The Star Fox series is one of Nintendo's most popular trademarks, but none of the games in the series even come close to the experience that Star Fox 64 had. Like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D before it, Star Fox 64 has been given the 3D treatment, and the game is every bit as good as the original.
What Is It?
Star Fox is Nintendo's answer to popular space franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars, but rather than addressing intergalactic issues such as the discovery and understanding of different races of aliens or the quests to prove oneself as a jedi master, Star Fox focuses on combat. To put a more fictional yet believable touch to the game, master designer Shigeru Miyamoto used his love of puppet shows to test by deciding to use animals as the characters in the game.
Star Fox 64 is considered by many to be an instant classic, but for newcomers to the series, here is what the game is about. Star Fox 64 3D follows the Star Fox team, a mercenary group that serves the planets in the galaxy called the Lylat System, especially the planet Corneria–the most industrialized planet in the galaxy. Corneria was nearly destroyed by experiments headed by Andross, a mad monkey scientist. As a punishment, General Pepper, the dog commander of the Cornerian army, banned Andross to the deserted planet Venom for his heinous actions.
General Pepper noticed strange activity coming from Venom, and he sent the Star Fox team consisting of James McCloud, Peppy Hare, and Pigma Dengar to investigate. Upon their arrival at Venom, Pigma betrayed the team, and James sacrificed himself in order for Peppy to retreat back to Corneria, where he told James' son Fox about his father's fate and the fact that Andross had declared war.
The game is primarily an on-rails shooter played from a third-person perspective behind Fox's arwing, the featured fighter ship. At times, especially with freeroaming boss fights, piloting is switched into "all-range mode," where players have the freedom to fly throughout the map in the third dimension.
Why Should I Care?
A reason why Star Fox 64 has so much appeal is that the game is so easy to figure out and play due to its simple control scheme. Ship commands such as shooting, launching smart bombs, breaking, and boosting are all done using the 3DS facebuttons. Both the left and right shoulder buttons are used to make the ship turn more sharply, and you can tap them both to perform Star Fox's infamous "barrel roll."
Longtime fans of the game might be disappointed to find out that the button mapping is a bit different. For example, smartbombs are now used by pressing the Y button, X is used in conjunction with the circle stick for somersaults and u-turns, and the B button is now the brake. At times it'll be confusing to figure out the commands, but to make things easier, the developers mapped the control pad as well. By pressing up or down on the directional pad, you can somersault or make a u-turn respectively.
The biggest change with the controls is with its compatibility with the 3DS gyrosensor. Through the game's motion controls you can maneuver your Arwing simply by tilting the handheld in any given direction. As cool as this feature is, it isn't the most recommended because it just isn't as accurate as the circle pad, and like Ocarina of Time 3D's first-person weaponry, it ruins the 3D effect.
Upon first booting the game, there's a mandatory training mode (it wasn't mandatory in the original), and the game includes two difficulty modes, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 64. 3DS is the easy mode, and the main difference between this and the "harder" Nintendo 64 mode is the fact that you can shoot members of your own team and not do any damage to them.
One of the more interesting highlights in the single player mode is the possibilities of different routes you can take to beat the game. Depending on how you finish a level, whether you've killed enough bad guys or you've kept certain people alive, different routes to different planets and stars can be taken. Some of the areas, such as Macbeth or Aquas, have you in control of the Landmaster (a ground-traveling fighter tank) and even the Blue Marine (a submarine). These vehicles aren't as cool as the Arwing, but they definitely add some much-needed variety that provide a break from flying all the time.
Another improved feature is the game's multiplayer mode, but it's still the least impressive mode in the game. There are four new areas to play in, and the game makes use of Download Play with only one game card to enjoy the multiplayer with three others, but the lack of online play leaves a lot to be desired. Players also have the option of playing with the 3DS internal camera so that instead of pictures of the Star Fox team, you can see live video of the reactions on your opponent's faces. As weird as that is, it can also be a funny addition to the game.
As half-baked as the multiplayer may seem, it only makes an already great game even more of a joy to play.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Star Fox 64 3D is an example of a game that blended the old-school philosophies of arcade-style shooting with more conventional third-person gameplay to make a more "current" product, and to this day, no other game in the genre has come close to offering the experience Star Fox 64 has.
All the flat-looking sprites have been replaced with polygonal 3D images for the most part, and there is a more noticeable amount of depth with the 3D effect on. The game looks a lot smoother and a lot of the effects, especially that of the water, look really great on the handheld. All the written (and spoken) dialog can be seen at the bottom screen, so the constant nagging of the fellow Star Fox team members won't block any of the action on the top screen.
The audio is a mixed bag. The voices were all re-recorded by all the original voice actors, but they hardly sound different. This was done probably to preserve the authenticity and nostalgia in the original game, and it's a pretty good move because the sound quality is a lot more crisp, while the original made the voices sound like jumbled up radio soundbytes. The only real unfortunate thing with the voice acting is that some of the dialog was changed. For example, Falco's infamous insult, "Hey Einstein, I'm on your side," has been replaced with "Hey genius, I'm on your side!"
Star Fox 64 3D is one of the best 3DS titles available right now, and the facelifts in quality rival those put in Ocarina of Time 3D. If you're a fan of the game and you own it on both the Nintendo 64 and Wii's Virtual Console, there's really no reason to pick it up again because nothing's really changed. But if you're someone who's never had the experience of playing the game or haven't played it in a while, Star Fox 64 3D would be a glowing addition to your 3DS library and has tons of replay value with the many ways there are to beat the game.