Star Fox Zero has three, technically five, different vehicles in its arsenal. The Arwing, the series’ mainstay combat ship, and the Landmaster, the series’ mainstay tank, probably do not require much explanation. New to the series (unless you count the cancelled SNES sequel Star Fox 2) is the Walker, which the Arwing can transform into at the push of a button for on-ground attacks and ambushes. On the other side of the coin, the Landmaster can transform into a giant warplane called the Gravmaster, which also makes it easy for you to shoot out a bunch of missiles for enemies below. Finally, a completely new vehicle for Star Fox Zero is the Gyrowing, which is slower and allows for more technical movement than the Arwing, and deploys a cute little robot called Direct-i that is small enough to hack into computer systems, but strong enough to grab giant bombs and drop them down. Variety is the spice of life, and Star Fox Zero has plenty of it.

Star Fox Zero | Direct-I
That’s right, this little dude can hack into pretty much anything. Looks like ROB’s distant cousin.

In addition, several neat tricks can help you get the most out of Star Fox Zero. For one thing, if your reticle goes out of place, all it takes is a press of the GamePad’s left analog stick to recenter it. Like 64 before it, Star Fox Zero has both on-rails and off-rails segments, but the GamePad-centric control scheme occasionally makes things difficult in the latter. To make things easier in tight spots, especially during All-Range Mode, you can switch your point of view from the overworld to your heads-up display with a touch of the GamePad’s “minus” button. You still have to move the GamePad to aim, of course, but this makes it somewhat easier in boss fights to get the precise aiming down when you need a bigger screen than that of the GamePad. The lock-on is your friend, too! Also, if you hold the L button and ZR at the same time, you can fire a charge shot anywhere, as the charge shot always locks onto an enemy without it.

Star Fox Zero | Ring
MORE WORDS TO LIVE BY. Seriously, grab your gold rings like your name is Trinidad James. Even if you have plenty of health, three of them will give you an extra life.

I give you these tips because, although Platinum’s influence on Star Fox Zero is rumored to have been comparatively limited, it is still very much there in three areas in particular. The scoring system is a rather rudimentary interpretation of Platinum’s own, with three possible trophies based on the number of hits you get: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Platinum’s magic touch is also all over the boss fights, which are as hectic and wonderful as anything they have done. Highlights include the giant Scrapworm, a nice riff on the ridiculously hard Attack Carrier stage, and the final boss. No spoilers, but fans will be very pleased. And finally, it would not be a Platinum game without a collectible for completionists to find, and in this case, you get medals. Some of these are also obtained by completing bonus missions.

Star Fox Zero | Boss
I’m serious when I say the boss fights are epic.

There’s also more to Star Fox Zero besides the core game. Like pretty much every Wii U game released since their Smash debut, Star Fox Zero has amiibo integration — Fox gets you the classic SNES version of the Arwing, which does not lock on, while Falco gets you a sleek red and black Arwing that deals twice the damage, but also takes twice the damage. They are not completely locked behind amiibo, however, as completionists will be able to unlock them fairly easily. In addition, after completing the main game, you get the Arcade Mode, which feels like a classic Star Fox run-through as you go for a high score. And considering that all physical copies of Star Fox Zero come with the great Star Fox Guard, which plays like a cross between Sanctum and Five Nights at Freddy’s. In that game, you defend a mining base owned by Slippy’s uncle Grippy from a bunch of robots from the comfort of a security camera in Corneria, using the GamePad in a completely different but still wholly unconventional way (albeit with a far less difficult learning curve). It most definitely adds value to the whole package.

Star Fox Zero | Wolf
And Wolf is still one of the coolest gaming villains ever.

Star Fox Zero is by no means perfect, even when taking into account the learning curve in the control scheme. The length is probably the biggest complaint I have — at about 10 hours on a first playthrough, Star Fox Zero is shorter than even most of its predecessors, and even the unlockables and the awesome Star Fox Guard only do so much to soften the blow. The fun co-op does lessen the blow with regard to the lack of other multiplayer options, though. Even for a tank, moving the Landmaster occasionally gets cumbersome, as does the Gyrocopter — although the Gyrocopter levels have been criticized, I do not think they are that bad. And Star Fox Zero’s linearity is another minor issue I have. Sure, there are plenty of alternate routes to find, including more intense fights with the likes of Star Wolf, but there’s not a whole lot more, and the map is not as well laid-out as that of Star Fox 64.

Still, my opinion stands. After really getting acquainted with the control scheme in about a half-hour, Star Fox Zero made me grin from ear to ear. Minor qualms aside, it is every bit the game I had hoped for in a series that defies convention with every installment — at once a return to form and an enjoyable ride. At its very best moments, I was taken back to when I played Star Fox 64 for the very first time on my cousin’s N64. I could still feel that same sense of joy in Star Fox Zero, but in a completely new and unconventional way. Despite some complaints and a steep learning curve, Star Fox Zero is the series’ best installment in generations, and has “future cult classic” written all over it. Call me a Nintendrone, call me what you will, but I consider Fox’s latest outing a grand old time, but will certainly not hold it against you if you don’t. There’s a reason Star Fox Zero is one of the most polarizing games in years, but I urge anyone who can give motion controls a chance to give it a try. Perhaps you’ll enjoy blowing stuff up on two screens at once, as well — and, of course, doing a barrel roll or two along the way.

Review Score

Review copy provided by the author

AUTHOR’S NOTE: And with that said, I have to end this review on a bittersweet note, as my review of this soon-to-be cult classic will be my final piece of writing for oprainfall. It’s been almost five years since I joined the staff during the campaign days, worked myself up all the way to Translation Team Leader, and wrote many reviews, among other things I’ve done here. But now, after volunteering for all this time, I will be parting ways with a site that has been part of my life for so long. My time in the field of game journalism has most certainly been a road full of ups and downs, but I cherish it that much more. Thank you all for your unwavering support and dedication, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for my favorite gaming website.  

また後で – until we meet again.

Will Whitehurst

Will Whitehurst
Will joined the Operation Rainfall Campaign soon after news broke of that infamous French interview about Xenoblade. Subsequently, he got actively involved and became a staff member in July/August 2011. He is currently the head of the Japanese translation team, and loves to play, discuss, debate and learn more about games. Will gravitates towards unconventional action games and RPGs, but plays pretty much anything except Madden. He is also currently attending college, honing his Japanese skills and preparing for medical school. (Coincidentally, Trauma Center is one of his favorite game series of all time.)