Early Star Fox games had a bit of identity crisis in Europe. A trademark issue meant that the SNES original which was the world’s first true three-dimensional game had to be called Star Wing here while the cult classic N64 sequel Star Fox 64, another trailblazer (it was the first game to support controller rumble) bore the title Lylat Wars in PAL regions. Now Lylat Wars is getting a remake (in truth an enhanced port like Ocarina of Time 3D) and the title in Europe is Star Fox 64 3D just to confuse everybody.
If you’ve played Lylat Wars you should know exactly what to expect from this handheld reiteration. You play as Fox McCloud, the heroic leader of the Star Fox team of space mercenaries who are hired by General Pepper of the Cornerian Army to liberate the Lylat System from the forces of the evil Andross, a deranged scientist with ambitions to rule the galaxy. You must pilot your Arwing fighter craft through a series of stages blasting Andross’ assault fleets and taking out bosses as you make your way level by level to the hideout of the ‘maniacal scientist’ on the planet Venom.
Stages are a mixture of classic on-rails challenges filled with scripted events and relentless action and open dogfights known in-game as All-Range Mode. Controls are simple and intuitive and the action comes thick and fast. Accompanying you are your three team-mates Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad and Falco Lombardi to lend a wing and offer advice. The basic shooter action is great but the joy of the level design is the scripted events. You might be asked to bail a team-mate out of trouble or complete a secondary objective such as taking out searchlights that can affect your route through the game.
You will need to complete six levels before you are allowed to tackle Venom and with most missions lasting just a few minutes it makes the game possible to complete in an hour or so but seeing the credits roll once far from spells the end of the game’s lifespan. Perhaps more than any other N64 game Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars encouraged multiple repeat plays in which players must complete secondary objectives or find hidden exits to chart a different course through the game opening up previously unseen missions. Depending on how you finish them missions can either be ‘completed’ or ‘accomplished’ and achieving seven of the latter bags you the best ending.
Star Fox 64 3D repeats this process wholesale, with enhancements to the experience proving chiefly cosmetic. The original’s graphics were never tremendously pretty even in the game’s heyday but they’ve been hugely updated for this reissue featuring much bolder colours and a lot more detail in the character models, textures and backgrounds. The visual design of some levels has been improved so well to make them almost unrecognisable, the red hot fires of Solar and polluted oceans of Zoness being the most visually striking. The graphics don’t push the 3DS to its limits but they still serve as a worthwhile treat for fans.
The original’s sound was iconic, not because of its music or sound effects, good though those are, but because of the voice acting. Put simply it’s gloriously, hilariously, peerlessly cheesy, the script presented in bite-size chunks making every single line easy to remember. The quality of the recordings has received a noticeable mark-up here and while some lines have been detectably re-recorded most of it sounds very much the same as before. The most quotable script in video game history (‘Do a barrel roll!’) remains thankfully untouched, Slippy is just as annoying as ever, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The game does offer some augmentation to the gameplay. You can play in either N64 mode or the slightly easier-for-newbies 3DS mode with or without gyro controls that are, to put it mildly, unusable. The stereoscopy helps to sell a sense of depth in the on-rails missions but does nothing for the gameplay.
Star Fox 64 3D retains what made the original a classic but the lack of any real attempt to update its general presentation or add any significant new content (new missions would have been nice) results in a game that is showing its age a little. That said fans will undoubtedly get a kick out of the nostalgia factor mixed with the modernised look and first timers should give it a try to see how great the franchise was before third party-developed titles like Star Fox Adventures and Star Fox Assault experimented with the formula with inferior results. More than this though it’s still ridiculously good fun and one of the most entertaining titles gracing the 3DS.
Presentation – 7
A tad basic in places but the peerlessly entertaining voice acting makes up for the shortcomings.
Design – 8
The on-rails missions in particular are an absolute blast and the locations are varied and imaginative.
Gameplay – 8
Fast, frantic and fun with straightforward controls.
Graphics – 8
A clear improvement on the slightly blocky original with an excellent amount of detail and charm.
Sound – 8
That unforgettable voicework is accompanied by a fitting score that really suits the space opera story.
Difficulty – 7
Depending on what route you take completion can be fairly straightforward. The real challenge is in earning medals.
Longevity – 7
Short but rammed with replayability both by merit of the game’s structure and how gosh-darned fun it is to play.
A winning update that keeps everything that made Lylat Wars such a favourite without really adding to it. Still a must for fans and a great history lesson for the uninitiated.