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The N64’s biggest fault as a system was probably the fact that it had a very small library of games, with owners playing and replaying a new Nintendo release every four months or so with little else on the horizon. That's partially the reason Star Fox 64 is so well remembered by some: they played through it dozens of times because they had little else to do with the system. Now that the space-faring shooter has a 3D remake, it's time to see if the title was really worth the fan following it got, or if it got big mostly thanks to lack of competition.
Though Fox McCloud and his team of animalistic pilots have starred in other games since, none understood the core fun of Star Fox's gameplay like 64. While other titles messed around with on-foot adventures or touchscreen controls, Star Fox 64 keeps you in the ship, flying forward, blasting other statcraft to oblivion. SF64 is simple fun that any kid who ever ran around their living room with a toy X-Wing can appreciate. It's such an entertaining and easy formula, it makes it all the stranger that it has never been truly replicated until this remake.
Since we played this game to death in the late 90s, each mission was warmly familiar. We saved Corneria, blew up a mothership alongside Bill, and took down rival Star Wolf with ease. It was such nostalgic fun, we found ourselves repeating dialogue out loud that we didn't realize we remembered: "Someone wants to play." "Use the boost to chase." "I guess you're good for something." (Though those lines have been rerecorded, the new voice actors do fairly good imitations.)
The game's graphical update made replaying these classic levels even better as some, including the lava planet and its boss, looked much better than before. Though it didn't have the wow factor of seeing it on our TV way back when, it was cool to experience the game with a more current look. Also, the 3DS's circle pad was a fine approximation of the N64 analog stick, plus the game offers aiming via the 3DS's Gyro whatevers, but we found little use for it.
Star Fox 64 may be as good as older gamers remember it, but today's audience will still get something out of it too. The arcadey joyof the on-rails stages holds true today, and other updates on top of the graphics have been added. For example, there's now a much more approachable standard difficulty level, though you can also try the less forgiving mode that emulates the N64 original's difficulty pretty well.
Nintendo and Q Games did a pretty impressive job with this recreation, but that also means all the same old faults are there too, as Star Fox 64's largest issue remains: it's too shallow. Though it's fun for a few afternoons or a weekend, you'll "beat" SF64 3D in a few hours. Yes, with the multiple branching paths you'll have to go through it several times to see everything, but it’s still not that deep.
Perhaps we were able to speed through most of the stages pretty easily because we remembered the exact path to take to open up every possible route, but even if you have to work to find each new exit, you’ll have everything unlocked in, at most, nine hours. After that, the game gets old no matter how much replayability is packed into almost every classic stage. Yes, you can try to get a gold medal in every Score Attack version of a stage, but once you’ve finished Sector Z for the eighth time, it gets pretty rote.
Outside of a perfunctory multiplayer mode that’s cute so long as you have friends nearby with a 3DS (there’s no online play) , Star Fox 64 3D is a fine diversion, but at its full price of $39.99, it isn’t a must buy. Those looking for a blast from the past full of all the barrel rolls and Andross they loved 14 (!) years ago will have a good time for as long as it lasts, and this remains the best game in the Star Fox franchise. However, if you want to experience the purest expression of what makes Fox McCloud worth remembering, either rent it or wait for it to go on sale.
Sep 9, 2011
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