Star Fox 64 3D Review
Star Fox 64 is a blast from the past the suits the 3DS perfectly. The handheld is finally starting to conjure up a catalogue of quality titles, but many of those are simply remakes or ports. It’s a shame that the best games on the system mostly come from the Nintendo 64 era, with Ocarina of Time the clear standout, but Star Fox 64 is different. It feels at home on the 3DS, and almost as if it were a handheld game trapped on a home console for three generations.
What Star Fox 64 3D Got Right
Suits the 3DS hardware - There are ports, remakes and remasterings (whatever you want to call them) for two reasons: because they are genuinely improved by the new hardware and deserve a second audience, and because console launches can be desperate times in need of any software to make up the numbers. The 3DS has been inundated with the latter, but Star Fox 64 3D is the clear exception. It is improved in almost every way possible thanks to the new hardware and even feels like it was always meant to be a handheld game – the technology just never existed until now.
The classic single player - You take control of Fox McCloud and his Arwing, as you fly through a series of frantic linear levels, destroying everything in your path. As with the Nintendo 64 version, the overworld consists of a series of levels that open up depending on which route you choose and how things pan out in the heat of battle. It’s been amended slightly to offer choice, as you can now pick which available planet to head to, rather than being forced to the next one in the chain, and this may well have a bearing on the levels you actually play (in that playthrough, as the single player campaign is designed to be played a great many times).
A fresh coat of paint - It’s hard to believe this was once a Nintendo 64 game, and that’s because it wasn’t really. Co-developer Q-Games have done a lot more than add some 3D effects and update the controls. They’ve delivered a complete visual overhaul from the ground up for the 3DS, and it shows. The blocky polygons so reminiscent of the Nintendo 64 era are gone, replaced with rounded models and impressive backgrounds.
The character models in particular grab your attention, depicting what Star Fox 64 was meant to look like, had the technology allowed it. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s an entirely different game at times, as dodgy backdrops and horrid facial animations have been completely replaced. Best of all, Star Fox 64 3D sends a constant 30 frames per second to each eye and will never fall victim to any enraging framerate issues. There’s no trace of slow down, even in full 3D.
Appropriate 3D - Star Fox 64 3D looks fantastic in 2D, but 3D is where it shows the system’s potential. Q-Games haven’t fallen into the trap of going all out with the 3D for the sack of it. They’ve employed a reduced effect appropriately that best suits the gameplay. It isn’t as “deep” into the screen as other 3DS games, but doesn’t need to be.
Instead it strikes the perfect balance between objects in the foreground and the background. The depth perception between the two is improved immeasurably, compared to a 2D image, but the variance isn’t too great that your eyes struggle to comprehend both as you barrel roll through an on-coming meteor-field.
Control options - Star Fox 64 3D lets the player choose how they want to control the game, and they all work exceptionally well. The default for most players will emulate the original Nintendo 64 set-up, which replaces the analog stick with the Circle Pad.
However, if you have the space, incorporating the gryo sensor motion control is worth a look. The Arwing responds surprisingly well to tilt-based movement, although you will have to play in 2D. Best of all, you can combine the two, as the C-Pad remains active when gryo functions are turned on. You could use tilt to control vertical movement and the Circle Pad for horizontal, or vice versa, and can quickly call on the speed of the C-Pad if you’re not turning fast enough.
Remastered soundtrack - It was disappointingly absent in Ocarina of Time 3D but Nintendo have learnt from their mistakes. The soundtrack has been re-recorded and resonances accordingly, while staying true to the original. Likewise, it includes a new cast of voice actors that you will quickly grow to hate. Slippy is his usual annoying self and still has you rooting for the bad guys. Some characters deserve to be slaughtered.
What Star Fox 64 3D Got Wrong
No online - The lack of online features is a real concern, and almost makes the remake pointless. It looks and plays better than ever, but the one thing missing in 1997 that’s imperative today is online play. Nintendo still don’t get that. The single player is designed to be played several times, but it still only lasts an hour. It really needed comprehensive multiplayer to be the perfect remake.
The Battle Mode is fun, but limited to four player Download Play. It needed to be online, as it will be heavily underutilized limited to local matches. Multiplayer gaming happens online nowadays, and Star Fox 64 3D would have been the perfect poster-boy (game) to announce the 3DS as a true online handheld. It’s a massive opportunity missed, and leaves me worried that Nintendo still don’t understand the importance of online gaming.
It’s much cheaper on Wii - There’s no denying that this is the comprehensive version of Star Fox 64, but it’s awfully expensive. I had hoped Nintendo would release these remakes as a discount range, not at full price. It’s hard to overlook that the original, while inferior, is available on the Wii’s Virtual Console for $15, compared to $60-70 on the 3DS.
The Final Verdict
Star Fox 64 3D feels like it was always meant to be a handheld game. The controls are fantastic, it suits quick gaming bursts and looks amazing with a visual overhaul on the 3DS. The 3D effects have been implemented fittingly and the remastered soundtrack will please fans. The lack of online multiplayer is disappointing, especially because it is so much cheaper on the Wii’s Virtual Console, but it’s a fantastic game that deserves to be bestowed upon a new generation. If you’re looking for a classic Nintendo game to tide you over on 3DS until the original titles we so desperately crave arrive at the end of the year, this is it.
By Ben Salter
Star Fox 64 3D feels like it was always meant to be a handheld game.