I would make a Barrel Roll joke but since those are far overused, I'm going to mind my own business.
When Nintendo unveiled the remakes of two Nintendo 64 classics at E3 the previous two years, my initial thoughts were that the company was being lazy by rereleasing yet another few titles to cash in on gamers’ nostalgia while attempting to artificially create a lineup of games to fill the lack of 3DS games in its first year on the market. However, after seeing the games in person, I realized the need for recreating these timeless classics. Though it was a graphical powerhouse for its time, the N64 really shows its limitations when viewed nowadays. Thus, those of us who have re-experienced some of Nintendo’s N64 classics on the Virtual Console can see that many of them don’t hold up as well as games from earlier systems.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was a great testament to the success of recreating a title from this era from the ground up as the game truly looked masterful and outdid the original version of the game while still having the same magic as the 64 version. Incredibly detailed environments, sharp looking textures, and effective additions of touch screen menus and gyroscope aiming were all tantamount to recreating the game in a better light; using the 3DS’s 3D capabilities to add depth to environments and make dungeons look even more epic were just icing on the cake. The only major quip for me was that the musical score and sound effects were essentially untouched and it showed in a bad way.
Now, the second of the N64 rerelease party has hit 3DS shelves in Star Fox 64 3D. Can this version dramatically improve upon the original by adding a fresh coat of paint or do we need something more to entice us to fly back to the Lylat system?
Star Fox 64 3D uses the system’s 3D effects well due to the depth of vision involved in on-rails shooters such as Star Fox. By using the system’s capabilities, the world comes to life on screen like never before and things seem to pop out more than in other 3DS games as well. Graphically, everything looks much better as well with the expectedly sharp textures and redesigned environments. Similarly to Ocarina of Time 3D, the game looks gorgeous compared to its predecessor.
However, a major quip I had about this game when compared to its original and with Zelda OoT 3D is that the game still uses pop-in textures that looks to be the same as the original’s; rather than expand the background out and have enemies pop-in from far away, they appear on the screen once they’re only about 5 seconds from your ship. I know that developer Q Games was attempting to make the game as much like the original as possible but pop-in is not a feature that we want to have to remember (it existed due to the N64’s graphical limitations). It doesn’t destroy the beauty of the game but it definitely makes the backgrounds look blander at times and takes away from the visual masterpiece as well as the 3D. I don’t know if the 3DS is limited in terms of hardware to have that many enemies available on screen at once but I do remember Zelda had an amazing amount of depth and you could see enemies far off in the distance.
Also, I don’t know if this is a valid complaint or really more of a testament to the original’s looks, but I felt that the leap from the N64 version to this one didn’t look as drastic when comparing Zelda: Ocarina of Time with its 3DS remake. The original Zelda: OoT is almost unplayable nowadays whereas its remake is beautiful. On the other hand, the original Star Fox 64 still looks pretty good when comparing all of the different enemy sprites to that of the newer version of the game. Sure, textures are much stronger and bodies of water in the newer game are far better looking but the overall game still holds up pretty well.
One area that has majorly improved this time around, however, is the soundtrack. Sticking to the original N64 instrumentation in OoT 3D kept the game from being a complete masterpiece in my opinion as fully-orchestrated versions of the songs would have been as appreciated by fans as the graphical overhaul. Nintendo did listen this time and made a much better sounding version than the original for Star Fox 64 3D. The entire soundtrack was completely redone and it is a major improvement (though I’m still partial to the Super Nintendo Star Fox’s musical score).
Piloting your Arwing
In terms of controls, the game does well aside from the fact that the 3DS still feels a little too skinny for my hands (and believe me, my hands aren’t very large). The charge base does bulk up the size of the 3DS up a bit but it feels a bit awkward as well. Nonetheless, the controls themselves still work quite well. This version of the game also has some interface benefits. Not only does it allow you to change your controls before you go into battle (like you could before), but you can also change a few controls at any time during the game by merely pausing the game. During the pause screen, you can change the up/down orientation to your liking, turn the reticle on/off, and turn gyroscope controls on/off.
As for the new gyroscope controls, I didn’t feel like they worked very well for the game. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with the responsiveness (in fact, I found it a bit too responsive), it’s just moving the 3DS around to control your ship not only feels awkward, but won’t work if you’re on any type of moving vehicle such as a car, plane, or train (any movement will not allow you to calibrate it on a flat surface and it also makes controlling your Arwing impossible). Plus, using large movements of the gyroscope while the 3D is activated blurs your vision because it messes up the 3D effect. I felt that Zelda OoT 3D’s minimal approach to the 3D actually enhanced the game’s controls due to the ability to have more precision while aiming your weapons. This game, however, isn’t benefited at all by the gyroscope controls (though you can always turn them off so it’s not really a blemish, just an unusable extra).
As for the game’s multiplayer, the entire mode was also rebuilt from the ground up from the levels to the addition of new items to make the competitions even more fierce. Items such as force fields, transposers (that allow you to switch locations with other players), homing missiles, stealth cloaks, flaming ships make for more intense form of multiplayer.
You can also play 4-player local multiplayer with only one cartridge or play against 3 computers. As for interactive additions, the 3DS’s camera is also used during battle mode. The camera is on at all times and shows a live feed of your facial expressions in the icon above our Arwing. This is a neat use of the system’s functionality to boost the multiplayer mode’s social aspects during a battle.
An on-screen image of one’s face seems to beckon the inclusion of an online multiplayer mode as well so that you can enjoy watching the pain of others as you dominate them, correct? Well, unfortunately, there is no online multiplayer to be had in this game, which is a real bummer. I can understand that they might have been scared to include the new camera feature with online multiplayer due to the crudeness of the internet and the images of penises that would inevitably scar children’s eyes but why not take out the live camera during this mode and just allow a few different facial expressions to show different emotions? Or just give us the option to turn the camera off so that we can still enjoy online multiplayer.
The decision to not include an online multiplayer, leaderboards (for showing off your score attack scores) or StreetPass functionality (for exchanging scores) is a big mistake considering the fact that the system is more than capable of all of this and that many of us just don’t get the opportunity to have 4-player get-togethers like we used to when we were children. Thus, the inability to share our feats of excellence in score attack via leaderboards/StreetPass takes away from the appeal of replaying the game multiple times to get higher scores (especially after you achieve all of the medals and unlock hard mode).