Since Star Fox 64 came out in 1998, it has remained widely regarded as the last (albeit second) great entry into the franchise. The three sequels (adventure, assault and command) released since then had their own charm, but never quite reached the pedigree of the original two in either quantity or quality of content. With there not having been a truly great Star Fox game since Duke Nukem Forever was announced, it’s understandable that the vast majority of its audience has moved on. So in an effort to bring back old fans and hopefully make some new ones in the process, Nintendo has re-released that Nintendo 64 classic. They’ve added a ton of new features without changing the core game, thereby attempting to recreate the success of the last Star Fox game to actually be successful. In doing this, Nintendo has even gone so far as to remake that game’s main selling point (the fact that it’s in 3D).
The game has three core modes: main game, battle, and score attack. Appropriate to its name, the main game recreates the N64 title’s story and is where you’ll be spending most of your time. Graphics and sound have been totally redone, but the gameplay, enemy spawns and order of planets remain true to the original. The 3DS and N64 modes make minor adjustments to your choice of planet path, but basically amount to little more than a change in difficulty (the N64 version being the harder of the two). Something I forgot about Star Fox 64 over the years is that it’s crazy short. Assuming you don’t die repeatedly in one spot (effing brain tentacles), you’ll run through the entire game in about an hour regardless of which planet path you take.
Even playing through every planet on each difficulty, you’ll have done everything the main game has to offer around the six hour mark. After that, nearly all replay value comes from trying to increase your hit count in the story and score attack mode where you can replay any planet on any difficulty that you’ve completed in the main game. Having been spoiled by practically every game this generation featuring online leaderboards though, I just don’t see that extending the game’s value by much. The battle mode can be a lot of fun but once again, with the game lacking online play, you’ll have to have a few friends who also own a 3DS to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, I, like many people with the system, don’t actually know anyone else who owns a 3DS so we can only dream of even being able to play this game on multiplayer.
While the level structure and story remain the same, everything else in the game has been redone for the 3DS. The sound design (other than voices) have all been rerecorded, graphics are vastly improved and 3D is implemented very well. They’ve struck a good balance where 3D is done only in ways that make sense and not just because the technology allows them to finally literally shove things in your face. In all my time with this game, it never gave me the uncomfortable cross-eyed feeling that some other games for the 3DS have done. Some of the new features work in the game’s favor, but many just detract from the experience. The gyro controls in particular, are utter garbage. I can’t speak for other people, but it turns out that I am totally incapable of holding a handheld system still while playing it. That’s especially true when the game I’m playing on it absolutely demands constantly mashing the same button as fast as possible. When rotating my system by five degrees meant my ship practically reversed direction, all accuracy went out the window and the game became totally unplayable. While the new features are pretty hit-and-miss, the ones that miss (like gyro controls) are thankfully almost always optional so the changes made to this game improve more than they detract from it.
My main problem with Star Fox 64 3D has to be in its attempt to make every aspect of the game please new fans and old at the same time. It doesn’t recreate enough of the game to live up to modern standards, nor does it keep faithful enough to the original for those who just want to play Star Fox 64 again. This Star Fox remake just doesn’t go far enough in either direction to completely satisfy either group of its target audience. Perhaps the N64 mode should have had the original graphics and audio, along with the difficulty and terrible voice acting. Putting that option in the game would have especially emphasized just how much they’ve improved the graphics since 1998. Alternatively, they could have gone in the other direction and redone voice work to go with the new graphics and music. Back then, just the fact that the game had voices at all was impressive but by today’s standards, they’re just terrible. I also would have loved to see something like a new planet path that just goes balls-out in showing off what a Star Fox game can do if it were developed from the ground-up for the 3DS.
In my mind, that is the game’s biggest misstep. The issue here is that there’s almost nothing else being released for the system at the moment. As much as Nintendo is trying to push sales of their newest handheld, it confuses me that its two biggest showpieces (Star Fox and Zelda) are ports of console games from two generations ago. As polished as they are and as much fun as I had with both games (they are and I did), I would have much rather seen new Zelda and Star Fox games made specifically for the 3DS. Nintendo needs a game in one of their core franchises to be made from scratch for the system, and that can show people exactly why the 3DS is something they should spend money on.
As good as it could have been though, Star Fox 64 3D is still a solid title for the system, and would be even if it weren’t the only worthwhile 3DS release since its massive price drop brought in so many new customers who now have nothing to play. The lack of online functionality detracts from the potential value you might otherwise get from it. Perhaps this is because no one has improved on games in this franchise since it was released in 1998, but Star Fox 64 is one of the few N64 games whose gameplay still holds up today. Know going in that you’re not getting a whole lot of content for $40. At the same time, what you’re getting is still the best Star Fox game to be released in over a decade and if that’s what you’re hungry for, this is your best (and only) way to get it.
- Solid port of an N64 classic with vastly improved graphics
- Best implementation of 3D on the system
- No online
- Doesn’t go far enough in either direction of nostalgia or modernization