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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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Posted by MattBodega

@LiquidPenguins Thanks, dude!

Posted by Garfield518

@LiquidPenguins said:

Written like a 4th grader.

And your comment was written like an idiot.

Your point?

Posted by TadThuggish

I AM ANGRY ON THE INTERNET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Oni

@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?

Take a chill pill, buddy, and feel free to stop being a dick. He gets paid to write reviews (and does so pretty well), which makes him a game critic.

Posted by drgrumbles

@MattBodega: Very good review. You hit the nail on the head with what I was thinking when I played this game recently. Please keep writing reviews its nice to have a fresh perspective!

Posted by phrali

@Akeldama said:

Christ guys, Space Marine and Star Fox are big titles this year. Where are the main staff reviews?

is that supposed to be a joke?

Posted by Calidreth

Excellent review Kessler -- think I'll pass on this one.

Posted by MikeFightNight

Haters gonna hate, players gonna play.

Good review Matt. I think I will pass on this one since I have no interest in playing Star Fox again and more importantly, I don't own a 3DS because there is nothing I want to play at the moment. A vicious circle I know.

Posted by zombie2011

Good review, i'm so glad i'm skipping this upcoming generation of handhelds they seem to suck.

Posted by Napalm

@TadThuggish said:

I AM ANGRY ON THE INTERNET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I NEED AN EASY TARGET TO HATE ON THE INTERNET. I AM SO ANGRY BECAUSE I LEAD AN UNFULFILLED LIFE IN REAL LIFE! ANGER!

Edited by Nettacki

@tourgen said:

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

Because 3 stars = mediocre = average?

Posted by Nettacki

Good review. Doesn't seem like it's worth getting a 3DS for, and I was one of those people who loved the N64 original way back when.

Posted by StarErik

Are you sure they re-recorded the dialogue? They could have just used the original uncompressed recordings.

Posted by Fjordson

Seems like a good review, Kessler. I couldn't be more uninterested in N64 rehashes.

Posted by Edmundus

Solid review, and given how familiar Kessler is with the original game I'm glad he was the one who covered the remake.

Posted by MattBodega

@ErikSchroder: It turns out they totally did rerecord the dialog with the original actors. Nintendo stated as much during interviews.

Posted by StarErik

@MattBodega: Ah, I see! That's pretty cool. And thanks for the reply, just got "Touched By God". :)

Posted by AngelN7

You know what REALLY makes my blood boil? that damn Cherubin portrait who is he? and why is he always happy!?

Posted by Cyrus_Saren

Seems like a fair review.

Posted by Kjellm87

I find it hard to put down. Short yes, but I find enough value and improvement worth buying this game. Specially on the go.

The voices are re-recorded by the way, but they actually got most of the original actors back and they does a very good job, it didn't take me long getting used to them.

(Btw, 1400 points on 3ds mode, beat that, people. >:) )

Posted by LEGITLakers

Sounds like a game I will get when the price drops down to $20 or less. Devil Survivor is long and at the rate I'm playing, it will last me a really really long time.

Edited by Willy105

$40 really is too much for a short game, but I think Star Fox 64 is the one game where a short game doesn't matter, because it doesn't stop being awesome the 2nd or 102nd play through.

It's short length is what makes it so re-playable, it's like watching a movie that never gets old.

However, I do agree you're better off with the $10 VC version for the time being.

@ErikSchroder said:

Are you sure they re-recorded the dialogue? They could have just used the original uncompressed recordings.

Yes, they did. From the original actors, no less.

Nintendo went through all the trouble of tracking down and finding the original actors, and have them re-record the same lines from the N64 game.

They also went out of their way to remake the music, for it to sound weaker than the N64 version. They also went out of their way to make a brand new multiplayer mode, without online multiplayer.

Posted by BisonHero

"If you’re looking for the history lesson, you’re better off grabbing it for $10 on the Virtual Console."

This is why I think it's insane that Brad, or any other publication, gave Ocarina of Time 3D 5 stars, 10/10, etc. The whole idea of even reviewing those 2 games is weird to me, when the vast majority of ideas for game design, gameplay, writing, and music composition were already reviewed over 10 years ago.

They're just filtering the same work through a different lens, updating the visuals and audio with a new coat of paint without redesigning/rewriting either aspect.

I intend to pick up a 3DS in the next couple years, along with Paper Mario 3DS at the very least. But I can't fathom why I would want to buy either of those 3DS remakes when I could just buy them on the Virtual Console to scratch that classic N64 game itch.

Online
Posted by csl316
@Oni 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?

Take a chill pill, buddy, and feel free to stop being a dick. He gets paid to write reviews (and does so pretty well), which makes him a game critic.

Yeah, Kessler does good work.  It's easy to pick on him (fun, too!) but in all honesty he's been developing pretty well since that first Quick Look, when everyone lost their shit wondering why he's making a visible contribution.
Posted by ptys

Would have preferred Star Fox Adventures for the Gamecube to showcase the systems graphics a bit more. Suppose RARE being part of Microsoft could have something to do with that.

Edited by jasondesante

3 stars is an insult.

the game is a perfectly balanced and unique experience. nothing is broken the controls are as solid as ever.

all these comments of people thanking the reviewer for giving it a bad review because now they know not to give it a chance.

Posted by Brendan

@Robot_Sneakers said:

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.

Couldn't be more than the $10 it costs for the virtual console release on the Wii, because the review sounds like as much as made worse as was made better than the original.

Posted by WhiteBrightKnight

I disagree with it being short, maybe if you've played it before but not for me. It took me a couple attempts to beat it on the easy path (prob 2-3 hours) then I played through the center and hard paths which took me about the same amount of time each. I mean, now I can get through the whole game way quicker on basically all the paths from playing it so much but that criticism seems harsh to me if the consumer hasn't played a ton of it already. And then some of the levels are just really fun to replay. Otherwise good review kessler and the guys who say "wtf Kessler" on everything he does need to get over themselves.

Posted by Toug

I did notice in the Quick Look that Falco said "Hey genius!" instead of "Hey Einstein!"

That my friends is a... DEAL. BREAKER.

Good review Bodega.

Posted by Little_Socrates

This is kinda how I felt. I hate the way every member of Star Wolf sounds based on the QL; at a certain point it becomes bizarre to have even attempted the old dialogue, no matter how nostalgic it is. Having something to directly compare it to as "done on the cheap but still way better" is an unfortunate comparison to make, especially when it extends to main characters like Falco and Andross. That's actually a big enough reason I like Star Fox, though, that I'd rather play an older version, while a new person just isn't going to understand this game at that price.

Posted by I3elmont

I cant stand kessler and clepic fishing for lame jokes while trying to watch this quicklook

Posted by KarmaPoliceman

Yeah, I really don't know why I would buy this when I already bought the $10 virtual console version 3 years ago. (That I should ideally be able to play on my 3ds as well...) I find when I'm actually playing old games I quickly forget about the quality of the graphics and sound and go straight back to the time period.

However I think the gameplay still holds up today. I had a ton of fun playing that version last week, the core mechanics are so, so solid. If it wasn't so short, it would be among the greatest games ever, just because of the strength of the movement and shooting. Then again, the games brevity may be why it doesn't get old.

Anyway, fantastic review. Well written and the score is spot on in my opinion. I've had mad respect for Kessler after seeing those metagame videos.

Posted by ThePilgrums

@I3elmont said:

I cant stand kessler and clepic fishing for lame jokes while trying to watch this quicklook

Who's "clepic"?

Posted by ThePaleKing

Good to see you being objective about this game; it would be far too easy to say "but it's Star Fox!" and ignore the glaring problems the game has, both new and old. Nintendo (and a lot of other dev/pubs) need to get it through their skull that putting some polish on a classic title does not warrant a full price tag.

Posted by WatanabeKazuma

@ThePilgrums said:

@I3elmont said:

I cant stand kessler and clepic fishing for lame jokes while trying to watch this quicklook

Who's "clepic"?

Who's fishing for lame jokes now? Eh?

...

Posted by Ghostiet

@jasondesante said:

3 stars is an insult.

Every fault you see is a personal preference or opinion (what all reviews are) but the game is a perfectly balanced and unique experience. What else makes something perfect besides those qualities?

all these comments of people thanking the reviewer for giving it a bad review because now they know not to give it a chance. The 3D in this game is amazing, the 3DS will never get appreciated for what it is if at every corner every single critic pick apart everything they aren't willing to understand.

You had me at "every fault you see is a personal preference or opinion".

Posted by MattBodega

@jasondesante: Actually, I feel like I state pretty clearly in the review that:

A) The visual upgrades in this port, especially the 3D, look fantastic

B) that Star Fox 64 is still fun

and C) that the main problem is the value proposition. The $40 asking price is just too much for what you get in this package. If this port ever goes down to $15 or $20, then I would absolutely recommend checking out this port.

Posted by Legend

Oh dear..

Posted by dropabombonit

You are spot on with this, only reason I bought it was because I got it for $10 because I had $30 on a gift card

Posted by RedHatDrew

@MattBodega: Totally feel you on the sentiments. Star Fox 64 3D was going to be one of my main excuses for buying a 3DS, granted it was worth it. Keep up the good reviews!

Edited by TheKbob

Makes complete sense. Why people wanted to pay $250 or $170 to pay another $40 to play games they have probably already played makes no sense. I was nostalgic for Ocarina and Starfox, so instead of a 3DS, I got an N64 and the two carts for around $50~. So I hooked it up onto my old 24" tube tv and did some barrel roles and played some melodies on my blue ocarina (OF TIME!).

I may not be taking it with me, but cmon folks. This has to wake people up to the amount of cash-ins Nintendo is trying to pull off to stay relevant.

Posted by TheHBK

@MattBodega: If you wrote it, why does it say Kessler?

Posted by RichieJohn

@Akeldama: Obviously the staff feel he's ready to contribute full review. I've read both of his recent reviews and they seem perfectly good.

Who do you think you are to question it?

Edited by RE_Player1

@Toug said:

I did notice in the Quick Look that Falco said "Hey genius!" instead of "Hey Einstein!"

I know this may sound ridiculous but if that is true I would not even buy this game if it was $5.

Posted by MattBodega

@TheHBK: Because my last name is Kessler! Bodega is just a username

Edited by Fuga

Wow who's this Bodega guy? Reported to admins for staff impersonation

Edited by jasondesante

Its called GAME REVIEW... Review a GAME.

It isn't a product business analysis review. Its a GAME Review.

@MattBodega: my problem with this review is something I have noticed with GB reviews in general. Where is the standard things are held to?

Fruit Ninja Kinect 4/5

Star Fox 64 3D 3/5

something is wrong here

1. both are "ports" with added motion controls lol

2. one is identical to one single Warioware Microgame from the DS era (fruit ninja) and the other is one of the most forward thinking adventure games of all time.

3. Giving a game a lower score because you have commentary on the changing trends of pricing strategies of portable games is ridiculous.

4. Fuit Ninja and Star Fox 64 are obviously not being rated to the same standard of quality.

Posted by drugged

@jasondesante: The issue with reviews is that they're always subjective - there is no 'standard' you can rate games against. This means that most reviews you read are useless for forming opinions on...

..but the great thing that Giant Bomb does is provide personality to the reviews - through quick looks and podcasts we 'get to know' the reviewers and their tastes which mean their scores are actually useful and can provide me with good information. The reviewer who gives Fruit Ninja Kinect a 4-star review isn't comparing that to Star Fox 64 - I mean, scores are pretty arbitrary - but with what they say in their reviews, and with knowing how my reviews align with the reviewer, I can guess whether I'm likely to like the game or not.

Trying to have a 'common standard' of scoring across all reviews never works and just ends up with sites adopting ridiculous 100-point scales.

Posted by TheYear20XX

@jasondesante: I think what this all boils down to is Star Fox 64, when it was first released, was a five star game. Here in 2011, without any meaningful additions, it is simply a three star game, and that seems entirely reasonable to me. I love Star Fox 64, but when the original is available for $10, charging an extra $30 for just a new coat of paint is ludicrous.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

For as much as I like Star Fox 64, this review probably is spot on in that paying $40 for it in 2011 is not something I'd like to do. If I really wanted to play SF64 again, I can just pull out my N64.

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