Star Fox 64 3D may not come in a larger-than-normal box like Lylat Wars did back in the Nintendo 64 days thanks to the inclusion of the Rumble Pak in the package, yet that does not in any way infer it is a lesser game. Fourteen long years have passed since the original Star Fox / Starwing’s main plot was reinvented for the 64-bit beast of a console, but immediately booting up the new cartridge on the diminutive Nintendo 3DS console brings the memories flooding back, along with a fresh tingling sensation down the spine as realisation kicks in that laid before you is the back-to-basics, pure Star Fox space-based shooter that fans have been craving ever since Nintendo left the series in the hands of other developers, like Rare for the RPG adventure Star Fox Adventures and Namco for Star Fox Assault with its misguided on-foot missions. For those that missed out on the highly rated original version of Star Fox 64, the Lylat system is under attack from the nefarious Andross, an evil tyrant who was once thought to have been safely locked away, unable to bring disaster unto others, but has recently broken free of his bonds. Players take on the role of Fox McCloud in his spacecraft, the Arwing, battling not only to protect his home world of Corneria, but the entire Lylat system, with a little help from some friends. During missions fellow pilots, Falco, Peppy and Slippy, all shoot down enemies and offer little pieces of useful information. Additionally, some extra fire power comes from other allies eager to help the cause during certain missions, fighting against Andross’ henchmen (including rival mercenaries, Star Wolf), whilst special items are sometimes dropped into play by the mechanical Rob 64 that pilots the Great Fox, the larger main ship that acts as the headquarters for Team Star Fox.
there are many elements that make Star Fox 64 3D a truly extraordinary game, and far more than a run-of-the-mill space shooter. the range of missions on offer, for instance, is thoroughly impressive. in some instances players will have to snuff out a particular threat causing havoc in an area, whilst there are also missions that involve working with other allied forces in an open arena-style fight to stave off an onslaught of incoming enemy craft until their Mother Ship arrives (which must be subsequently blown to pieces), plus there is also the chance to take to the ground in the Landmaster, hovering over obstacles, blasting away at key targets and attempting to achieve the overall objective at hand. Even with the regular on-rails sections, though, where only being able to fly left or right may seem limiting, there are moments of great invention, such as opening up new routes by following a certain path, keeping enemies from shooting down your cohorts (end-of-level score totals also take into account how much energy team-mates have left), building up hit bonuses by charging the Arwing’s lasers and blasting down several foes at once, as well as discovering hidden items by shooting away at structures in the immediate vicinity. People may bemoan the fact that this is based on an old structure and lacks innovation in today’s world, but its foundations were so strong back then that it still stands firm to this very day.
this is no basic port, however, with the visuals being totally revamped to take advantage of the Nintendo 3DS’ extra horsepower, and, as with the gloss added to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Star Fox 64 3D has turned out to be far more aesthetically pleasing than the original game, with some of the levels looking absolutely stunning due to the beautiful water effects and flowing lava. there is also the small matter of 3D. the added depth of this may seem subtle at first, but after playing for a while and then turning it off, the effect becomes far more apparent and playing without it starts to feel much less natural. as with Ridge Racer 3D, due to the viewpoint having players flying into the screen, the addition of 3D really does create a fantastic sense of exploring the dark depths of the galaxy, bringing even more realism to the dodging, barrel rolls and intense shooting action. Another aspect that works to draw the player further into the action is the option to play in ‘3DS’ mode with the gyroscope being used either for space craft control alone, or in tandem with the Circle Pad for the most accurate handling. many purists will want to stick with the ‘N64’ mode that cranks up the difficulty level and retains a traditional control setup, but for those either coming into the series fresh or after being away for many years, taking the ‘3DS’ route is a highly pleasurable experience. Whilst trying to keep 3D on full alongside the gyroscope control system is futile, leading to blurred images as that ‘sweet spot’ is frequently lost, the feeling of actually being in full control of the Arwing is so immersive that even switching back to a plain old 2D field does not deter from the enjoyment factor. Personally it was hard to choose between 3D with the Circle Pad or switching the depth off in favour of trying the gyroscope and Circle Pad combination. Thankfully, Nintendo and Q-Games have seen fit to allow players to switch between control schemes whenever they feel like it, meaning the best of both worlds can be achieved.
Missions are not particularly lengthy on the whole, and blasting through one of the three difficulty paths may only take a couple of hours. However, the incentive to return here is that there are actually 15 main stages in total, but not all can be reached in one play-through, with various criteria needing to be met in certain levels in order to change route on the way to finally usurping Andross from his throne of evil and sending him back from whence he came. Nintendo has attempted to lengthen the game further, though, by bringing back the multiplayer mode in a new local wireless play format that means the slow frame-rate of the N64’s split-screen setup is no longer an issue. the multiplayer option also makes use of the external 3DS cameras to provide live video footage of those you are playing against, with the aim being to make the battles more ‘personal’ as you see friends and family straining and cringing during the four-player dogfights using just one copy of Star Fox 64 3D. Multiplayer stages are based on levels from the main game, include new power-ups and special weapons, and come in three varieties: Survival (compete to be the last man standing), Point Battle (amass points for kills, aiming to reach a specific total), and Time Battle (achieve the most kills within the allotted time). for those with no friends, there is also the option to play against three computer-controlled players. As mentioned earlier, purists may not be best pleased with some of the direction taken with Star Fox 64 3D and its updates, with this extending to the updated voice acting, the reworked soundtrack and even the amendments to the script. However, although some of the voices are indeed a little suspect, overall they are still a worthwhile inclusion and are of a good enough quality throughout, with the same applying to the highly memorable soundtrack, which sounds much better when heard through earphones. Nintendo and Q-Games have attempted to update a classic and make it more accessible for a new audience, something that has definitely been achieved successfully. unfortunately there is no online battling, nor any Wi-Fi leader-boards for tracking high scores around the world. Similar to how The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D should possibly have had a little more added, the same rings true with Star Fox 64 3D, yet this does not stop it from being one of the best shooting games on the market, and definitely one of the most impressive Nintendo 3DS games released so far.