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StarFox 64 3D (3DS) artwork

StarFox 64 3D (3DS) review


"Unfortunately, Starfox 64 3D doesnít benefit as much from that finally-genuine third dimension as you might suppose. Depth effects look terrific in the cutscenes that bookend the various stages, certainly, but the levels were never designed to actually utilize three dimensions in any meaningful way. This is essentially a cluttered rail shooter with vast expanses of empty space serving as the backdrop while in the foreground, floating debris from ruined space stations and asteroid fields serve as the points of interest."



True story: when I was younger, my mom almost bought me Starfox for my birthday because it had a fox on the front and she thought it looked cute. It seems safe to assume that if the game had shipped with a fighter jet front and center on the artwork, as Starfox 64 3D does now (you barely even see the fox unless youíre looking for him), she would have never given it the second glance that the woodland creature and his friends inspired during the Super Nintendo era. My mom is one of the reasons some games feature artwork that poorly represents a titleís actual content.

While the new artwork probably will do nothing to help spur sales of the game it represents, it holds the distinction of being truer to the Starfox identity than perhaps any cover illustration that weíve previously seen. After all, once you strip away the fox, the rabbit, the bird, the frog and the sci-fi mythology, you have something remarkably straightforward: a competent shooter with a typical story made more interesting by the involvement of animals who shoot blasters, fly ships and occasionally instruct one another to perform barrel rolls.

The gist of the plot is that the galaxy is in trouble--as it was on at least one prior occasion--and this time your father (who did all sorts of heroic things back in the day before disappearing and leaving you to your fate) isnít around to save the day. It falls to you, a bushy-tailed fox mercenary who carries on the proud McCloud surname, to play the hero in his stead. With your wingmen at your side (who also look like they would be better suited for duty in a petting zoo than in spacecraft), youíll destroy the mad scientist who is determined to plunge the galaxy into despair. He looks a lot like a gorilla.

Starfox 64 came out a long enough time ago that I played it, beat it and then forgot about it and dozens of other titles to boot. That makes this a great time for Nintendo to bring the classic experience back because people who have generally fond memories of the original title are likely to be tempted to invest new-millennium cash when the see the update sitting on the shelf. And if nostalgia isnít enough, the reworked handheld release also features 3D visuals. To most people who are familiar with the franchise, that seems like the sort of thing that could be a big deal. Remember, this is a series of games that originally existed to prove that the Super Nintendo (with a little help from the FX chip) could turn simple triangles and such into a proper shooter with three dimensions.

Unfortunately, Starfox 64 3D doesnít benefit as much from that finally-genuine third dimension as you might suppose. Depth effects look terrific in the cutscenes that bookend the various stages, certainly, but the levels were never designed to actually utilize three dimensions in any meaningful way. This is essentially a cluttered rail shooter with vast expanses of empty space serving as the backdrop while in the foreground, floating debris from ruined space stations and asteroid fields serve as the points of interest. Youíll be too busy performing barrel rolls and evasive loops and collecting gold and silver rings to stop and stare in wonder at any breathtaking vistas.

StarFox 64 3D asset


The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, another recent effort on Nintendoís part to cash in on deserved nostalgia, played in such a way that youíd find yourself stopping to stare at a beautiful expanse as you saw a familiar location in a new way for the first time. It worked so well because not only was everything better than you remembered it, but it actually felt better too. Thereís really nothing here thatís inspiring on that same level, though, nothing that delivers a new twist to the familiar. When you dive through a tight tunnel now, it feels every bit as much like a trench run on the way to the Death Star as it did 17 years ago.

Donít mistake feeling of familiarity for a lack of effort, though. This isnít a lazy port at all. Nintendo teamed up with Q-Games (which is headed by Dylan Cuthbert, who played such a pivotal role in the development of the original Starfox). The manpower devoted to the port has paid off in the form of fresh texture work, voice tracks, crisp musical compositions that have never sounded better and a new control scheme that is more closely suited to the 3DS hardware. As a result, Starfox 64 3D doesnít feel like the relic that it surely would have if this were a straight port. Controls are tight, everything is pretty and the end result is that if back in the day you finished one run through the game by following it up with another, youíll probably want to do the same thing now.

Another potentially nice feature is the 4-player local play, which requires only one cartridge. I wasnít able to test the feature out myself because I am a strange person and I donít have extra 3DS units lying around the office. That probably puts me in the same position as most 3DS owners, though, and it leaves one to wonder why Nintendo didnít include an online mode so that I and others like me could compete with friends who live in different states. Parents who have multiple children and 3DS units will likely appreciate that they donít have to buy a separate cartridge for each rugrat, but what about the 30-something nerds like me with entitlement issues? Weíll just have to cope.

Not that coping should prove difficult. Even if you count the multi-player mode as a non-entity, there are plenty of reasons to return to Starfox 64 3D even after the credits roll. The game keeps track of how many hits youíve sustained over the course of your adventure, so you can always challenge yourself in that manner, plus there are numerous routes that one might take on the journey from Corneria to Venom. You canít see everything on one trip or even two, no matter how good you are, and there are some stages where the outcome differs depending on whether or not you destroy an enemy base in time (for one example) or find and shoot every one of eight switches to change the route that a train follows (for another example).

In 2011, as in 1997, Starfox 64 3D isnít a perfect game. Itís a bit on the easy side and it probably wonít amuse most gamers for more than a few hours even if they take the time to explore every route. Still, the adventures of Fox McCloud are unique enough within the Nintendo universe and polished enough compared to other rail shooters that kids of all ages should acquaint themselves with Fox McCloud and friends.

On second thought, maybe a cover that focused on the animals wouldnít have been such a bad idea after all.

Rating: 8/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (September 13, 2011)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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