I had a chance to do a hands-on preview of Nintendo’s fully unveiled Star Fox Wii U game, Star Fox Zero, at this year’s E3.
One of the biggest things most people took away from the game’s re-reveal was that it was yet another on-rails shooter, just like previous entries in the series. I want to make it clear that while I would’ve had no problem with this, there are new and returning vehicles/forms that switch things up a bit. You’ll be able to choose between the Arwing, the Walker, the Landmaster, and the entirely new Gyrocopter.
The Walker is a bipedal form of the Arwing that fans might remember from the unreleased Star Fox 2. I only got to play the first level, Corneria, so my time in the walker form was somewhat limited. Still, from the transformation to the actual handling of the bird-like form itself, I was impressed.
As for mechanics, I was playing the game on the GamePad, which seemed to work out pretty well – I quickly got into the controls and was trying to push my Arwing as much as I could. I felt just like I did playing Star Fox 64 back in the day, and I mean that in a good way, the game felt genuinely fun and responsive.
The most noticeable addition to this game is the use of the aforementioned GamePad controller and its second screen. While I was pleasantly surprised by the responsiveness and the use of the second-screen, ultimately I am concerned that it might not be for everyone. Let me explain before you go jumping down my throat.
When you’re in all-range mode, you absolutely have to use the GamePad controller and its motion sensors. If you choose not to do this, you’re going to screw yourself as it seemed to be literally impossible to properly control the Arwing the traditional style, i.e., by simply guiding it with your joysticks and aiming at your enemies on the main screen.
Instead, you have to move your Arwing with the aforementioned joysticks while using the GamePad’s motion sensors to line up your aiming. This sounds weird even as I write it, but it actually felt pretty awesome once I got the hang of it. Maneuvering the Arwing became an entirely different ball-game once I had to fully use the GamePad, although you do have the option to do this throughout the various levels.
I will say that looking into the GamePad screen as my direct FOV was definitely an exciting new experience for me. I was paranoid of looking like an idiot, staring real closely to the thing while also gyrating my hips a lot to work the motion sensors, but once I got a feel of how to shoot more accurately, I was truly having a blast.
Visually, the game looks fantastic, and runs at 60 frames per second. I know that some people were unimpressed by the game’s full reveal trailer, but it’s a different story when you’re playing the game.
Performance-wise, I mentioned the shooter runs at 60FPS, and while it definitely looked and felt extremely smooth, I never really saw any visual oddities (pop-in, slowdown, etc). The game ran spectacularly, and I only got to see the first stage, which easily looks like the most plain out of the bunch.
I wanted to point out that using the second-screen on the GamePad also has some benefits outside of shooting, namely in cutscenes, where you can look around, find easter-eggs, and even shoot at other pilots.
You really have to get a feel of switching between your main screen and the second screen – once you nail this to-and-fro mechanic down, I think Star Fox Zero will be an excellent game. However, I have my reservations that not everyone will be into being that active, and would prefer simply a “traditional” Star Fox game.
I am genuinely excited for Star Fox Zero, and I think that once you give it a try, it quickly makes sense. The game boldly embraces using the second screen on the Wii U tablet, and gave me a real fresh take on the series, and rail shooters in general.