Image: Star Fox 64 3D logo. Nintendo.

I was incredibly ignorant of video game news before I got the internet. All I knew in 1997 was that the N64 had Star Fox, and it was getting Zelda. That was all I needed. Now the 3DS has remarkable remakes of both, and I couldn’t be happier with the system.

Story

Who cares? It’s about a bunch of space animals shooting at other space animals and robots. Something about a fox named Star hired to fight a monkey who killed his father. Now let’s move on!

Controls

The 3DS’s single stick control layout is well suited to N64 titles, especially so for games as eloquently made as Star Fox 64.

The circle pad provides all the freedom of movement needed to control your ship (called an “Arwing”) without the hassles of the break-prone N64 joystick. Face buttons are used to fire lasers and bombs, as well as boost and break. Combining certain directions on the circle pad with boost and break allows you to perform more advanced maneuvers. Tapping either L or R twice makes you do a… that’s right… wait for it… barrel roll.

Optional gyro control has been added to the title, although it’s frankly unnecessary and feels a little silly. Rather than moving your ship around with the circle pad, you can choose to fly by moving your 3DS around. It’s fun to check out, but safely dismissed by harder-cored gamers shooting for medals and high scores (it also kills the title’s quality 3D).

Star Fox 64 3D

Image: Star Fox 64 3D. Nintendo.

Gameplay

Star Fox 64 is still a great game. It’s one of the rare exceptions of 32/64-bit era which holds up today, but this 3DS remake absolutely trounces it.

All of the exciting rail-shooter action of the N64 classic is left intact. Flight feels smoother and more precise than ever thanks to the power of the 3DS and improved controls.

The campaign itself consists of 15 (or is that 16?) levels which connect and branch in different directions. The levels are roughly broken down into easy, medium, and hard paths, and players must figure out how to get to the different paths by applying different tactics in each level. A typical playthrough takes 30-60 minutes, and includes 7 levels.

Of course, repeated playthrough is highly encouraged. You’ll need to find every level in the campaign in order to unlock those levels in the newly-added Score Attack mode.

Every level is unique and memorable. The brevity of the game means no retreading of ideas. You’ll go from dodging debris in crumbling cities to looping around giant mechs, from massive open-air dogfights to the navigation of tight hallways. Gameplay is further varied by the occasional tank or underwater level.

Lastability and Re-playability

Even though a playthrough of Star Fox 64 is only meant to take a single sitting, the game can last a player years. I’ve come back to the original repeatedly since its release, and I’m only going to stop that now to move on to the title’s 3DS remake.

Star Fox 64 is perhaps the most replayable non-puzzle single player game ever made. The smart and varied level designs combined with joyous gameplay and the challenge of earning medals ensures the game will last. You’ll probably still be plucking this game off the shelf to give it a quick run through even years into the 3DS’s life.

An easier “Nintendo 3DS” mode has been added to give those playing with the gyro controls a chance, in addition to the original’s standard and expert difficulties. Separate medals can be earned for high scores on every level of each of these three difficulties in a new Score Attack mode.

Star Fox 64 3D

Image: Star Fox 64 3D. Nintendo.

Multiplayer Madness

Star Fox 64 3D expands the fun, but rather bare-bones, multiplayer mode found in the N64 classic with additional weapons and levels. While it can be a good time, it’s not a reason unto its own to get the game. Much whining has been expressed over the absence of online combat, and while that would have been nice, I just can’t imagine it would have been significant.

Online leader boards are an even more obvious and egregious exclusion. I would love to be able to competed with friends for high scores in the campaign and Score Attack modes.

Graphics and Sound

Star Fox 64 was always a largely environment-absent game populated by numerous swirling enemies and obstacles. Nothing’s really changed in the remake, it’s just a lot cleaner and shinier. The graphical update is quite noticeable in planet-based levels like Corneria, where rich new textures are quite eye-grabbing.

Star Fox 64 3D takes spectacular advantage of the 3DS’s 3D capabilities. The long, generally on-rails levels have an immersive depth of field to them. Enemies and their laser blasts really pop out as well.

Of course, Star Fox 64 contains what is perhaps the most famous (or is that infamous?) voice acting in game history. Lines like “Can’t let you do that, Star Fox!” and “Use the boost to get through!” are still quoted by gamers today. Nintendo has faithfully re-recorded the dialogue of the original, using original voice actors wherever possible for the remake. It’s great to hear all those classic lines again, but they’re still so-bad-it’s-good, and being re-recorded, some lack the humourous delivery they once contained.

Overall

Star Fox 64 3D is a remarkable remake of an already great game. The additional modes ensure that even experienced Star Fox-ers will have plenty to challenge themselves with. Enough has been added, tweaked, and modernized to not turn off new players as well.

Review: Star Fox 64 3D