Fox, Falco, Peppy and Slippy (accompanied by their original voice actors) back in a new adventure. Players use the GamePad to control their Arwing spaceship and see the view from the cockpit, while the TV displays the overall context of the entire battlefield. The title includes a new Walker transformation to the Arwing, a new vehicle for growth and the return of the Land Master Tank.
Even for those familiar with the series, Star Fox Zero is immediately confusing. On the surface, it appears to be a modern extension of Star Fox 64, the space combat classic which took off in 1997. It certainly looks the part with its Wii U facelift, but after finishing one level, the message is clear: Zero plays by its own rules. It is based on the display capabilities of GamePad and motion detection, requiring that you divide your attention between two screens – one for theft and one for shooting – that fundamentally changes your approach.
It is not surprising to see the mechanics of Star Fox are changing in light of the GamePad, but where Nintendo seeks to give you more control over your weapons, she simultaneously neglects the chance to create an appropriate follow Star Fox, for a story on square. Zero is often a near mirror picture Star Fox 64, featuring many of the same antagonists, places, and one-liners. You lead the familiar group of anthropomorphic animals do-good, zipping around in airplanes agile fighting, thwarting intergalactic villains and engage in even catchy kitsch jokes.
More than anything else to zero, the steering your Arwing is a joy. Your reminder jet communicates a great sense of speed as you turn in the air and turn around behind enemies, leaving bursts of energy in your wake. You must also deal with tight spaces, tilt your wings at the right angle to fit through small gaps and avoid environmental hazards. As you bob, weave and barrel-roll your way to the heart of the operations of your enemies, there are power-ups and other collectibles to acquire along the way, but they need an eye lively and quick reflexes.
You spend most of your time in the cockpit of your Arwing, but Zero has some new tricks up its sleeve when it comes to vehicles. The first is the Walker, which is a bipedal mech-like chicken you use to fight on the ground and within the interior spaces. It is actually a transformation of the Arwing, you turn on the fly by pressing a button. Walker can sprint, hover, and dodge to a moment’s notice. It is useful in a pinch, but it does not hold a candle to the Arwing. You also have access to a slow, drone copter as in Gyrowing. It packs a little robot attached that you can cut and navigate small spaces to access computer terminals. Once lowered, you look through the eyes of the robot using the GamePad screen to locate your target and hack away – a process that is more tedious than anything else.
The Landmaster tank Star Fox 64 is back as well. It trundles on rocky terrain with ease, and can quickly roll or glide to avoid danger. But back to zero is the ability to transform into a jet Landmaster. It does not match the speed or handling of the Arwing, but it is a welcome bonus that makes piloting a slow tank a little more exciting.
Most zero steps are on-rails where you move forward at a constant speed. In other scenarios – typically boss battles – you switch to All-Range mode and take full control of your Arwing. In missions on rails, you are encouraged to attack enemies and destroy objects in their way, but the game does not wait for you to do it because the levels you constantly pull forward. In All-Range Mode, your goals are focused on combat, and it is here where complicated control scheme Zero becomes the center of attention, but not in a good way.