Nintendo’s major offering at 2016’s WonderCon was that of the barrel roll variety — their upcoming Star Fox Zero. It’s not exactly a sequel in the series, or a prequel, or even a remake. It simply exists within the Star Fox world and could be a nice throwback for the Wii U.
Star Fox Zero will fit very much within the first few Star Fox series games. As the famous fox, you’ll be piloting an Arwing through a variety of levels and planets alongside classic friends Falco, Peppy, Slippy, and others, blasting your way to victory. The demo available on the WonderCon floor was fairly lengthy and seemed to have a majority of its planets available for play, but what I got my hands on specifically was the three-parted Corneria.
Naturally, being on the Wii U, the gamepad plays a major role in how you’ll be playing Star Fox Zero. It will be your primary mode of navigation through any planetary situation, with the left joystick acting as your targeting reticule. In fact, the GamePad will be your primary view while flying your Arwing, which I found to be problematic. The recommendation is that you spend most of your time looking at the GamePad, occasionally looking up at your television to notice things outside of your gamepad view. While the general movement took a little getting used to before it came somewhat comfortable, I couldn’t get entirely on board having to switch my eyesight so much. It generally became disorienting, but it never made the game unplayable. I would have much rather seen the GamePad be used as a more strategic element, such as a map and power console.
The over-reliance on the GamePad to manage your view is alleviated by otherwise smooth gameplay. Some of your ships will be able to turn into a walker or similar type of transformer-type vehicles. The demo only showed the Arwing, which turns into that walker, but other types of vehicles for stealthier modes (such as the Gyrowing) will be available. All of this in a vibrant environment that looked fairly impressive.
While the controls may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the general fun attitude of Star Fox could overcome that and be a solid franchise presence on the Wii U. Star Fox Zero will launch April 22, 2016 alongside a copy of Star Fox Guard (a tower defense game) for free.