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Star Fox 64 3D Review

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  • 3DS

Star Fox 64 3D is too short and feature-deprived at $40 to satisfy newcomers while missing some of the nostalgic hooks that made its predecessor beloved.

Solar has received the most dramatic upgrade, but every level in Star Fox 64 3D looks terrific.

How much money would you be willing to pay to hear Peppy say, "Do a Barrel Roll!"?

The answer to that question will be your main signifier as to whether you should seek out Q-Games' remake of a well-regarded N64 rail shooter. Star Fox 64 3D brings a gorgeous visual shine to the game as well as some expanded multiplayer features, while keeping the game’s memorable single-player intact. But that single-player is pretty short and designed to be replayed endlessly--something that made a lot of sense back on the N64. But shifting standards give it all a very different feel today. As a result, Star Fox 64 3D comes across like a video game stuck in the past, an aging release that, for all of its lavish visual upgrades, feels archaic. Even if you're willing to pay a premium to see Star Fox 64 again, you may not get what you expect, as the port contains enough small but meaningful alterations from the original release that it loses some of its nostalgic power.

It’s too bad, because Star Fox 64 3D does faithfully recreate the original game’s single-player campaign. You won’t find any new planets to visit, new warps or power-ups. This is a pretty straight port with a few extraneous additional features and no real surprises. Enemy locations, item placement and boss battles are identical to their locations and strategies from 14 years ago. You’ll still charge your laser to destroy enemies, launch bombs to clear the screen, disarm different bombs, fight Star Wolf and, yes, even do a barrel roll or two. And that campaign is still pretty fun, constantly shifting your objectives from level to level to keep each mission fresh. You’ll traverse asteroid fields, blow up motherships, defend your mobile starbase Great Fox from missles, cut off a supply line by crashing the transport train into an enemy base, destroy a planet’s satellite defense platform, and even fight a giant brain. It was, and still is, a well-paced shooter with great variety and a silly tone that keeps the whole game feeling breezy.

Yep. You do this.

The graphical overhaul in Star Fox 64 3D is probably even more dramatic than the recently updated port of Ocarina of Time. Crisp ground textures below your ship have craggy, uneven, rocky surfaces instead of a single color painted across the map. Water and lava churn and splash with a ferocity you’d never dream of seeing on the N64. The new skyboxes are far richer and more animated than you remember. It’s a great look that does inject some new life into this fondly remembered game.

Star Fox 64 also does extremely well in 3D, which works without a hitch and enhances the game without becoming distracting. Enemies and environmental objects alike tumble through space, out of the screen and into your line of sight (and occasionally, your ship). It’s a great-looking effect that works nicely even on the highest 3D settings.

With such a cool visual makeover on top of an already memorable and fun campaign, Star Fox 64 3D seems like it does everything right to appeal to its nostalgic fan base and bring in new fans at the same time. But the high levels of reverence for the original game end there, as Star Fox 64 3D makes too many decisions that detract from its nostalgic appeal. Chief amongst those offenses--especially for fans of the original game-- is the rerecording of the game’s famous voice acting. For whatever reason, Nintendo and Q-Games opted to bring the original voice actors back into the studio to once again capture that specific mixture of silly cliches, bizarre inflections and G-rated thrills that made the original characters memorable. But apparently that magic is gone forever, because the cast just can’t hit those notes you and I remember. Inflections are wrong, lines have been changed, Falco sounds way too much like a jerk, Fox comes across like a whiner, and Andross’ crazy hyena laugh has completely vanished. Nintendo has clearly gone through a lot of work to recreate that lost voice acting with high-quality audio. But with no option to play those classic voice tracks, Star Fox 64 3D is left with a facsimile that doesn’t deliver the same thrills.

"Sorry to jet, but I'm in a hurry."

Similarly, Star Fox 64 3D’s music tracks have similarly been rerecorded and also replaced with far less memorable instrumentation that tries and fails to recreate the original N64 songs. Star Fox 64 3D could have handled either a direct emulation of those original tunes or a proper orchestral arrangement, but instead opts to emulate the sound of the N64 chip, which was in turn trying to emulate proper orchestrations. As a result, some of the game’s tracks sound like they’re coming out of a cheap keyboard, robbing them of their energy and scope.

Still, the changes to the music and voice acting are really only going to rub you wrong if you're a Star Fox purist, but that’s the group of players most likely to enjoy this premium remake. If you’re a new player curious why many have fussed about this game for so long, you’re going to wonder why this short, simple, and easy rail shooter costs $40 while other games in the genre offer more features (including online hooks) for a quarter of the price. For as much work as has gone into this re-release, the core of Star Fox 64 3D is untouched and, as such, feels shallow and lacking in content compared to similarly priced games today.

And while there are a few 3DS-specifc features in this port, none of them are substantial enough or fleshed out enough to merit the full-price investment. In true Nintendo form, Star Fox 64 3D has optional motion-based controls, allowing you to steer your jets and tanks using the handheld’s gyroscope. But the motion controls sacrifice some of the required precision needed, even on the easier difficulty, to clear each stage, along with making it impossible to use the game’s legitimately great 3D effects. The controls work, but they’re not fun to use, especially since the handheld circle pad works just fine for playing Star Fox on all the difficulty settings.

$40 for a two hour game? Can't let you do that, Star Fox.

Along with the new motion controls, Star Fox 64 3D also makes substantial upgrades to the original game’s multiplayer Battle Mode. Thankfully, the 3DS battle mode has lost the dense fog that plagued the original game’s multiplayer and enhanced the various game options. The brand new battle mode features expansive maps with some new geometry, as well as a Mario Kart-inspired powerup system that adds a few additional pickups, such as cloaking, to the expected arsenal. And, in a neat touch, the game’s multiplayer supports download play, which means all you need to get the full multiplayer options and settings across multiple players is a single cart. In a goofier, less meaningful addition, the 3DS’ front-facing camera will capture your face during your match and display it over the pilot’s aircraft as well as after a kill. It’s ridiculous in the same way that feature was in Burnout Paradise, but given the 30-foot maximum range for the wireless local multiplayer, it’s a feature that essentially duplicates the act of looking at a person’s face. It’s a silly diversion but it’s not the best reason to come to this port.

But those are the kinds of features that get added to games when the developers are stuck making a straight remake instead of adding the meaningful, substantial additions and upgrades that could have made Star Fox 64 3D a more robust package. The desire for a straight nostalgic recreation of the original game forbids the addition of the very features that would have made the game truly modern. As a result, we’re left with this rail shooter without online multiplayer, online leaderboards for single-player, new levels, new boss fights, or even a real orchestral score. Those are the kinds of features game players demand from games that cost half of what Star Fox 64 3D retails for. The game at its center may still be fun, but it’s not fun for long enough to overlook the game’s simplicity, its short length, and its lack of modern gameplay features. If you’re looking for the history lesson, you’re better off grabbing it for $10 on the Virtual Console.

112 Comments
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Edited by wumbo3000

Star Fox eh?

Posted by Capasso

Kessler eh?

Posted by Akeldama

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

Posted by RE_Player1

Yeah I rather grab the Virtual console version for $10. I can't stand the re-recorded voices.

Edited by Drazat

@Akeldama:

Space marine and starfox are big titles this year? have you looked at the upcoming game tsunami ?

Posted by Jaqen_HGhar

A well written and informative review. Really enjoyed this on N64 back in the day, and have played it through a couple of times on Virtual Console. But I don't even own a 3DS, so I mostly post this to counter all the "why is the intern reviewing games" posts that I already see a few of. So I say, good job Kessler!

Posted by Thor_Molecules

Great review Matt!

Posted by rjayb89

FEAR GAUNTLET, KESSLER. NOT THESE SILLY REVIEWS.

Online
Posted by yoshimitz707

Andross’ crazy hyena laugh has completely vanished.

FUCK THAT!

Posted by SpartanAmbrose

Fuck the haters. Great job, Matt.

Posted by Elow

Great review Matt. Was going to buy it soon but will wait for it to be ~$20.

Edited by Metal_Mills

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

They aren't big titles at all. They are moderate and while they play the actual big games. Dead Island, Gears 3, Resistance 3, ect And how do you think you get to being a game critic? Gotta start somewhere.

Posted by SpudBug

The price point is a valid argument. but ones that die hard fans of this game are likely to ignore.

It's a great game, and super replayable. Having it portable is really good for fans. If you have no nostalgia for the game or don't get into score attack and collecting medals, yeah, at $40 this is kinda tough.

$20 and it'd be gold though.

Edited by Pr1mus

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

Jeff did Driver San Fransisco and Gears 3, Brad did Dead Island, Patrick did Resistance 3, Alex did Rock of Ages, Ryan did the Gun Stringer. And they also were all busy preparing the BLLSL and their usual stuff like bombcast and quicklooks. So yeah feel free to fuck off.

Online
Edited by TechnoSyndrome

This sounds about right. Star Fox 64 is one of my favorite games ever, but I'd have a hard time suggesting people to buy it for $40, especially when you can get the N64 version I played so much as a kid on the Wii's Virtual Console for a fourth of the price.

Online
Posted by countinhallways

@SpartanAmbrose said:

Fuck the haters. Great job, Matt.

Indeed. Kessler's reviews are getting better all the time. Good stuff.

Also, yeah, seems like a good remake, but I have definite concerns over its value proposition.

Posted by Pr1mus

@SpudBug said:

$20 and it'd be gold though.

This. I'd buy that for 20. Every HD collection is 40$ on PS3 for 2 games. or 20 individually on PSN so there's no justification for that 40$ price tag.

Online
Posted by Jolt92

@Akeldama: DURRHURRRR

Kessler keeps getting better all the time, fuck the haters.

I don't think I'll be getting this one anytime soon, when it's on sale though.

Posted by amir90

Wait, you pay 40$ for a new 3DS game? :o

That is considered budget price almost in Norway.

Anyways, enough of the price fight.

I would buy it, if I had money, hey oh!

Posted by Enigma777

@Metal_Mills said:

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

They aren't big titles at all. They are moderate and while they play the actual big games. Dead Island, Gears 3, Resistance 3, ect And how do you think you get to being a game critic? Gotta start somewhere.

Now way in hell is Dead Island a big game.

Posted by louiedog
@Pr1mus said:

@SpudBug said:

$20 and it'd be gold though.

This. I'd buy that for 20. Every HD collection is 40$ on PS3 for 2 games. or 20 individually on PSN so there's no justification for that 40$ price tag.

Yeah, and those are only one generation old.
Posted by CallofSpartansofWar1337

I rely wish da 3ds wuld get sum good games. I dunt play nintendo much but de 3d seems cool and i bet da pple who have 1 wuld like to play it mo!

Posted by Ketchupp

This game is waaay too short.

Posted by mrcraggle

Great review Kessler. Fuck the haters and just keep doing what you're doing man. I don't have a 3DS and even if I did I still wouldn't pick this up. I played it tons of times back on the N64 and it can be completed even on the hard route which means suffering through that submarine level in just over 30 minutes. They should've actually cut that level out as it's 14 years old, surely Nintendo know that people hate that level by now.

Posted by Metal_Mills

@Enigma777 said:

@Metal_Mills said:

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

They aren't big titles at all. They are moderate and while they play the actual big games. Dead Island, Gears 3, Resistance 3, ect And how do you think you get to being a game critic? Gotta start somewhere.

Now way in hell is Dead Island a big game.

Actually it is. It was hyped a lot and has shipped over 2 million copies.

Posted by MattBodega

Writing this review broke my damn heart.

Not to get too sentimental or anything, but Star Fox 64 was the very first console game I ever owned. I've put hundreds of childhood hours into this game. At one point, I could quote every line of dialog from memory. It is a game very near and dear to my heart.

I love this game emotionally, but I can't logically recommend it. It's just too much money for a game that hasn't been sufficiently modernized.

It made me feel very sad to realize just how far video gaming has come, and how one of my favorite games no longer stands up anymore.

Posted by Enigma777

@Metal_Mills said:

@Enigma777 said:

@Metal_Mills said:

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

They aren't big titles at all. They are moderate and while they play the actual big games. Dead Island, Gears 3, Resistance 3, ect And how do you think you get to being a game critic? Gotta start somewhere.

Now way in hell is Dead Island a big game.

Actually it is. It was hyped a lot and has shipped over 2 million copies.

Nope, still not a big game.

Posted by RedLycra

@Akeldama: Don't know if you've noticed but I think Kessler might be getting hired full time.

Just a hunch.

Posted by Tsukiyomi

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

Sure is butthurt nintendrone in here.

Posted by Thor_Molecules

@Tsukiyomi said:

Sure is butthurt nintendrone in here.

Back to 4chan with you, child. You sound dumber than the original poster.

Posted by washingmachine

Stop hating on Kessler. This a very good review, the boy clearly knows how to articulate his points and be just with his reasoning--what else do you want from a reviewer? Guys like Kessler are doing solid work, and try to remember that it's a learning process as well.

Posted by Mystyr_E

@RedLycra: all I can think of when I read that is UGH

Posted by sundowner

this is such a good looking game, but that $40 price tag is such a buzzkill

Posted by RedLycra

@Mystyr_E: Seems preeeeetty fucking inevitable at this point. Like it or not.

Posted by lokilaufey

Great review, Matt!

Posted by Robot_Sneakers

I have to admit I really like Kessler's reviews and Quick Looks. Though I am curious at what price he'd suggest buying this game.

Edited by Zimbo

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

How do you think people become game critics? Generally it's by getting a proper internship with a site like Giant Bomb where you can meet contacts and write about video games. Just ask Jeff. That's how he got into the industry I believe.

Also,

Gears of War 3 - Jeff

Dead Island - Brad

The Gunstringer - Ryan

Rock of Ages - Alex

Driver - Jeff

Resistance 3 - Patrick

Funny how opening your eyes lets you see all the main staff reviews written over the past 10 days.

Posted by AldoTheApache

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

This

Posted by NakAttack

@MattBodega said:

Writing this review broke my damn heart.

Not to get too sentimental or anything, but Star Fox 64 was the very first console game I ever owned. I've put hundreds of childhood hours into this game. At one point, I could quote every line of dialog from memory. It is a game very near and dear to my heart.

I love this game emotionally, but I can't logically recommend it. It's just too much money for a game that hasn't been sufficiently modernized.

It made me feel very sad to realize just how far video gaming has come, and how one of my favorite games no longer stands up anymore.

Great review Matt, at least be thankful that your first game was not Superman 64, like mine was.

Posted by Freek

@Enigma777: I still think Dead Island is a bit bigger then Star Fox 64 3D on the release side.

Posted by Oginam

@MattBodega: Good review Matt.

Posted by Shaanyboi

I'm not hating on the review, but I think Kessler relies wayyyy too much on the argument of this game being altered. Yeah, the voice samples are re-recorded. Why? Because the originals sound like shit. And the sound quality on the for the music on the original was ALSO awful. I get that that "awfulness" is kinda engrained with nostalgia into peoples' memories, especially if they played this endlessly growing up, but changing that is hardly a valid point to knock against the game. That said, the point that this game simply isn't worth $40 anymore without any meaningful additions is kinda justification enough for the score...

Posted by g6065

Nice review Matt

Posted by tourgen

how does a mediocre re-release of an N64 game get 3 stars? 

Posted by Dapski418

A fair review, it seems.

Posted by Jimi

@AldoTheApache said:

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

This

So you want the 4 dudes to review every game + do quick looks + the bombcast + all the new subscriber content?

Besides Matt does write a good review, chances are he will be hired full time soon.

Posted by supercubedude

They really rerecorded the audio? How stupid.

Also, Kessler haters can go fuck themselves. Great review, Matt.

Posted by OneManX

@Akeldama said:

Matt Kessler is a fucking intern, not a game critic. Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

Writing all the other reviews?

Posted by LiquidPenguins

Written like a 4th grader.

Posted by MattBodega

@Shaanyboi: I harp on the audio changes mostly as a fan and the kind of person most likely to pay way too much for a Star Fox port. It's keeps the game from being the best possible port of a game I hold in too high esteem.

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