I remember it like it was yesterday, 5th June 1993, the day Star Wing (that’s what we Brits knew Star Fox by due to some trademark issues) released. Why do I remember the date with such clarity? Because that just happens to be your humble reviewer’s birthday and, brilliantly, the games shop called us the day before meaning I could have it on the morning of the big day — nothing like the wistful memories of a childhood well spent is there?
Ever since I’ve always had a soft spot for Nintendo’s heroic fox and so it was that I was pretty pleased when it became known that the 3DS’ second wave of titles was to include Star Fox 64; a game that, walking contradiction that I am, I’d never tested to destruction before despite my affinity for the series.
Nintendo’s insistence on re-releasing their back catalog with superficial enhancements and the promise of a more rounded experience due to the 3D prowess of their new handheld is something of a double-edged sword. Sure, it’s great to see the likes of Zelda and Fox strut their stuff on the hardware, but at £39.99 should we be expecting something more?
Before we get to that, it’s worth considering what you do get. The classic shoot-em-up, in which Fox and his (oh so annoying) sidekicks once more take on the evil Andross and his henchmen led by Star Wolf, Fox’s rather predictably named nemesis, is one of the more enjoyable shoot-em-ups to come out of the 1990s.
Fox’ craft, wing or tank, both handle perfectly, the controls successfully mapped to the analog stick of the 3DS. For giggles Nintendo has also added gyroscopic controls, look for people wielding there 3DS like a weapon and see who’s out there playing the game this very moment. Alas, despite a lower difficulty when gyroscopic play is enabled, piloting craft proves too debilitating for serious play and, of course, there’s no suggestion within the game of how to play the game in this mode with the 3D effect enabled; our old friend blurred vision soon rearing its ugly head.
Intact too is the impressively varied gameplay, Star Fox able to take different routes on his route to Venom (Andross’ stronghold). Each planet, or battleground, encountered is imaginatively designed, the disparate landscapes requiring different vehicles – wing or tank – to get through, containing unique hostiles, and utilising different gameplay types; be that on rails shooting, free-range modes or completing an objective against the clock.
It’s this variation, along with the decent shooting mechanics of course, which proves Star Fox 64’s strongest suit and so, despite the amount of blasting you’ll undoubtedly do, there’s always the urge to return and find you way to alternate mission exits in order to unlock those different stages.
If you do find yourself bored with the single-player there’s always the multiplayer to contend with too, though sadly no online option. So, if you’ve no friends with a 3DS, expect to find yourself feeling shortchanged. Perhaps Nintendo might have thought to include the original SNES version too, even if non-3D, but sadly that’s not the case –expect to see that on the 3DS eStore at some point in the future then…
All told, a faithful reproduction of a great game which is sorely lacking in extras and is, if anything, too identical to the original – hardly a re-mastering as much as a simple re-release. As a solo experience Star Fox 64 undoubtedly still stands up, its short journey time from first mission to last suited to short bursts and so ideal for a handheld. The 3D effect works well too, though not in tandem with the forgettable gyroscope control method, while the real miss is the lack of online play. Come on Nintendo, stop pussy-footing around and get us our bespoke range of your best franchises.