Star Fox 64 3D Review

Platform: 3DS
Originally Reviewed: 2011

Nintendo’s 3DS showed so much promise during its E3 announcement two years ago when Nintendo fans were treated to exciting trailers promising Nintendo’s biggest hitters in full 3D without glasses. Fast-forward to today and the 3DS’ promise has almost all but faded. Incredibly poor early sales followed by a huge price drop and subsequent re-design plans have put the console in an increasingly bad light.

One of the main problems for the 3DS is the total dearth of good titles on the system. The three biggest releases for the console so far, including this, have been remakes of old games. The Ocarina of Time remake was superb, giving Nintendo fans both new and old the definitive version of the greatest game of all time. Resident Evil Mercenaries, however, was severely hit by a crazy and ill-advised saving system that spoiled any promise it could’ve had.

And now the 3DS’ third big release, and third of which is a remake, hits the console in the form of Star Fox 64 3D (SF3D) and sits somewhere in the middle of the two previous ones. Still showing all the class and playability of its 64-bit brother, the game has definitely improved, but did we really need it to be remade? Is there enough in the package to warrant shelling out a fresh £35 to play it again?

The story of SF3D sees the Star Fox team called in by General Pepper to help against an attack on the planet Corneria. The planet is under attack from the forces of the ingenious and thoroughly insane scientist Andross, who was banished from Corneria to the planet Venom several years previously for treason after nearly destroying it.

The player takes control of Fox McCloud, whose father James was killed whilst investigating mysterious (and surely Andross perpetrated) activity coming from Venom when a member of his team betrayed him. Fox joins with his own team, which includes his father’s old teammate Peppy the hare, to help General Pepper save the Lylat System and destroy Andross.

The story is quite a typical one of betrayal and redemption but it actually plays very little part in the game. SF3D is all about high-octane space battles at break-neck speed that see the player blasting, bombing, somersaulting and barrel rolling their way through increasingly difficult battlefields. The majority of the action takes place in the air using Fox’s Arwing ship, but there are also immensely enjoyable sections that see him driving both a land tank and a submarine.

Even after 14 years, SF3D’s gameplay is still an absolute joy to experience. Such is the perfection of the game’s on-rails space battling action that every level throughout the game is a brilliant challenge. Players will fight through lava worlds, cities, asteroid fields and even underwater levels in order to save the Lylat System. It’s exhilarating, it’s varied and it’s absolutely brilliant.

The campaign has different routes that can be taken by the player, with the harder levels opened up by completing certain challenges. It’s a classic arcade-style system that provides a decent challenge and adds a level of replayability as players can attempt to re-play the game to unlock the harder levels and the alternate, true ending involving a different final boss fight.

Nintendo knew that Star Fox 64 played like a dream, but it was evident that a simple port would not suffice on the vastly more powerful 3DS. The game needed a visual overhaul and it most certainly got one. SF3D looks gorgeous and it’s a real testament to Nintendo EAD that they managed to produce as good looking a game as this from the very pixelated original. The explosions and water effects are absolutely terrific, especially for a handheld title, and wouldn’t look out of place on PS3 or 360.

SF3D also does a good job of implementing the 3D effects that really enhance the action on the battlefield. Asteroids lumber towards the screen and bullets and explosions whizz past your very eyes. It’s no secret that the 3DS’ 3D functions aren’t true 3D and are actually just an added level of depth, but Nintendo have squeezed everything they can out of it here. Special mention to the sound should be made as well, with the soundtrack sounding surprisingly epic through the tiny 3DS speakers.

SF3D is undoubtedly a brilliant gaming experience, but as a gaming package it falls quite short of what gamers paying full price should expect for their money. It’s old news that the game’s campaign lasts barely any longer than two hours, but there is some repetition value in trying to attempt the harder routes. The game does work well as a pick up and play title, which explains why it was ported to 3DS, but it won’t be long before a two hour campaign that has been available for fourteen years stops being picked up at all.

Nintendo excelled in improving the graphics of the title, but it’s a real shame that there are practically no new modes in the game. There’s a score attack mode that allows players to tackle a level again and improve their score, but with no online leaderboards players are only competing with themselves.

The lack of online multiplayer is a real head scratcher as the game only allows local 4-player dogfights. With the 3DS’ well-documented poor sales figures, it may be difficult to even find any players to fight against. You can play against computer-controlled bots, but this is really boring and is little more than the same as the dogfights seen in the campaign. No online play is a real missed opportunity.

The only real addition to the game is the option to play using the 3DS’ gyro controls to pilot the ship. This works quite well, but it is certainly not enough to justify a full priced title. You can only save one game at a time, so any players wanting to have simultaneous campaigns spanning the multiple different routes will also be left disappointed. Was having three save slots that hard to put in the game?

Everybody knows that Star Fox is a brilliant and immensely fun title, but barring the graphical overhaul and impressive 3D effects, SF3D offers astonishingly little as a full priced 3DS title. Initial promise shown by the excellent and timeless gameplay will eventually lead to boredom and familiarity once gamers realise they could be playing the exact same game on their N64 for £30 less.

It begs the question of why Nintendo insists on rehashing older N64 titles for the 3DS. Games like Ocarina work because of their length. With Star Fox lasting little over two hours in campaign mode we really should have at least seen more added to the title. It is a great game, but with so much effort put into the new graphics and 3D it’s a wonder why Nintendo didn’t just spend all their time and resources on making a new title instead.

Alex Aldridge



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