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Star Fox Zero Is A Barrel Roll Of Fun

The last time I purchased a legit new Star Fox game was in the summer of 1997, so you can imagine expectations were considerably astronomical. In the 19 years since the game’s release, Rumble Pak controller accessories are a distant memory and Nintendo has introduced all kinds of innovative (wacky, even) ways to immerse ourselves in their games. But at the end of the day, all I wanted was a rousing, straightforward rail shooter starring Fox McCloud, where I could take to the skies—and stars—with pals Slippy, Falco, and Peppy, and eventually blast away at Andross’ giant ape head. The good news is Star Fox Zero pretty much fulfills that promise and even throws in some fresh and challenging gameplay mechanics. Here are six reasons to trust your instincts and game on.

1. Nostalgia Galore

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Star Fox Zero never looked like your typical space shooter, and that’s actually what made it such a charmer right out of the gate. The 1993 SNES original had a unique look thanks the Super FX chip, and Star Fox Zero does a perfect job of updating that angular, paper plane-like aesthetic for new generations. In addition to its spot-on visual approach, Star Fox Zero follows similar narrative beats to its predecessors and gets us reacquainted with many of its memorable characters and locations.

2. Big Boss Battles

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Like previous instalments in the series, Star Fox Zero has some pretty insane boss battles that are as massive in scale as they are in terms of challenge. While there are several thrilling dogfight encounters throughout the campaign, the game really shines with its diverse range of big bads with unique weak points. A personal fave is a winged mech dragon that shoots a laser beam out of its tail—but you’ll have to find the hidden level to get to it…

3. Alternate Paths

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Which leads us to the game’s array of hidden pathways. You could certainly finish the campaign in one very lengthy sitting, but there’s plenty of incentive to come back again and again after the credits roll. Much like Star Fox 64, but way more high-concept, you can crisscross across Lylat’s overworld map by finding side exits, saving your allies in the knick of time, and completing certain objectives. Some of these secrets are better hidden than others, and it often feels like a fun throwback to old school gaming, where you want to make these discoveries on your own. There are actually 20 levels to take on, so this should keep you occupied for sometime.

4. Motion-Controlled Precision

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Not gonna lie, Star Fox Zero’s motion controls and first-person GamePad screen were a challenge to overcome, but with enough practice they make for an engaging experience and better precision. You might feel like sticking to old school Airwing aiming (which is an option), but I recommend going with the motions, because the game has a fair learning curve that introduces its new mechanics as the main mission progresses. If you can defeat the final boss fight (which requires you to really hone those new skills), you’ll certainly want to go back to the start with newfound confidence. If you played a lot of Splatoon, that will certainly work to your advantage.

5. A Bevy of Vehicles

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You’ll spend the majority of Star Fox Zero piloting your trusty Airwing, but now it can also transform into a Walker for surface-level exploration and skirmishes. Yes, the Walker looks and moves like a chicken, but it’s by far the best new vehicle of the bunch–pretty rad to switch back and forth once you get the hang of it. Another newcomer is the Gyrowing, which offers a mix of both land and air tactics, as well as the ability to hack into various terminals. Lastly, there’s the trusty Landmaster, a tank of sorts that was previously introduced in Star Fox 64, but now has some pretty nifty upgrades.

6. Star Fox Guard

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One very important note to leave on is that retail copies of Star Fox Zero come equipped with a whole other title called Star Fox Guard. The game stars Slippy’s uncle, Grippy Toad, and tasks you with defending a mining facility from robots by going between the dozen turret-mounted security feeds on the TV and a map on the GamePad. This isn’t some dinky mini game—Star Fox Guard comes in a second disc and is as robust as it is addicting, featuring 100 stages and the ability to create and share new ones.

Star Fox Zero is out now exclusively on the Wii U. Check out the trailer below, and “GOOD LUCK.”

INNERSPACE CLIPS