For a long time, it felt like this would never happen. I genuinely began to believe Fox would never fly again after not one, but 3 disappointing follow-ups to Lylat Wars on the Nintendo 64. To be fair to them, they weren’t awful; Starfox Adventures was a really enjoyable adventure game, almost worthy of Zelda, but let down by button mashing combat, Starfox being shoehorned in and the later stages feeling rushed. whilst Starfox Assault almost perfectly merged the flying sections of Lylat Wars with some exciting ground combat that wasn’t dis-similar to Jet Force Gemini, but that has awful ground controls and weird looking graphics and Starfox Command…well, I never played that one.
But Starfox Command’s inability to set the world alight again was the final nail on an already decaying coffin (that makes sense, right?), In a time where the only way space games sold were if they starred men in armoured space suits mowing down aliens with extreme violence or had the words Star Wars written on the box, Starfox just couldn’t fit the bill and became a distant nostalgic memory, left unknown like the fate of Fox’s father. Until last year at E3, when Nintendo announced they were remaking Lylat Wars, arguably the best game in the series. So now that it’s on the shelves, what’s new for those who’ve played it before? Well, the graphics are darn impressive…and that’s about it.
Well, that’s a lie; there are small tweaks here and there, most notably Miyamoto’s favourite gyroscope controls, which I really found a huge hassle. They worked in OoT 3D when aiming because it’s a slower action allowing you to be more precise, but here in fast aerial combat, it jots the 3D out of focus, doesn’t react as fast as you need and it’s just more of a faff. Thankfully, Nintendo are probably aware of this and created “3DS mode” which reduces the difficulty and adds a save mode between levels for beginners, which I recommend you do first regardless of your previous skill. I went straight into “Nintendo 64 mode” which, I must clarify isn’t the expert mode from the original (which is still an unlockable bonus here) but it sure as hell felt like it. The game felt a lot harder than I remember it being, mostly notably the water level (Which if you’re genre savvy, makes complete sense). Aquas benefits from the graphical update, now I can actually tell what the hell is shooting me, but the Blue Marine and its weapons are still sluggish and the 3D really not helping with accuracy makes it a much worse level than before.
But after Ocarina, actually being challenged by a game you’ve completed a bazillion times is actually quite refreshing, I was very happy that I had to keep on my toes, especially in the Area 6 stage, where combined with the better graphics, it felt like the closest I’ve ever got living out that scene in Return Of The Jedi where the rebel forces attack the death star’s fleet and Admiral Ackbar yells his famous catchphrase. (Oh yeah, it’s totally awesome)
On the subject of meme’s, nostalgia fans will be disappointed to learn that they have re-recorded all the dialogue, including “that line” but curiously, they’ve not changed a word of it, I don’t really know if it’s better or worse, just different. However, they’ve upped the sound quality immensely and it has that big space opera feel, it’s still not orchestrated (probably the best thing about Starfox Assault’s soundtrack) but it definitely fits the swooping and shooting. They’ve also added in boss names before you fight them, which is a really neat touch, and it’s put down the corner of the screen so it’s not distracting as well.
The final word on it is that, if you enjoyed Lylat Wars/Starfox 64 on the original Nintendo 64, you’ll still enjoy this, because the game is designed for replay ability and is still a massive hunk of fun. The gyro controls are disappointing and there’s the lack of wi-fi multiplayer, but they’ve done well to completely recapture the feel and with the 3D, the dogfights are immersive and the battles tense. Like OoT, it’s not great with new content, which is a shame, but it uses new technology to re-vitalise old ideas breathing new life into them and making them feel new again. Lylat Wars was always arguably Nintendo’s equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster, big on effect and spectacle with likable, simple characters and memorable action, something that you’ll want to see time and time again. I’m glad Nintendo decided to re-tread into this universe and I’m hoping that soon, they’ll make one big leap forward into it.