A beloved classic, given a 3D make-over.
Five years have passed since General Pepper banished the evil scientist Andross to Venom for his betrayal of Corneria, fourth planet of the Lylat System. Mysterious activity was registered coming from Venom, which lead Pepper to believe it was the work of Andross. A team of skilled star fighters including James McCloud and Pigma Dengar, were dispatched to Venom to investigate when Pigma betrayed James. James sacrificed his life so that his faithful teammate Slippy Toad could escape. Slippy tells James' son Fox the tragic news, and very quickly, a new team is dispatched to once again return to Venom and defeat Andross for good.
Star Fox 64 3D, as with its predecessors, is an on-rails space shooter. The majority of the game puts the user in control of Fox's ship, the Arwing, and he can boost forward, slam on the breaks, move left and right, and barrel roll out of danger. He can also perform a somersault to outmaneuver a tailing enemy and get behind him. There are certain moments in the game where it enters All-Range Mode, allowing Fox to fly freely within a contained area, and it's during this mode that he can also pull off a U-turn.
The Arwing fires a simple upgradable laser that can be charged up to release an explosive shot. By moving the reticle around while the fire button is held down, you can lock on to an enemy and release your shot. Mastering the lock-on is essential to attain high scores in the game. You can also fire devastating bombs, but they are of a limited supply. Aside from the Arwing, Fox controls a tank called the Land Master and a submarine called the Blue Marine. Both tank and submarine have different abilities and attacks and provides the game with a dash of variety. Playing the tank and submarine levels, though, depends on what route you take through the Lylat System.
This is one major reason why Star Fox games are so loved: branching paths. Several missions you come across will have different criteria in order to access a new route to a different mission. Some might require you to shoot down a hundred enemies, while others might have you deftly fly through a group of arcs and follow wingman Falco Lombardi through a waterfall. A single playthrough will lastly roughly an hour, but it's coming back and trying different routes that gives the game its replayability. Some levels will even have an alternate boss if you find the secret path. Also, the higher up the route you take on the map, the more difficult it will be, and it should go without saying that you don't fight Andross's true form unless you ride the game's hardest path all the way to the end.
The difficulty lies in the level design. Obviously, if you take the lower paths, you won't be met with much resistance. Enemies will be pushovers and obstacles will be easy to avoid. Take the harder paths, and you'll find yourself getting banged up very quickly if you aren't careful. Regardless, the game never throws anything at you that you can't handle or are unprepared for. You just have to keep a sharp eye for objects that can yield extra bombs and destroy packs of enemies that might give you shield replenishing silver rings. Bosses are also very fun to fight, and there are much tougher bosses to engage depending on the path you're on.
The 3DS version of Star Fox 64 makes use of the lower touch screen as well as the gyroscope. All in-game dialogue, as well as ship condition, is displayed on the touch screen to keep the upper screen free from distractions. Your robot assistant ROB 64 will also message you, and if you take a second to tap on the message, he'll give you some information or drop a supply package. Using the gyroscope is possible by selecting Nintendo 3DS Mode, and it lets you fly the Arwing by tilting the 3DS around while also using the circle pad to aim. Unfortunately, as with all 3DS games that use the gyroscope, doing so will disrupt the 3D effect, and it's not as smooth or accurate as using the circle pad to fly, so this mode is not recommended.
Graphically, the game doesn't look as nice as it could have been, but it's a clear step up from the N64 version. Even though the game is pretty, textures could been a little sharper, and models could have used a few more polygons here and there. The special effects are wonderful, though, with bombs filling up the screen with bright blue light and enemies disintegrating in fiery explosion. A trail of billowing smoke coming from Fox's Arwing further enhances your sense of peril when your ship is about to be shot down. The game also makes rather good use of the 3D effect, both having objects coming right out at you and providing a great sense of depth in the battlefield making those distant stars that much farther out of reach.
When the game you're remaking is remembered well for its wonderful soundtrack, it's best that you don't tinker with it and Star Fox 64 3D's audio has remained largely untouched. That's both a good and a bad thing, though. While the sound effects are still terrific from the detonations of Fox's bombs to the destruction of train cars, the audio chatter can still irritate one's nerves. Your teammates might keep repeating the same ridiculous pleas for help, and Slippy's high-pitched exclamations is a quick reminder why he's one of the least liked Nintendo allies. The voice acting in general is very cheesy, but one could argue that's what gives the game its own sense of charm.
Whether you've played the game 14 years ago or you've never experienced it before, Star Fox 64 3D is a worthwhile title to add to your library. Yes, your initial run with it will be quite short, but playing through the Lylat System again to discover new routes is the best way to experience the game. Even so, it won't take you a few more hours on top of that to see all the game has to offer, but its old-school space shooting gameplay is of a caliber rarely seen these days and it never hurts to play it again just for the sake of a better score. The only real drawback to the game is that multiplayer is local only: no online modes whatsoever. Relive one of your favorite Nintendo 64 games all over again, or experience a great game for the first time.