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E3 2015: Star Fox Zero Hands On

Among Nintendo’s many talents is the ability to make the old feel new and the familiar feel fresh.

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Star Fox Zero - E3 2015

Among Nintendo’s many talents is the ability to make the old feel new and the familiar feel fresh.

The Star Fox series hasn’t seen a huge number of titles but the SNES and N64/3DS iterations are fondly remembered, with their exquisite flight mechanics and cast of goofy characters much loved. Excursions on the GameCube and Nintendo DS were not without merit either but it’s clear which lineage Star Fox Zero follows.

Long term players may recall that StarFox 64 offered two camera choices, an in-cockpit view and a chase-cam (a feature oddly omitted from the 3DS remake). The new Wii U title effectually gives you both at once, with the GamePad screen serving a gyroscopically controlled cockpit viewpoint while the TV displays a more cinematic perspective of events.

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Is there a benefit to this curious set-up? Based on the E3 demo, it’s a thumbs up. The biggest hurdle to enjoying this typically Nintendo control scheme is not its implementation, but any hang-ups you may have about motion controls. We’ve come a long way since waggle.

In fact, if you use Splatoon’s motion-based camera controls you’ll feel right at home here. Given a few moments of adjustment and acclimatisation it becomes clear that shifting your angle is far more precise, and far faster than can be achieved with a traditional thumbstick.

Star Fox Zero’s aesthetics are clean and clear, perhaps tempered by the need to output two distinct game screens simultaneously. It’s a nice, rather than great, looking title and I would hope that some visual flair is applied before release. That said, movement is smooth and the Wii U’s knack for creating solid looking environments – as in Super Mario 3D World and Pikmin 3 – is again evident.

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The demo itself was classic Star Fox gameplay, an all-range dogfight with a beacon to destroy. Flight controls felt precise and the new Arwing chicken walker was a jerky treat to use. I hope that space combat remains the core experience but occasional diversions with this vehicle will be more than welcome.

Star Fox Zero is a promising game with one big black mark against it: It’s been confirmed that there will be no online multi-player features. This is a real shame considering the success Nintendo has had with games like Smash Bros, Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon. This will mean a huge emphasis on the game’s single player content, which has always historically been focused on replay value, rather than campaign length.

Regardless, it will be good to barrel roll once again. Welcome back, Fox McCloud.

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Thumbsticks editor and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Paper Mario: The Origami King, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Pikmin 3 Deluxe.