Written by Nathan Love
Star Fox 64 was one of the most classic and fondly-remembered games of its generation. At the time, it was praised by critics and gamers alike for its fast-action gameplay, eye-popping visuals, and complex gameplay paths, and it is still well-known today. Even if you’ve never played Star Fox 64, you know of it if you’ve ever been on the internet- it is, of course, the origin of the memetic phrase “Do a barrel roll!” Naturally, the legacy of this classic arcade-style game was motivation for yet another Nintendo 64 rework on the Nintendo 3DS. So how did Nintendo do?
Well, to start, the game is clearly another masterful rework. Nintendo poured a lot of resources into making sure that this remake is faithful to the original and they passed my nostalgia test with flying colors. The same fast-paced rail-shooting that kept me up late at night as a kid playing levels over and over to improve my score in the original remains untouched, particularly if you select N64 Mode. (The other mode is 3DS mode, which adjusts the gameplay for the Circle Pad and motion controls, and is also very well done.) The controls in both modes are responsive and intuitive, and the Circle Pad and other 3DS controls are a welcome improvement over the nightmarish N64 controller. The game gives you the option to set the button configuration to the original N64 layout or to use the new 3DS “intuitive” layout. I found myself unable to play with the new layout, but gamers who have not spent hours playing the original will not face the same difficulty.
Part of what made Star Fox 64 so fantastic was its charm. Whether it is Peppy’s enthusiasm and sage advice, Falco’s biting sarcasm and general disdain, or that special glee you get when Slippy is shot down and you know you won’t have to hear his high-pitched squealing in the next mission, that special je ne sais quoi from the original is retained in the remake. I was almost giddy when Star Wolf appeared, complete with trademark “Can’t let you do that, Star Fox!” Speaking of, I was simply unable to refrain from saying all the old lines along with the characters in-game, and anyone who spent any decent amount of time playing the original will feel the same way. The fact that all the lines were re-dubbed is a bit heartbreaking, but the new actors do more than passable impressions for the most part.
Add to these excellent points the fact that the game is beautiful. Nintendo knocked the visuals out of the park- Star Fox 64 3D is simply a steak you eat with your eyes. The 3D looks fantastic and actually aids from time to time in picking out exactly how far away enemies are from your Arwing. All the textures, models, and effects have been reworked and the results are stunning. Of particular note is Solar, the fire level- the new terrain effects, particle effects, and environment are gorgeous. I found myself repeatedly amazed at how pretty the game looks, especially for a handheld console.
The fact that this effort represents such a faithful remake has its downsides, however. While the brief playtime (less than an hour per run) was acceptable back on the Nintendo 64, by today’s standards the game feels painfully short. Even if you play through on all the paths and go back for medals, ten hours would likely be pushing the total amount of content in the game excluding multiplayer. On that note, the multiplayer is just as shallow as the original- fly around in all-range mode and shoot down your opponents. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, but it certainly lacks depth, particularly in today’s multiplayer-rich gaming environment. The plot is not particularly detailed, though it is entertaining, and Slippy’s ear-piercing wails are just as obnoxious as ever. Still, though, there’s much much more good than bad in this remake.
Overall Score- 89
Despite its shortcomings in comparison to modern games, the fact remains that Star Fox 64 3DS is a ton of fun. Great visuals, voice acting, and gameplay round out a solid and entertaining game which retains the same charm of the original. Definitely recommended for fans of the original game as well as new players. Currently the second-best title available for the 3DS.
Genre Score (Arcade)- 95
Absolutely exceptional within the genre, especially considering that arcade-style games of all their various categories are rarely produced and even more rarely anywhere near this good. Smooth, fast-paced gameplay makes Star Fox 64 3DS a must-have for fans of rail shooters or arcade games in general.