Announced at the tail end of Nintendo's Digital Event last year, and taking up a massive 15 minutes of this year's presentation, Star Fox Zero has certainly been a game that Nintendo has been working for a while to hype up;but after nearly a decade since any truly new title in the franchise, what exactly does Star Fox Zero bring to the table, and does it do so well?
The first thing that's noticeable when the game starts is that the Wii U gamepad utilizes a cockpit view of the title, whereas the main TV screen showcases a more traditional and "cinematic" 3rd-person view. Aiming this time around is accomplished using the gamepad's built in gyroscope, and, as such, the title benefits from the added ability to use the gamepad's second analog stick as a means to both speed up and slow down Fox's titular spacecraft. Another added benefit of the dual screen set-up is that enemies that might not be visible on the TV can still be targeted, as the aiming reticle is not limited by the borders of the TV.
From a gameplay standpoint, Star Fox Zero is incredibly similar to Star Fox 64, and by extension Star Fox 64 3D. Much like the former game, levels are split between on-rails and arena style sections; the demo level that we tested had each of these classic phase's intact, complete with a boss battle to finish off the demo. Much like in Star Fox 64, each level can have a slightly different clear result, and the demo's boss battle shows this off nicely.
There are two ways that this boss can be defeated: you can either knock out all the portions of the ship's outer layer, or you can knock off one piece, then dive inside the ship to take it out from the inside. Although both methods will clear the level, the ending is slightly changed depending on which method that you choose, perhaps hinting at a progression system that mimics the ones found in older Star Fox titles.
The new land-based mechanics, in our demo's case using what I refer to as "chicken mode," allows the player a more precise range of 360 degree motion at the sacrifice of speed. It's certainly a neat touch, and the optional dive into the mothership's core during the aforementioned boss battle uses it well, but the demo doesn't really do much to justify the mechanic as a feature, as in reality it wasn't necessary to use the mode to complete the level—it was actually more efficient to stay in the regular form for the entire fight.
As of right now, it's hard to find too much that Star Fox Zero does drastically different from the games that came before it, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing (if it's not broken, don't fix it and all that), if you've been looking for something entirely new, this is not it. It's unknown just how much the new mechanics will come into account later in the game, but for now, if you're a fan of Star Fox 64, there's much to be excited for. But if you aren't, it's going to take Nintendo a heck of a lot more to maintain interest.
We'll keep you up to date, as more details on the title become available.