Star Fox 64 3D
For as much as we complain about Nintendo’s recent trend of porting old titles to the 3DS at least the company has been picking evergreen titles. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a great choice as it was and still is one of the greatest video games ever made.
Though not as critically acclaimed as Ocarina (and really what is?) Star Fox 64 (which was renamed Lylat Wars in Europe for copyright reasons) is also heralded as one of the best titles for Nintendo 64. Considering how bad the more recent entries in the space shooter franchise have been you can understand the logic behind Nintendo’s decision to resurrect it on the 3DS as Star Fox 64 3D.
If you’ve played Ocarina of Time 3D then you’ll have a very good idea of what to expect here. Both games feature remastered graphics, optional gyroscopic controls and, of course, glasses-free stereoscopic 3D. Though each have their individuals flaws they do share one fairly substantial one for veteran player; the lack of new content. But more on that later.
The one thing I doubt anyone can complain about are the game’s graphics which are much improved over the 14 year old original. Textures have been completely redrawn for the high definition age, everything is sporting much higher polygon counts and the frame rate now remains consistently silky smooth. Advanced lighting and graphical effects, prominently highlighted by the shimmering engine trails of the Arwing fighters, round out what may be the best looking 3DS title currently available.
It’s unfortunate that the rest of the package is not this definitive.
Whereas Ocarina 3D opted to perfectly emulate its originator’s Nintendo 64 music and sounds, Star Fox 64 3D goes with the remastering route with mixed results.
For whatever reason, Nintendo and co-developer Q-Games decided to rerecord all of the dialogue in the game. Though they were wise enough to bring back the original voice actors most of the cast seem to be a little off their mark and generally don’t seem to be giving it as much gusto as their original performances. Considering how far video game voice acting has come since 1997 this is pretty baffling, though admittedly this issue won’t bother newcomers to this version.
The music is much like the dialogue in the fact that its approach is admirable but the execution is disappointing. Though the original compositions remain they have been rearranged – not with a full orchestral score mind you, but with more modern sounding MIDI. While this new version of the soundtrack isn’t outright bad, it’s another area of the game that Nintendo and Q-Games simply didn’t take far enough.
Continuing with the laundry list of changes the multiplayer has also been re-jigged though it’s still not a big draw. It seemed like an afterthought in the original and remains basic even now. There are more stages, power ups, options (like the ability to play against computer controlled A.I.) and the facility to play with three other 3DS owners through local single cartridge download play. The lack of Internet support may frustrate some but I can’t see multiplayer catching on, online or not.
As mentioned before you now have the option to play with the 3DS’ gyroscopic controls, guiding your Arwing by tilting your system around. I can’t believe this still needs to be said in 2011 but motion controls simply aren’t responsive or precise enough for action-intensive games. It worked well in Ocarina 3D’s first person mode but here, where you’re gunning for high scores and essentially operating under a time limit, it’s just a handicap and not fun at all.
Star Fox 64 3D’s biggest downfall however (as was Ocarina 3D’s) is the lack of new content. The game was already pretty short but at least incentivised repeated play through alternate routes and high score runs that unlocked elements of the multiplayer. With the retooled multiplayer fully available from the outset there’s basically no allure or reward to perfecting every level across the three difficulty modes. Unless you count an unlockable alternate title screen. Which you shouldn’t.
Was it really too much effort to create some new single player content, perhaps even an additional campaign? With the original voice cast back in the studio they could have even recorded brand new dialogue for occasion.
Personally, some meaningful new unlocks would have been enough. How cool would it have been to have the original Super NES Star Fox as a reward or even the completed but never released Star Fox 2? Nintendo could have even billed the game as a Star Fox collection, making it far more desirable and a better value proposition.
For as disappointed as I am with it, I can’t call Star Fox 64 3D a bad game. Call me a victim of Nintendo Stockholm Syndrome if you like but Star Fox 64 is still a blast to play and (aside from the multiplayer) definitely holds up today. I’d go so far as to recommend this new version to those who own the system and missed the game the first time around. However, if you’re not in it for all the different endings, alternate routes and high scores it’s probably best off as a rental.
Now Nintendo, can you please announce some original titles for the 3DS? Thanks.