Review: Starfox soars, delivers and makes me glad I have a 3DS

Infendo

Funny thing: right in the middle of all the current doom-and-gloom discussions, Nintendo’s just released one hell of a great game. Want a break from all the weird recent Nintendo announcements? Care to remember how fantastic this company’s games can be? Buy Starfox 64 3D; it’s a spectacular, funny, smooth-as-silk, super-replayable, nonstop thrill ride.

I agree with Infendo Radio’s view that a five-star rating system is the best one-glance method to judge a game’s overall quality. That makes this very easy: Star Fox 64 3D is a five star game. No question. Its single potential negative—it’s a remake—evaporates in the face of the dazzling quality and the pure giddy fun you get out of this one cartridge.

If you’ve never experienced Starfox 64, climb aboard this adventure and marvel at one of Nintendo’s very best games. It’s an arcade-style space shooter, but it’s the wildest, most imaginative and sharpest space shooter in gaming history. And it’s chock full o’ talking wildlife! Animal Crossing meets Independence Day—only on Nintendo.

If you loved the N64 original, prepare for another blast of Ocarina-style amazement. Flying amid beautiful sunsets, oceans, mountains, space armadas and warp zones, you’ll forget the Lylat System used to be a realm of simple polygons and fog.

The 3D is a blast. Not only does it throw asteroids and exploding ship fragments in your face, it also makes navigation through obstacles a lot more fun. 3D should never have been trumpeted as the next big thing in gaming, but…it’s a hoot, and I love it! As pure eye-candy and an extra layer of thrill, it’s a great option to have.

Let’s move on to the game’s sound. Use earphones; you don’t want to leave these amazing soundscapes in the hands of the system’s tiny speakers. The voices have been mostly re-recorded by the original actors. For the most part, things sound very much the same. The game’s goofball dialogue has aged well, and now seems funnier than ever—mostly in a good way. If only they’d replaced Slippy’s voice with someone like…oh, I dunno…Bobcat Goldthwait. Fans will notice that Fox’s old pal Bill no longer sounds like Jeff Spicoli, and R.O.B. sounds just as creepy as ever.

The new control system works beautifully. You can use the tilt controls, the circle pad, or a smooth, intuitive combination of the two. There’s also a classic N64 control option.

Best addition: The game’s progression system has been tweaked for added entertainment value. Depending on how well you perform in a level, you might find yourself with multiple choices in moving on to the next planet/zone. You can always replay the previous zone if you aren’t happy with the outcome, or quit without saving to try an alternate route. The cartridge saves one game-in-progress while allowing a “guest” to play without overwriting your file. Completed worlds can be revisited anytime in a score-attack mode, so you can replay your favorite levels as often as you like.

The local multiplayer battle mode isn’t deep, but it’s great fun, and can be played solo against Falco, Peppy and Slippy. The live video of your opponents’ faces is a hilarious little touch; I hope they include the effect as an option for Mariokart 7.

One overall impression struck me while playing SF643D, and it’s an element I’d forgotten in the fourteen years since its N64 days: I’m more amazed than ever at what a genuinely full, robust and complete experience this game delivers: Thanks to dozens of different routes and hundreds of in-level events, each journey to Venom is unique, yet each play-through delivers a perfectly-paced adventure with just the right amount of story. Everything from the tight controls to the intelligent targeting and score system serves to immerse you completely into the game world. It’s one of the most satisfying games I’ve ever played, and it’s just as much fun today as it was in 1997. I had originally worried that the lack of rumble and large screen—so vital to the original’s impact—would be a problem, but the 3DS enhancements completely make up for those losses.

This title showcases the reason the gaming world still needs Nintendo handhelds. I’ve bought a lot of great games for my iPhone, but no iOS game can deliver an experience like this. Not yet.

How are my fellow Arwing pilots faring out there? Did this game ease the software drought pain? And please note: I got through this entire review without once mentioning a certain evasive maneuver favored by war-vet hares!