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Star Fox Zero review – hands on and release date – now delayed until 2016

Star Fox Zero

We go hands on with Star Fox Zero at Nintendo's E3 showcase in London

Bad news Star Fox fans. Star Fox Zero for the Wii U has been delayed until 2016. Originally due out in time for Christmas this year, Fox McCloud and company won’t be landing their Arwings on Nintendo’s home console until April at the latest, as Nintendo pushes back the release date to Q1 2016.

I made a big decision last week,” said Shigeru Miyamoto on Nintendo’s official Facebook page. “We have been developing Star Fox Zero for Wii U with the aim of releasing it this year. Although we felt that the development had been progressing well, we now believe that we will need a little more time to work on areas such as the unprecedented discovery that we want players to experience in the game by using two screens, and further polishing the level designs and perfecting the tone of the cut scenes.” 

“While we have already reached the stage where it would be technically possible to release the title in time for the year-end holiday season, we want to polish the game a bit more so that players will be able to more smoothly grasp the new style of play that we are proposing. To the people looking forward to the launch of the game this holiday season, I am very sorry. Star Fox Zero is going to bring new game play and experiences that take it far beyond the framework established by Star Fox 64. All the members of the development team are doing our best so that the final product will not betray your expectations.”

Of course, delays are always disappointing, especially when that leaves the Wii U without a big name title in the run up to Christmas. There’s always Xenoblade Chronicles X, which is due out on 4th December, but a sequel to one of the Wii’s more hardcore JRPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles hardly has the same widespread appeal as Nintendo’s established on-rails space shooter series. Still, delays are also usually a good thing where Nintendo’s concerned, and it should hopefully provide enough time to make this one of the best Star Fox games since Lylat Wars on the Nintendo 64.

Billed as reimagining of Star Fox rather than a sequel or prequel to any existing entries in the series, Star Fox Zero has been specifically designed to take full advantage of the Wii U’s unique control system. While the main action plays out on the TV, the GamePad gives you an inside view of the cockpit, letting you aim more precisely with the GamePad’s gyro controls.

It takes a while to get used to the unique control system, as I found out at Nintendo’s post-E3 showcase in London, but you can always switch between the different viewpoints with a quick tap of the – button on the GamePad. This is particularly useful when you’re in all-range mode (which takes you off-rails and gives you 360 degrees of free movement in large open arenas), as it means you don’t have to peer down at the GamePad screen to find your target. 

Star Fox Zero GamePad screen

However, considering all-range mode’s new camera controls, which let you zoom out for a wider view or hone in on individual enemies, switching to the cockpit view does mean you lose some of that newfound cinematic scope. This is a shame, as you’re essentially missing out on some of the wider drama playing out around you, and constantly looking backwards and forwards between your GamePad and the TV can be a little fussy. Fortunately, the controls have also been simplified this time round, as you can use both analogue sticks to fly, while the four face buttons are used for shooting, initiating transformations and executing U-turns and loop-the-loops.

It’s not all about aerial dogfights, though, as Star Fox Zero introduces several new takes the game’s familiar set of vehicles. The Arwing, for instance, can now land and transform into a robotic bird called the Walker, while the Land Master tank can hover for short periods of time to traverse short gaps. New to Fox’s arsenal is the Gyrowing, a kind of helicopter for steadier all-range precision shooting. Of course, you can still do a barrel roll in all three vehicles, allowing you strafe across the screen to safety while repelling enemy fire.

The Walker is a particularly interesting addition, as it lets you do something no other Star Fox has done before: stand still. It’s only available in all-range mode, but as a land vehicle, it also gives you the opportunity to explore areas you wouldn’t normally be able to fit through in your Arwing. For instance, in our Corneria demo level, you can use the Walker to find an alternate passage to defeat the area boss, earning you the coveted ‘Mission Accomplished’ status rather than the simple ‘Mission Complete’. Admittedly, it’s not the most graceful of vehicles, and its strafe is particularly jarring. Still, I like how much extra freedom it gives players, and I’m hopeful there will be plenty of other hidden nooks and crannies to explore in later levels. 

New vehicles aside, Star Fox Zero is reassuringly Star Fox, and those with fond memories of Lylat Wars on the N64 will feel very much at home here. While I have a few reservations about the new cockpit perspective on the GamePad, I have no doubt these kinks will be ironed out in time for its Q1 2016 release date.

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