When Star Fox Zero hit the show floor, it arrived to a decent amount of hype. The classic N64 title was a free flying, shooterrific adventure that, wait for the cheesy line… captured the hearts of a generation.
Cheese aside, Star Fox Zero is quite lovely. It had a great bag of qualities to pull from – a likable cast, a quintessential game style, lovable design. Where Star Fox becomes worrying, however, is in the area key to the success of flying games – controls. Yep. It’s not with a light heart that I decry Star Fox Zero‘s controls to be a frustrating challenge.
The Wii U gamepad is begging for a trademark game that can make the best of its controls. When it was announced the gamepad would serve as a cockpit camera view in Star Fox Zero, it seemed perhaps this could be a match made in heaven.
What I held in my hands was far from a piece of heaven and closer to a Chinese puzzle box. The left analog stick controls the ship, the right analog stick controls propulsion, and tilting the gamepad helps adjust aim. The primary problem here is that the mapping tries to simulate ship controls, but contradicts typical control schemes which are the programmed intuition of those who pick up a controller. Whether you like it or not, when it comes to the heat of battle, you’ll probably end up using your thruster to try to change the camera angle uncontrollably sweeping across the field. This typically ends with an embarrassing dance of thrusting and breaking.
While mapping issues just require a short, maybe awkwardly less short, adjustment period, the problem that remained constantly was the difficult utilization of two screens. Watching the main screen allowed you a third-person view of your ship, excellent for maneuvering and keeping track of your position. When shooting, however, it was often necessary to look down at the gamepad for more accurate aiming. The problem lies when you try to look back up at the main screen.
While you were gone, the cinematically sweeping camera has been at work readjusting the camera angle. Massive disorientation ensues, followed by another need to look down at the gamepad. Perhaps further time with the controls smooths this transition. It may also be helpful to hold the gamepad at the recommended eye level, but this is likely to become unreasonable because arms and how long they like to hold things high in the air.
Star Fox Zero is no doubt a tight experience, with pleasing graphical style, satisfying shooting, and old-school charm. Hopefully fans will take to the controls (and the skies) with the upcoming release.
Star Fox Zero is set to release Q4 2015 on Wii U.