Monday, May 16, 2016

Star Fox Zero Review: You can put lipstick on a Pigma, but he's still bad!

I love Starwing(PAL version of Star Fox on SNES) and Lylat Wars(Star Fox 64) a lot. They are great games I still play every once in a while. I'm a Star Fox fan and I've played them all! I played The Legend of Star Fox: Land Before Time, Ground Fox Halt and even Star Fox Commands don't work, so I have experienced it all... except Star Fox 2... really need a repro of that! The Star Fox franchise has been treated very poorly over the last 18 years, so is Star Fox Zero the savior that will rejuvenate the franchise... or will it be the harbinger of death that throws the series in the same bin Metroid, Advance Wars and F-Zero have been thrown into?(BTW I love all these franchises too)

So Star Fox Zero is a polarizing game. On one hand it looks like a Star Fox game... like a HD remaster of Star Fox 64 to be precise. On the other hand it's over extended reach towards "innovation" makes it hard to enjoy or even get into the game. Couple this with the bloated hype and dishonesty of most reviewers who forgot they've had tons of opportunities to adapt to the controls(like a year at various events!) and you get a game that disappoints older fans who think the series peaked with Star Fox 64(I fall here) or "good" if you are an unapologetic fan(like my brother) who are just glad a new game exists.

Star Fox Zero is in essence Star Fox 64 on the outside and a muddled mess on the inside... kinda like Leather Face from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The controls are what killed the experience for me... it's just terrible! Nintendo is normally known for intuitive controls, but they really dropped the ball here. Just to warn you, this may get a little long and ranty. Your basic controls are close to being right, but they are questionable mapped. The biggest issues are the motion control aiming and the right analog stick functions. Let me tell you right now that the right analog stick functions would have been better off being mapped to the buttons since it controls the tilt angle of the vehicles as well as boosting and braking. Then there's the motion controls... oh dear! This was the proverbial nail in the coffin. The aiming instead of being controlled by the right analog stick like any other logical control scheme(or better yet just left as it was in Star Fox 64!), is exclusively controlled with motion control that just don't work with that bulky gamepad. Aiming is extremely fidgety because of the motion controls and the sensitivity being both too sensitive... and not sensitive enough! How is this possible?! It also doesn't help that the game's view is split between 2 screens and you're expected to focus on both at the same time. Having a cockpit view for precision aiming while a great idea in theory, just doesn't work here with the motion controlled aiming. It's kinda amazing how Splatoon uses motion controls right for aiming and yet Star Fox Zero managed to cock it up.

Despite the controls, Star Fox Zero really tries to capture what made Star Fox 64 the masterpiece it is. It's still mostly an on-rails shooter and you still progress by beating levels and looking for hidden paths with a few arena battles thrown in for dog fights. The boss fights unfortunately are quick to remind you that those rotten motion controls are here to stay and ruin your fun. Boss fights like to take the camera away from you and make it really hard to pilot with either screen's view. On the plus side, each stage isn't too long and it's replayability is still a draw if you're somehow able to let Stockholm Syndrome set in and adapt to the awkward controls.

Even if you are somehow able to click with the controls(assuming that click isn't your sanity breaking), there's one fact you can't escape... the level design is boring and bland! Yeah, it's very boring to play because of it's bland visuals and uninspired level design. Everything just ends up blurring together to the point that the only moments from the game that stuck with me are the ones that induced rage! I know that people will throw out something stupid like "But they were limited by the genre!" and I say Nintendo lost that excuse with the implementation of motion controls! The level design is just so boring to play through because of the lack of challenge(outside of the split screen focus and the god awful motion controls) the stages posses and even the enemy layout wasn't thought out very well either.

The vehicles you use each have their own problems to make matters worse. The right analog stick functions ruined the Arwing and it's Walker mode controls like a shopping trolley with 2 broken wheels(one in the front and one in the back on the other side) while trying to go up hill! The new Gyrowing is so damn slow, only used once in a stealth mission and controls terribly. The Landmaster is the only vehicle that isn't ruined completely though. It actually works well with the control scheme surprisingly... except the precision aiming focused bosses and it's ability to fly kill an almost fun couple of missions.

The bosses are just so boring and frustrating to make the negatives just keep stacking up! The forced lock on in most of the boss fights make it hard to manoeuvre and having to use the not so precise aiming just don't make the encounters fun in the least! You'll spend most of your time fighting the controls and not knowing which screen to focus on. This gets to a piss boiling point against the final fight with Andross. When I finally beat the game I didn't have a sense of accomplishment pour over me, instead it was me moaning out of displeasure saying "Finally I'm done! Back on the shelf to never touch again!" and I probably never will play it again in single player.

The only slight positives to the game revolves around two things... The amiibo and the Co Op. The amiibo give you a SNES Arwing that kicks the nostalgia up a notch at the cost of homing shots or a glass cannon black Arwing that looks awesome, but is fragile... on the plus side, it's shots are double strength! You really need to be careful with either amiibo though because their negatives will bite you on the arse really quickly. Now Co Op can actually be the only time you can have any fun with this game. In Co Op one player is controlling the vehicle while the other is the gunner using the precision aiming. This actually relieves some stress since you can concentrate on one thing while your partner does the other. It's so good not to constantly shift focus and you actually start to have a small iota of fun. If you must play this game, play with a friend and switch duties after each stage.

Star Fox Zero is not a good game at all. The motion controls are terribly implemented and are hard to adapt to, assuming you can even do so. The graphics, level design and bosses are just so bland and boring and make the game feel more like a slog instead of a fun time like Star Fox 64. The only positives are not enough to justify the purchase one bit! Yes Co Op is fun, but how often will you be able to play it? Even the replayability of the game is unappealing because of how heavy the negatives weigh. The best way I can sum the game up is that it can be symbolized by Leather Face. It's wearing the face of Star Fox 64, someone we love dearly... but underneath is a psychotic murder intent on destroying you and everything you love... but he does have a cool chainsaw! I just don't like this game and it's not worth the purchase at all.

Score 4/10

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