Star Fox 64 3D review

Can Star Fox 64 3D save Nintendo's 3DS?

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For

  • Characters
  • Plot
  • Next-gen 3D update

Against

  • Not always great 3D
  • Ageing graphics
  • Only on Nintendo

Finally after what some would argue was too long a wait, 14-year old Star Fox gets a third dimension makeover and proves that gameplay will always come out trumps but it's not without some faults for a next-gen 3D make-over

Star Fox 64 set a high water mark back in 1997 and no iterations ever approached that standard again. But the call of the third dimension is strong and Nintendo needs a killer app if it's going to save its 3DS handheld from consumer apathy. So it's no surprise one of Nintendo's best loved games has been given a next generation spit and shine.

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Star Fox 64 3D: Plot

For the benefit of anyone who hasn't played it before or has simply forgotten what it's all about, the game is the story of a team of mercenaries, led by Fox McCloud, who bring their private arsenal to bear on Andross, the villain who's destroying the peace of the entire galaxy and who also happens to be responsible for the death of Fox's father. So it's a scene-for-scene, shot-for-shot remake of a game that was once the state of the art but is now more than 14 years old. And we remember it like it was yesterday. The enemy formations, the ever-changing route to the bad guy's lair, the cries for help when Slippy or Peppy just can't shake off an attacker. We don't recall it being quite so difficult, but that's probably a combination of the 3DS circle pad being harder to move as precisely as the N64 analogue stick plus 14 years of increasingly rose-tinted memory.

Star Fox 64 3D: Design

The original Star Fox on SNES pioneered a mission structure that's actually better integrated in 2011 with the story. Different things happen if you save certain characters in certain areas, and with a single hour-long run to the final boss taking in just seven of 15 possible levels, it's a game that demands to be replayed. Finding the obscure requirements to gain entry to the upper branch of the mission tree and becoming sufficiently familiar with it all to be able to recognise when something unusual is taking place - these are things that won't begin clicking into place until you've gone through and beaten Andross several times over.

Star Fox 64 3D: Boss battle

The final battle with Andross is a part that really started to grate on our nerves. He's an absolutely terrible way to end what is otherwise a thoroughly excellent game. (Hopefully revealing this sort of detail won't be much of a spoiler, as the game is rather well known and it only takes an hour to get this far...) Anyway, Andross. Let us count the ways in which we hate him. He's a giant monkey head who tries to swat you with his floating hands before attempting to inhale your ship and chew it up. If you get sucked in, the fun is suddenly over, as your ship's wings get bitten off and you've got to finish the rest of the battle with the laser equivalent of a pea shooter.

Star Fox 64 3D: Levels

Whether you're trying to shoot down a giant missile as it streaks towards the Great Fox mothership or moving gloopily through the polluted sea of an underwater scene, you can be sure the next level - whatever it might be - definitely won't be just more of the same. In one of the best levels you're driving the Landmaster tank alongside a huge train, passing from one side to another via tunnels as you avoid tumbling rocks and shoot down swarms of enemy fighters. You can either pursue the train to its destination and fight the boss or take the sneaky route, switching the points so it crashes and explodes, sparing you the trouble. Once you've figured out exactly what you're meant to do on each level to open up the alternative routes, the areas you've visited become available in a high score mode. It's far better than having to play through the entire thing for the sake of one level.

Star Fox 64 3D: Next gen upgrades

The quality of the visual upgrade Star Fox has received on 3DS is variable. The water effects are fantastic, particularly on the aquatic world of Zoness. Explosions look great and the 3D effect is always solid, but in several places the game's N64 roots are all too obvious. The space sections, which we had hoped would be spruced up with a better draw distance to enable us to really get a sense of the depth of the level, are absolutely riddled with pop-up. This is probably to preserve the gameplay rather than because of any technical issue, but it still looks incredibly rough. Rougher than on N64, even, thanks to the sharpness of the 3DS screen that accentuates every object as it pops into view in the middle distance. It's noticeably old fashioned in a way that Ocarina certainly is not.

Star Fox 64 3D: Verdict

Great gameplay shines through, and Star Fox 64 3D has some superb moments. The high score mode aside, there's little more the developers could have done with it, and after getting to know it all over again we can see why Nintendo took a step back after this. It was an impossible act to follow. Moments of brilliance, moments of frustration, and masses of replay value. They don't make them like this any more - they remake them.

Star Fox 64 3D availability: Out now on Nintendo 3DS

Star Fox 64 3D price: £34.99