Star Fox Zero
|Star Fox Zero|
Star Fox Zero[a] is a 3D scrolling shooter video game developed by Nintendo and PlatinumGames for the Wii U. It is the sixth installment in the Star Fox series. After a delay from November 2015, the game was released worldwide in April 2016 to mixed reception. A standalone tower defense game, titled Star Fox Guard, was bundled with the game.
Star Fox Zero largely follows the gameplay of its predecessors, predominantly Star Fox 64, in which players control Fox McCloud as he pilots his Arwing craft through various levels. The game is controlled using the Wii U GamePad, with the left control stick used to maneuver the craft while gyroscopic controls can be used to aim weapons. A cockpit view is displayed on the second screen to assist with aiming.
Some of the game's vehicles can transform in certain situations. For example, the Arwing can transform into the Walker which originated in the Super NES game Star Fox 2, which lets the player freely walk around on platforms. The Landmaster can transform into the Gravmaster, which can perform extended aerial maneuvers. A new vehicle introduced to the series is the Gyrowing, a drone-like helicopter which can lower a small robot called Direct-i that can enter small spaces and hack into computers. Players can also add laser upgrades and smart bombs to their ships. Special techniques, such as charge shot, barrel roll, Somersaults, U-Turns and rapid turn, can be performed. Two gameplay modes are featured in the game. The Scroll Mode puts the player in a predetermined path, while the All-Range Mode allows the player to move freely in a mission. If players lose all their ships in a mission, they must restart the entire mission in order to proceed.
Various elements return from previous games, including Fox's teammates, Falco, Peppy, and Slippy, who can assist the player if they protect them from enemy attacks, as well as Star Wolf team rivals Wolf O'Donnell, Leon Powalski, Pigma Dengar, and Andrew Oikonny. Several level locations have also returned, including Corneria, Zoness, and Titania, while two new locations, Sector Alpha and Area 3, have been added. Players can scan the Fox and Falco Amiibo figurines to unlock the Retro Arwing, which is based on the model used in the original Star Fox game, and the Black Arwing, which sports a black and red color scheme, is stronger and faster but takes more damage, respectively.
The game's development began with experimentation on leftover assets from a never-released Star Fox game for the Wii that had been worked on by a small group since about 2008. The game's existence was confirmed in a press sheet on June 8, 2014, two days before E3 2014 began. On June 10, 2014 during the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Time leaked information about the game in the morning, then Nintendo announced the title publicly, and Nintendo's E3 digital briefing video again hinted at its further details later in the day. Later during an interview with Wired, Miyamoto expressed his desire to work with external developers for faster completion of the project.
In an interview with GameSpot, Miyamoto revealed that both Project Guard and Project Giant Robot were connected to Star Fox for Wii U in some fashion. During a Nintendo Direct presentation on March 3, 2016, Project Guard was renamed as Star Fox Guard, and bundled digitally alongside Star Fox Zero. Project Giant Robot was never released, and was cancelled in 2017.
Miyamoto stated that the game's main storyline and overall presentation would be structured episodically, taking inspiration from the 1960s television series Thunderbirds, with the main missions featuring traditional Star Fox gameplay acting as "primetime programming", while side-missions featuring more quirky, experimental gameplay mechanics (such as those found in Project Guard and Project Giant Robot) act as "late-night programming". Yusuke Hashimoto of PlatinumGames stated they were approached by Nintendo about co-developing the game after requesting to add an Arwing-themed bonus level to Bayonetta 2. Hideki Kamiya of PlatinumGames had also previously expressed his desire for Nintendo to approach them about developing a new Star Fox game. According to Nintendo, the story of Zero is neither a prequel or a sequel to previous Star Fox games.
In December 2014, Miyamoto stated that Star Fox Zero would be released before the new installment of The Legend of Zelda series in 2016. He also confirmed that the game would be compatible with Amiibo, but did not specify in what way. On January 5, 2015, he confirmed that Star Fox would be playable at E3 2015, and reiterated of the GamePad/monitor gameplay method, which would "allow for cinematic moments to blend with continuous gameplay.". On August 24, the release date was announced by Nintendo for November 20, 2015, but the game was subsequently delayed to the first quarter of 2016. On November 12, 2015, Nintendo officially announced that the game would be released in North America on April 22, 2016. The March 2016 Nintendo Direct revealed that it would release in Europe on that same day, and the next in Australia.
An animated short based on the game, titled Star Fox Zero: The Battle Begins, was released online on April 20, 2016. The short was produced by Japanese animation studio Wit Studio, with assistance from Production I.G and Nintendo. A Star Fox Zero menu theme for the 3DS was also released in Japan two days before the game's release.
On April 1, 2016, Nintendo of America began a contest called the "Star Fox Zero Intergalactic Art Event". Entrants needed to create Star Fox Zero fan art and post it to the games Miiverse page. The best 40 entries won $10 worth of Nintendo eShop credit.
One month after launch, Nintendo UK started the "Star Fox Zero Ace Pilot" competition to promote the game further, open to residents of the United Kingdom. Players who entered the contest must have achieved a total score of 3000 hits or more across all missions in the game and posted photographic proof on Twitter before June 12, 2016.
Star Fox Zero received mixed reception, according to the review aggregator Metacritic. Common points of discussion include the Wii U Gamepad controls, the length of the game, and the structural similarities to previous titles in the series.
Jose Otero from IGN praised the levels and bosses, commenting that "Star Fox Zero reimagines a classic Nintendo 64 game, but mastering its awkward controls takes some time." Similarly, Damien McFerran from Nintendo Life observed that "the first time you play through Star Fox Zero, you will inevitably curse the controls" before admitting that "with perseverance it's possible to become totally attuned to the controls", comparing them to Splatoon. Peter Brown of GameSpot's primary fault with the controls was that it forces the player to divide attention back and forth from the television to the Gamepad. However Brown did conclude that the "second run was more enjoyable than the first, and solidified my appreciation for the game", praising the branching paths and level design. Other reviewers, however, found the mandatory motion-based controls frustrating or actively detrimental to the experience. David Roberts of GamesRadar felt that the game was "constantly undermined by a slavish devotion to wrapping the core design around every feature of the Wii U's Gamepad, regardless of whether it makes sense or feels good to play". Arthur Gies of Polygon declined to assign a score because he found that it was too miserable to finish the game on account of its controls. Jim Sterling criticized the game's controls, and slammed Nintendo for using gimmicks in order to sell their games. Sterling felt the game was "Masquerading as an innovative and all-new experience, Nintendo and PlatinumGames’ miserable adventure is actually a bare-bones space shooter utilizing a deliberately obtuse control scheme in order to mask the fact it’s nowhere near as interesting as it pretends to be."
Reviewers were also divided about the game's length and high similarity to its predecessor, Star Fox 64. Some were not bothered by it; McFerran called it "essentially a retread of Star Fox 64 - which, in turn, was effectively Star Fox all over again", but found this aspect of the game "reassuringly familiar". On the other hand, Ray Carsillo of EGM said that it "fails to really build on [Star Fox 64] in new and exciting ways". He was disappointed by the choice to "re-imagine an older game instead of creating a truly brand new one". Steve Watts of Shacknews found the alternate vehicle missions, where the game sets itself apart from earlier titles, ultimately distracted from the core Arwing gameplay. McFerran concluded that Star Fox Zero is "easily on-par with the excellent N64 entry from which it draws so much inspiration". Dan Ryckert of Giant Bomb was more critical, considering the game a relic of 2002.
The game was the highest-selling game on Amazon.com on April 19, 2016, based on its preorders, a position it held for two days. Days after its launch in Japan, both the standalone and Star Fox Guard Double Pack sold 8,135 and 17,114 units respectively, individually placing it 5th and 8th for that sales week. Sales of both combined was 25,249 units, making it the 4th best selling game that week overall. During the same time frame, it was also the sixth best selling game in the United Kingdom, the third best selling in France  and the fifth in Australia. According to the NPD Group, which tracks physical sales data, Star Fox Zero was the fifth best selling video game on any platform during the month of April 2016. However, sales were not as strong as Nintendo hoped in Japan, as it was the worst selling game of the franchise in the country.
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