StarFox Zero

star_fox_zero_naDate Completed : June 16th, 2016

I never played the original StarFox but I did play the ever-loving-snot out of StarFox 64 back in my college days.  It ranked with Goldeneye, Mario Kart and Smash Bros. for most played game cartridge.  Unfortunately every StarFox game since StarFox 64 (with the exception of Starfox 64 3D which was a remake and doesn’t count) has been in the range of mediocre to awful.  I wasn’t setting my hopes too high for StarFox Zero and when Nintendo bundled a second game (StarFox Guard) in for no additional cost I began to suspect that once again we would have a dud on our hands.

I thought StarFox Zero was a new game in the StarFox series but I had heard rumors that it was a remake of StarFox 64.  It turns out that it’s both new AND a remake.  It’s a reboot of the StarFox Universe with some new mixed in.  The first mission on planet Corneria  will be extremely familiar to anyone who has played StarFox 64 although halfway through the mission it switches into new content.  It’s a bit lazy storytelling-wis but I can appreciate that the world these anthropomorphized animals live in doesn’t lend itself to many story options.  Rabbits, Foxes, Birds and Frogs living together in harmony in a world where there is nothing to fear except giant floating Gorilla heads?  This stuff doesn’t exactly write itself.

So, how is the gameplay then?  Early on Nintendo marketed StarFox Zero as a game that would use the Wii U Gamepad to great effect.  The only effect however is that it makes it incredible difficult to play.  The motion controls do not improve the experience whatsoever and switching between the TV and second screen is incredibly disorienting.  I’d often be piloting myself into walls or buildings with my kids yelling at me that I was near death.  I attribute all of my failures on this game to poorly implemented controls, and not any lack of skill on my part.  It has been said that there is a difference between ‘challenging’ and ‘being hard to play’.  StarFox Zero is the latter.

The only parts of this game that I really enjoyed were the parts where I wasn’t piloting any of the new vehicles, or looking at the gamepad (Essentially only the parts that played like StarFox 64).  It’s a shame because this game really presents itself well, and my kids really enjoyed watching me play it.  If you are not the one stuck fighting the control scheme StarFox is a lot of fun to watch.  If Nintendo released a patch that fixed the problems with the controls I would recommend this game.  In it’s current state I suggest you pass on it.

It’s worth noting that the game also came bundled with StarFox Guard for no additional cost.  I haven’t tried Guard yet and I’m not even sure what it’s about.  It may add a little more value to the whole purchase if you’re on the fence about it, but after playing the main game it’s hard to get too excited about anything else that came in the same box.

Is it fun: Meh
Score: 5/10
Length:  5 hours
System: Wii U
Genre: Action / Rail Shooter

 

 

 

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Super Smash Bros. 3DS / Wii U

SmashBoxAccording to WordPress this is going to be my 100th post! So, congratulations to me.

Super Smash Bros. came out for the N64 when I was in college but it was later in the N64’s life cycle and I had already begun moving away from the N64 as a platform of choice.  I might have never tried the game at all, except some of the gentlemen down the hall were REALLY big fans of the game. I wasn’t especially good friends with the gentlemen down the hall, but they enjoyed gaming and avoiding schoolwork as much as I did so we had a lot of common ground. I played a LOT of Smash with those gentlemen, enough to forge some lifelong friendships and move off campus together the next year (where of course we played even more SMASH).  When the Gamecube came out I bought one and we Smashed even harder. Smash became one of the games that defined my college experience, so it is psychologically impossible for me to not purchase new versions when they are released.

This time around Nintendo released Smash Bros. for two consoles, the Wii U and the 3DS. They are NOT the same game as I originally believed although they do have a lot in common. The roster of characters are identical and many of the levels are the same, but there are unique features to each that make the experience for each game distinctive. The games are NOT cross compatible – you can’t play against a Wii U owner with the 3DS version of the game, although in a somewhat unusual move you CAN use the 3DS as an extra controller for a Wii U.

The game hasn’t changed much since the Gamecube iteration. To get started you only need to learn two buttons – attack and special attack. Pressing in a direction with one of the attack buttons will slightly alter which move is performed. All fighters use the same controls so even if you are using someone new you should be able to get a few hits in. This is in contrast to other fighting games (such as Injustice which I recently reviewed) where all fighters have different controls that must be learned separately. I’ve good results introducing new people to Smash by showing them how to jump, and use the two attack buttons. Both of my boys (Who are 5 and 3 years old) were able to play the game and my 5 year old even managed to beat me once or twice (more on that later).  After learning how to use your attacks, advanced players may learn the other two buttons – block and throw.  These are helpful to know but not entirely necessary for enjoying the game.

Fighting games generally aren’t noted for being fantastic single player experiences and Smash Bros. is no exception.  Fortunately Smash makes up for a somewhat lackluster single player experience by including BUTT LOADS (Figuratively) of different modes that can be enjoyed.  These include (but are not limited to) Classic Mode, All-Star Mode, Street Smash (3DS), Smash Run (3D), Smash Tour (Wii U), Event Smash (Wii U), Special Orders (Wii U) and online battle modes.  Completing each of the modes with each of the 50 playable characters will take a significant time investment.

Fight

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So, Smash is great, but what was my experience like?  Well, on the 3DS I played through most of the single player challenges myself and the only achievements I have left are the ones like ‘beat all-star mode with every character’.  I tried a few online matches for fun but never really got into it.  One of my colleagues at work got a copy for Christmas (I bought mine at launch) and we’ve had a few cooperative battles on break, which is a lot more fun than work.  Taking Smash on the road is a lot of fun, but the opportunity to play it doesn’t come up as often as I would like.

The Wii U version of the game is all about the Amiibos for us.  I may have gone a bit overboard with Amiibo fever – I signed up for the Lootcrate Amiibo promotion which netted us most of the launch characters.  My boys both wanted Link’s Amiibo for Christmas ( I couldn’t convinced them to ask for different characters – Link is too awesome ) which combined with the Lootcrate promotions brings our household total to about 13.  I thought the game would be too hard for my boys to play themselves so the Amiibo integration seemed like a good way to get them involved.  It turns out that they are both able to play the game with at least some measure of success and they HATE it when their Amiibo beats them.

My 3-year-old son isn’t entirely sure what he’s doing so he generally stands still while spamming the attack button.  Sometimes he decides he’s controlling a different character than he started with (which doesn’t affect his results any), and sometimes he gets bored and wanders out of the room. My 5-year-old son is a bit more hardcore about it.  He and I have an agreement to not attack each other so I’m often left attacking the Amiibos on my own.  Periodically this strategy results in my older son winning as I take all the damage and he shows up to knock the bad guys off the stage.

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My progress with the Wii U version achievements is a lot slower since the boys insist that we play the 2 minute Smash battles.  I’m OK with that though, it’s a lot more fun than playing alone.  I think Smash will be a popular diversion for the boys and I for a long time.

Pros

  • Lots of playable characters.
  • Single player story mode was enjoyable.

Cons

Is it fun: Yes
Score: 9/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: 3DS / Wii U
Genre: Fighting

Starfox 64 3D

Date Completed: 6/3/2012

When the 3DS was announced I said to myself “HOW AWESOME WOULD STAR WARS ROGUE SQUADRON BE IN 3D?”.  I haven’t been given the gift of Rogue Squadron yet but I do have a remake of Starfox 64 to play, which is a different kind of awesome.

In college I made the grave mistake of loaning my Nintendo 64 to the guy who had the BIG TV.  I only had a 13-inch set so it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Unfortunately what ended up happening is that my friend would beat my games overnight and when I came over to play them I’d find all of my save files completely mastered.  In spite of my great enjoyment of Starfox 64 I never officially beat the game.  With the release of Starfox 64 3DS that wrong has now been righted.

The game is exactly as I remembered, with some minor improvements, and a full 3D effect.  It sports some new kind of motion control, which I found to be awful so I immediately turned it off.  There isn’t much new with the single player.  You just blast your way through the story line and then you win.  It only takes 5-10 minutes per level, and about 10 levels per play through.  Some of the missions fork off so you can’t visit every mission in one play through.  To get the BEST ending though you have to play through a specific series of missions.

The multiplayer is supposedly the part that got the biggest upgrade but I still can’t convince anyone I know to buy a 3DS so I have not been able to experience it yet.

Starfox 64 is the greatest Starfox game of all time and a 3DS remake is a welcome addition to the 3DS library.

Pros

  • Best Starfox ever, in 3D!
  • You can turn off the motion controls.

Cons

  • Not much ‘new’ about it.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ~2 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Rail Shooter