Feature Article

Have Star Fox Zero's Controls Improved?


Zero sum.

Star Fox Zero's controversial control scheme demands considerably more coordination than any other game in the series. While the world and weaponry recall classic on-rails Star Fox titles like Star Fox 64, Zero's new controls split the action between your TV and the Wii U gamepad. One screen displays a cockpit view, while the other shows your ship's exterior. And rather than mapping the aiming reticule to the right analog stick, you must aim by tilting the GamePad while still steering with the left stick.

As a result, you're able to aim in one direction while flying in another, but you must glance between both screens in order to do so effectively. Certain enemies are even designed specifically to encourage this approach. For example, one adversary's only weak spot rests on its roof, forcing you to aim down while flying directly over it. On paper, the ability to aim and maneuver independently sounds like a clever evolution of a largely stagnant mechanic. Yet in practice, the gyroscopic aiming and dual-screen perspective feel fundamentally unfamiliar and present a steep learning curve for anyone with fewer than four eyes.

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Developer Platinum Games has provided a few tools to help you adjust, some of which were added only recently. You can now swap the cockpit and external views to either screen, for example. You can also hold ZL to automatically divert the camera towards your current objective and recenter the GamePad's view at any time by pressing Y, which should allow you to hold the gamepad in whatever position feels most natural (ideally with the TV still in sight so can dart your eyes between screens more easily).

But with Zero's fast-paced action, will these tools be enough to keep you from flying into objects while you're trying to aim? Peter Brown--who played Zero at E3 2015--and Scott Butterworth--who played the game during a demo just last week--sat down to discuss their views. Check out their conversation below:

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Aside from the controls, Zero employs a back-to-basics approach that borrows heavily from the series' earliest games. You pilot an Arwing star ship through a series of mostly linear levels, grabbing power ups, aiding allies, and racking up high scores along the way. You can still brake, boost, flip, and yes, barrel roll when you're not busy pelting enemies--both organic and robotic--which charged homing shots and the occasional bomb. Certain actions now demand different inputs--barrel rolls require you to flick the right analog stick, for instance--but the outcomes feel decidedly familiar.

Naturally, the old cast returns as well. During my demo, I received urgent requests from General Pepper, saw a brief cameo from Kat, and endured endless banter from my squadmates Slippy, Peppy, and Falco. R.O.B. even issued instructions through my GamePad's speakers. While story details remain hazy, Star Fox must once again save us all from Andross, so longtime fans will likely feel right at home in whatever narrative unfolds. Even the opening level on Coneria noticeably mirrors Star Fox 64's first mission.

After this opening, however, the remaining missions will differ substantially from all previous games, according to the developers. You may recognize names and certain distinct qualities within returning planets, but from a gameplay perspective, you'll encounter all new enemies, obstacles, and pathways. The galaxy map will differ as well, though the game is still structured as a branching series of missions that march you inexorably towards end boss Andross.

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As before, your route to Andross won't necessarily touch every single level. Rather, the ending you earn in a given mission will determine which branches of the galaxy map open next. If you simply survive a mission, you'll move straight to the next planet, but if you complete specific side objectives, uncover secret pathways, or find a teleporter that whisks you away to an alternate boss battle (or some other unexpected ending), you may be allowed to choose which planet and mission you travel to next. As with the older games, you'll need to play through the campaign multiple times to see every option.

Zero does add a couple new ideas, though. For one, you can now transform your Arwing into a bipedal Walker at the press of a button in most circumstances. According to the developers, you'll need to rely on both configurations of your ship into order to succeed. They also hinted that other vehicles might appear as well, though they declined to elaborate. They did, however, confirm local two-player co-op. Basically, a gunner will man your Arwing's primary cannons with a Wii U pro controller, while another player uses the gamepad to pilot the ship and control one additional laser--a split that really speaks to the complexity of Zero's controls.

If you want to find the Goose to your Maverick, you better start searching soon because Star Fox Zero launches on Wii U on April 22.

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Scott Butterworth

Yes, his mother is Mrs. Butterworth.
Star Fox Zero

Star Fox Zero

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