Meanwhile, even into the Dreamcast-era, Sega was constantly going out on a limb to deliver characters and games that were created entirely from a blank slate.  They may never have been the best game designers out there, but there was just a coolness to Sega that I don’t think anyone else has quite been able to replicate.  All-Stars Racing Transformed is a good reminder of those things.  It’s a great game in its own right, but for a Sega fan, the full-on nostalgia blast is vindication of enthusiasm for a company that was always the underdog.

 

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Donkey Kong 94

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Donkey Kong is easily one of the most important games ever released.  It started Nintendo on its path to becoming a titan of the art and probably the most influential creative force in gaming history.  Not only that, it was the world’s introduction to the character that would become gaming’s most iconic symbol.  But this post isn’t about that game…… rather, it’s about a Game Boy classic that many might not know parades under the guise of the arcade masterpiece.

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Donkey Kong has principally had two eras of peak popularity.  The first, of course, came with the arcade series of Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and (to a far lesser extent) Donkey Kong 3, and the second occurred toward the end of the Super Nintendo’s run when the Donkey Kong Country trilogy breathed new life into the sunsetting 16-bit machine.  But wedged in between these two series was a 1994 Game Boy title simply called “Donkey Kong,” that managed to completely reinvent the arcade classic just months before Donkey Kong Country would turn the character completely on his head.

Donkey Kong 94, as it’s usually called to distinguish it from the arcade version, starts off innocuously enough.  Mario must tackle the original 4 arcade levels in a quest to rescue his girlfriend Pauline from the clutches of the renegade primate.  But after Donkey Kong falls to his doom at the end of the fourth level and all would seem well for the reunited lovers, something completely off-script happens.  Donkey Kong doesn’t stay down, rather he springs back up, snatches Pauline, and makes a mad dash out of the construction zone that the arcade duel took place in.  At this point, the player is introduced to the first world map in the game, and an amazing new adventure begins to unfold.  

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In many ways, Donkey Kong 94 is a logical extension of its arcade forebear, but in other ways it sets out to create something deceptively fresh.  Rather than having levels that mostly see Mario travelling from left to right across a linear series of obstacles as happens in the Super Mario Bros. series, DK94 focuses on condensed platforming stages that are usually not much larger than a few screens.  This makes it similar in design to its namesake.  However, after the initial four throwback levels are completed, the game takes on a puzzle platforming twist.  The goal of each stage (aside from the boss battles) is to reach a key that needs to be carried back to a locked door which blocks Mario’s pursuit of the ill-tempered ape.  Often there is a bit of trickery involved in getting the key to the exit which is where the puzzle aspect comes in.  All-in-all, DK94 has a formula that is incredibly well-suited to portable gaming.  

In some ways, though, I feel like calling the game a puzzle-platformer is a bit misleading.  I feel that most games that carry that moniker are heavily skewed to puzzle solving, which is to say that they are really just puzzle games delivered via a side scrolling perspective.  But DK94 actually requires a relatively high degree of skill in navigating the obstacles in each environment.  An important new aspect is that Mario’s moveset has been expanded a bit, and he can do backflips and handstands that let him jump higher, but require deft reflexes and timing to pull off right.  Perfect execution of these moves is often critical to success.  I would say that the challenge of DK94 is split roughly 50/50 between puzzling and skill-based platforming.

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The “real” world setting of the first Donkey Kong game makes a return here, not the Mushroom Kingdom that would later become Mario’s home.  Many of the worlds resemble the current day, such as the first world which is a contemporary city that prominently features skyscrapers and modern architecture.  There is also an unusual world simply called “Airplane” that takes place on what I think is a large cargo plane.  There are no Toads or Goombas or the like to be seen.  Instead, a new set of enemies appears that is in-line with the new aesthetic, and there are some prominent baddies that return from the arcade games.  Furthermore, Princess Peach is entirely absent.  The leading lady is instead Pauline, Mario’s long forgotten first damsel-in-distress.  Meanwhile, Donkey Kong Jr. also makes a few mischievous appearances to thwart Mario’s progress.  A big part of the reason why I favor this game so much is because these characters and settings make it feel so distinct from the rest of Marioverse content.  

You know, I’ve always thought Donkey Kong was a cool arcade game, but it’s unfortunately short.  The coin-op machine had a mere 4 levels, and the NES port had even less than that (the cement factory level was cut) and doesn’t even loop back to the first level when you beat DK.  Consequently, I’ve always found it hard to be particularly passionate about that game.  It provides a fun time and is an iconic part of gaming history, but I don’t necessarily feel the need to return to it.  And that’s why DK94 is so special.  It takes that awesome original Donkey Kong game and explodes it into an epic new adventure.  It has enough familiar aspects to make a rightful claim to the Donkey Kong name, but adds enough of its own ideas to sustain itself for an amazing ~100 level quest.

And before going on, I would be remiss not to mention the excellent music.  If you want to listen to some bleep-bloops sing, DK94 definitely doesn’t disappoint.  Even to this day, these catchy tunes still get still get stuck in my head sometimes.  I’m particularly partial to the theme of the Desert world:  

If you’ve read my recent post on my Top 30 games, you may remember that DK94 was one of those that made it high on the list (which means it immediately comes to my mind as one of the greats).  I really love this game.  It’s probably my favorite Game Boy game, with the only other real contender being Super Mario Land 2.  I think DK94 has a slight edge, since SML2 is kind of an easy game, which makes it less replayable to me as an adult.  

Loathe as I am to admit it, I never actually beat DK94 as a kid.  I remember getting stuck in one particular level in the Iceberg world, although I can no longer remember exactly which level it was.  My problem really had to do with the fact that I couldn’t get the key to the door fast enough before the timer ran out.  This was an incredibly frustrating experience, since I loved the game so much as a youngster.  Later in high school, I found the game in a drawer and decided to give it another go.  I sailed through to the end this time, never encountering the same trouble I had before.  I couldn’t even figure out which specific level was the one I had issue with!

The game was made available on 3DS Virtual Console relatively early in Nintendo’s 3DS VC initiative, which I was extremely pleased with.  For the most part, I prefer to use Virtual Console to get into games I didn’t get a chance to play before, as opposed to rebuying games I’ve already had a go with, but DK94 is one of the few exceptions I’ve made.  I would, of course, highly recommend anyone interested in the game with a 3DS to check it out.  However, original Game Boy games on 3DS VC are all monochrome, and I think the coloration that you get when playing the cart on a GBC or GBA is fairly good.  So if you’re inclined toward “authentic” hardware, I would recommend grabbing a cart to play on a (backlit) GBA.

DK94 would get a worthy successor on the GBA, called Mario vs. Donkey Kong, which continued the puzzle-platforming formula.  Although it’s reasonably faithful to the original DK94, Mario vs. Donkey Kong would introduce the Mini-Marios, which were wind-up Mario toys that Mario must collect in each stage to help him out in the boss battles with DK, and these little creatures would become the central focus of the MvDK series in subsequent releases.  The first title to feature the Mini-Marios as the star of the show was Mario vs. Donkey Kong: March of the Minis, a Nintendo DS game that operated like Lemmings instead of a platformer.  Despite being a significant departure from its predecessors, March of the Minis was a pretty good game that made a lot of sense for the DS, as it was designed nicely around the DS’ touch controls.  

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Unfortunately, the series has basically stagnated since then.  The Lemmings-style gameplay has become the crux of almost all of the subsequent sequels.  There have been five games in total that have been released since the inception of the DS era which follow this formula.  The latest release was Mini-Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge, a free-to-play game that requires the player to own very specific amiibos to unlock packs of levels in the game.  Unfortunately, Nintendo has never really gone back to the puzzle-platforming design of DK94 and MvDK on the GBA.  However, the first release on 3DS, titled Minis on the Move, did shake things up a bit, introducing a new type of gameplay that is somewhat reminiscent of Pipe Dream, an old DOS game.  I really liked Minis on the Move in particular, and the Lemmings-style games have mostly been solid (albeit quite stale), but I do wish they would at least make an attempt to return to the old-school style of the series.  I have no idea what’s stopping them.

I honestly don’t think I can praise DK94 enough.  It made my Maximum 30 list, so of course it has a lot of personal significance to me.  It’s a cart that I had a lot of good times with, and it left a lasting impression.  I wish I had more profound things to say about it, but I don’t, because really this is just pure and simple gaming bliss.  I think anyone who has any love for the old Game Boy should at some point in their life give this classic a go.  

 

Star Fox Zero: Flying Too Close to the Sun

Well hey, look it’s Star Fox!  Back in action again.  I had always thought he had been relegated to the pile of beloved Nintendo series that are likely to never see the light of day again.  But no, he’s back!  I’m a big fan of Star Fox 64 (and to a far lesser extent Star Fox Command), so I honestly had to give the game a go, even if the Star Fox series hasn’t had the best track record since its 64-bit glory days.

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Star Fox Zero is a sort of reimagining of Star Fox 64, which was already a sort of reimagining of the original Star Fox.  The story has essentially the same premise as 64 with starfighter pilot Fox McCloud leading the Star Fox team into battle against the forces of Andross, who has instigated all-out war in the Lylat System against the peaceful planet of Corneria.  The history of Fox’s father’s battle against Andross and the rivalry with Star Wolf team also feature prominently.  The levels are entirely new, although they mostly take place in familiar settings like the planets of Fortuna and Titania.  If you’ve ever played Star Fox or Star Fox 64, this game will feel familiar without necessarily feeling like a repeat of earlier adventures.

Star Fox has veered around a bit since the early popularity of the series, as Star Fox Adventures and Star Fox Assault had a  heavy focus on on-foot combat and adventuring.  Star Fox Command for the DS dispensed with the on-foot action and focused solely on in-air combat, but the catch was it only had simple arena-style levels as opposed to the fast-paced, highly-detailed linear levels that most gamers seem to prefer from Star Fox 64.  Star Fox Zero sees the series attempting to return to basics with a roughly equal mix of the beloved linear “corridor-style” levels and the “arena-style” levels that the series refers to as all-range mode.

Star Fox Zero is squarely focused on vehicular combat, primarily in the series’ iconic starcraft, the arwing, however attention is also paid to a few other rides.  The landmaster tank makes a return from Star Fox 64, and the “walker” transformation from the cancelled Star Fox 2, in which the arwing transforms into a bipedal mech, is also strongly featured.  The fourth vehicle is a gyrocopter that moves more slowly and methodically than the other three vehicles.  I enjoyed the arwing, landmaster, and walker, although I felt the walker was underutilized.  These three actually control very similarly.  The right analog stick functions like the c-buttons did on the N64 controller, i.e., push up to boost, tap twice left or right to do a barrel roll, etc.  The gyrocopter, however, controls very differently with both sticks required for basic movement.  I must say I really did not enjoy flying the gyrocopter, it’s too slow and I felt the way the sticks were used was counterintuitive.  Perhaps more importantly, I just didn’t think combat was fun in the gyrocopter.

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Not a screenshot from the game…..

I’m afraid the biggest disappointment I had with Star Fox Zero was the level design.  The levels are generally pretty short and inelaborate, and I would argue they do not make good use of the fundamentals the game establishes.  What I mean by that is that I think SF0 under utilizes the ideas and gameplay concepts that it introduces.  For instance, there’s one segment where Fox needs to infiltrate the interior of a battlecruiser to disable its shields in the midst of a large space battle.  To do this, Fox lands on the enemy vessel and transforms into the walker to enter the starship through a hatch.  Inside, he fights a few enemies that are guarding a corridor with the shield computer he needs to hack at the end.  I could have imagined a much more intricate and involved sequence playing out inside the battlecruiser, but it’s really just a few simple enemies you need to kill on the inside and then you’re done.  There are many segments like this strewn across the game that could have been much more interesting than they were, but ultimately lack proper development.  The result makes the game feel low-budget in a way, as if they didn’t have enough funds to fully actualize their ideas for the game.

But despite the levels being rather short and very basic in design, I do think they did a good job in making most of them memorable and distinct.  Nintendo has a way of designing their games to have stages that are each infused with their own unique imaginative twist, and most missions of Star Fox Zero had some resonance with me.  And even though I felt like the stages often came quite short of living up to their potential, I did feel like I became fully engaged with the game.  Underneath all of its flaws is an exciting arcade action game that makes you feel like a hero caught up in a massive stellar conflict.  

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The most contentious aspects of Star Fox Zero come in how it implements the screen in the Wii U gamepad and that it uses the gyroscopes in the gamepad to augment the aim of the analog stick.  If you keep up with game reviews from mainstream sites, you’ll know that Star Fox Zero is being hammered on account of both of these features.  Let me give a short explanation for those unaware or for those still confused.  While playing the game, the television screen shows the “standard” Star Fox view with the camera behind the player’s vehicle.  Simultaneously, on the gamepad a view from the player’s cockpit is shown.  The idea is to use both the third-person view and cockpit view together.  The third person view gives the player a broader view of the obstacles and enemies in the environment, while the cockpit view has a more accurate targeting reticule and is useful for precision aiming.  

I think a lot of detractors get hung up here, because they find it hard to switch between looking at the TV screen and then having to pivot their head to look at the gamepad screen.  I honestly didn’t have much trouble with this.  I think the problem is they are try to shoot everything by looking at the gamepad while still using the TV for maneuvering, which causes them to have to constantly switch focus between the two screens.  In reality, I would say ~80% of the time it doesn’t matter if you’re looking at the TV screen or the gamepad.  For instance, when facing large enemies or swarms of enemies, I think you can do just fine using the less accurate targeting reticule that is displayed on the TV screen.  You need the gamepad view in circumstances where accuracy is important or when you’re trying to shoot in a completely different direction than you’re flying.  So, for instance, if you’re trying to lead a very fast specific enemy (like one infamous wolf who will go unnamed), it’s best to use the cockpit view on the gamepad.  

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Meanwhile, in addition to using the left analog stick for aiming and controlling the trajectory of the vehicle, the player can also tilt and rotate to gamepad to move the targeting reticule.  Since human wrists are anatomically more capable of precise movements than thumbs, using these tilt controls grants the player a greater level of accuracy.  In addition, sometimes one needs to aim in a way different direction than the arwing is travelling.  For instance, in one landmaster level, there are these giant robot spider enemies who have weak points on their underbellies.  To hit these weak points, you drive the landmaster underneath the spiders and tilt the gamepad up to aim at their glowing bits and fire.  To aim directly upwards like this essentially requires fully pivoting the gamepad so that it is almost upside down above your face.  These sorts of situations that require the player to tilt the gamepad to such an extreme occur every now and then in the game.  I didn’t have such a problem with them, and, in some cases, I found them to add a clever twist to an enemy encounter.  But I’ve seen other reviewers and posters express dissatisfaction with needing to make such sweeping motions with the gamepad, and I guess I can understand where they’re coming from as it could be uncomfortable or awkward depending on your seating arrangement.

I’m a big fan of gyroscopic controls.  I find that they permit precise aiming that is close to what you would get using a mouse.  This is because mouse and tilt control make use of wrists as opposed to thumbs, and because there is a 1:1 correlation between player movement and action on-screen.  Not many companies use this feature, however.  Mostly, it’s just been Nintendo who most notoriously used tilt as the default aim option in Splatoon, but they’ve also incorporated this control scheme into the HD Zelda games for items like the bow and grappling hook.  The PS4 controller also possesses gyroscopes, but the only game I know that uses tilt to aim is Gravity Rush Remastered.  

Gyroscopic aiming, I think, works best as an augment to the traditional analog stick control scheme.  The analog stick works best for making broad, sweeping movements of the camera, while the gyros excel at finer, more precise movements that tweak the position of the targeting reticule.  Honestly, I haven’t really had any issues with this feature in Star Fox Zero or any other game for that matter.  I’m at a bit of a loss when it comes to understanding why so many people seem to hate this control scheme.  I guess it’s just hard for some people to learn a new way of using the controller, especially when the standardized dual analog control method has become so ingrained in modern gaming.  Oddly enough, the situation reminds me of the early days of polygonal gaming when controls for 3D games hadn’t become so universalized, and every game seemed to have its own twist on how to handle movement in three-dimensional space.  Amusingly, I guess that’s suitable for Star Fox, which itself is an artifact of that early era.

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Star Fox Zero is an ugly game.  There, I said it.  While the Wii U doesn’t exactly possess bleeding edge graphics technology, both Platinum Games and especially Nintendo have shown that they can get really impressive looking results out of it.  Star Fox, on the other hand, is quite crude in its visuals.  Every object in the game is made of a shockingly low number of polygons draped with very simple texture work.  The game appears bereft of any modern lighting, shading, or particle effects.  At its very best, the game looks merely acceptable at times.  Meanwhile, there are some times where the game is a downright muddy eyesore that would be unsightly for even a PS2 game.  I believe Nintendo wants us to believe these simplistic visuals are meant to be an homage to the N64 era, but I think more than likely they are a result of the game’s approach to using the Wii U gamepad.  

As discussed above, the gamepad displays a cockpit view that is completely different from what’s shown on the TV screen.  That means that the Wii U is actually doing double-time.  It is rendering two completely different images of a 3D world.  The vast majority of Wii U games don’t render two separate 3D images for the TV and the gamepad.  They either render one image of the game and display it on both screens (like Smash Bros.), or they render one 3D image of the game and then something simple like a map or inventory screen for the gamepad (Zelda HD remakes).  It’s almost certainly quite taxing for the Wii U to render two separate 3D images concurrently.  The only other game I know of that does this is Nintendo Land, which also has rather underwhelming visuals.  Furthermore, Star Fox Zero runs at a mostly stable 60 frames per second.  So while the game looks very modest, it’s likely pushing the Wii U to its limits.

Ultimately, Star Fox Zero is an incredibly ambitious game, and it suffers for it.  I have to wonder in the end if these features were really worth it.  I’ll reiterate that I like what they’ve set up here.  But, the graphics clearly suffer greatly in service of a two screen experience.  There’s some clear advantages to the approach they’ve taken.  I think gyro aim is a good addition to the Star Fox formula, as it allows for a game that is faster-paced and more precise than what I think would be achievable with purely analog stick aiming.  But, I’m not sure if the cockpit view was really needed.  Like I discussed above, I have a feeling that 80% of the time it doesn’t really matter if the player is focused on the TV screen or the gamepad.  And most of the utility of the cockpit view would be eliminated simply by placing a more accurate reticule on the TV screen.  I think getting rid of the technical hurdle of the cockpit view would have allowed them to build a game with much more elaborate levels and greater visual appeal, especially seeing as it is a point of consternation for many.

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I guess, in my head, I have this image of what a modernized Star Fox should be.  I imagine these colossal space battles with laser beams whizzing by, bright fiery explosions ripping through the hulls of battle cruisers, swarms of enemy fighters scrambling about, and all kinds of debris chaotically being hurled about the battlezone.  I imagine these bombastic action sequences like Fox escaping bases and starships on self-destruct as fire cuts loose all around.  I imagine futuristic cityscapes being torn asunder by the mayhem of an invading alien force.  But, this game does not live up to the lofty heights my imagination vividly conjures up for Star Fox.  Rather, Star Fox Zero’s primitive graphics and short and concise missions only very crudely simulate these things.  That said, this is a very fun arcade action game, and if you’re able to accept its status quo-defying implementation of the gamepad, I think most Star Fox fans will enjoy it.  I can say without hesitation that I had a ton of fun with the game, even if it is tinged with disappointed………..

But, I simply don’t think I can recommend the game to anyone on the fence who doesn’t have a hardcore love for Star Fox, certainly not at full price.  I would only recommend a game unqualified when I feel there is a fairly high probably that most people will enjoy it, and in the case of Star Fox Zero, there are too many easy justifications for disliking it.  These are principally the game’s brevity, its low budget feel, and the fact that the gamepad implementation has shown itself to not be for everyone.  And please understand how painful these words of warning are for me to write, simply because I am so conflicted about this game, and that I want to see Star Fox succeed and become a series that lives up to the potential that I believe it has.

As an addendum, the retail release of Star Fox Zero comes packaged with another game called Star Fox Guard.  This is a tower defense game that grew out of a Wii U tech demo that Nintendo showed off some years back.  I haven’t torn into this game yet, so I can’t yet comment on its quality.  But because some people might be curious, I will say that I am impressed that the games are packaged together in a cardboard box that has two proper Wii U cases on the inside (one for each game).  The Wii U cases each have a disc for their respective games, so no having to deal with download codes for the e-shop.  I’m very pleased that Nintendo decided to have physical copies of each of these games, when it would have been easy neglect a physical version of Star Fox Guard.

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