Rail shooters are niche now, but over a decade ago Panzer Dragoon and Star Fox briefly made the genre mainstream. Star Fox 64 3D is a throwback to those days where you pilot an auto-scrolling Arwing across the Lylat System.
The game has multiple routes, but always starts in Corneria where you’re summoned by General Pepper to save the planet. Andross’ army took over the city and left girder throwing robots for Fox McCloud to deal with. Corneria has two bosses and if you want to ambush Sector Y you have to save Falco from being shot down by laser shooting drones. Star Fox 64 3D has a simple scoring system where you get one point per enemy (or space debris) destroyed, but earn a hit bonus if you can takedown multiple enemies with a charge shot.
Katina is a one of Star Fox 64 3D’s most memorable levels. On this planet, team Star Fox helps canine captain Bill chase alien ships in a frantic dog fight. Midway through the stage, a giant saucer flies towards the pyramid-like base preparing to fire a massive laser beam. The stage is a homage to Independence Day and it’s arguably a better representation than the official game based on the movie. Just like popcorn flick, you have to blast the ship when it opens. A few levels take Fox out of the sky and put him on the ground. Star Fox 64 3D has two planets where you drive the Landmaster, a tank with hover jets, and in one stage you blast a Bio-weapon with the Blue-Marine’s unlimited torpedoes.
That sounds like Star Fox 64, right? Star Fox 64 3D doesn’t have any secret levels where Andross appears out of nowhere. Q-Games tweaked the game for the Nintendo 3DS and added features like gyroscopic control. You can pilot the Arwing by raising and twisting the handheld. This control scheme is responsive, but not as accurate as using the circle pad. Tilting and turning to pilot the Arwing moves the system out of the sweet spot too, so I stuck with standard controls for most of my runs. You can complete all of the routes in Star Fox 64 3D in less than five hours (maybe three if you remember all the paths!).
The real challenge is unlocking medals. In the Nintendo 64 version, you had to replay a route to get to a planet just to attempt to earn a medal. Miss too many enemies and your only option was to sacrifice a life to retry. Q-Games added a score attack mode where you can replay any unlocked stage. A handy addition, especially for a portable game. Players can also choose routes, so it’s possible to save Falco and fly through the asteroid belt in Meteo. Star Fox 64 3D also has two difficulty modes original and a made for 3DS rebalancing. I played through both, but couldn’t notice any major differences aside from how much damage Fox’s ship took.
With a name like Star Fox 64 3D, you may imagine lasers and asteroids flying out of the screen. Surprisingly, the pop out 3D effects are subtle. Fox’s Arwing hovers over the action and jets out of the screen for a split second when you do a U-turn. That’s about it. Andross’ mug doesn’t taunt you in 3D either. Nintendo utilized the system’s 3D effect to add depth so players can (sort of) see into deep space. Q-Games gave the graphics, especially the environments, an overhaul. Zoness looks great with rain trickling down and smooth water to fly over.
Star Fox 64 has a multiplayer battle mode that got ported to the Nintendo 3DS with a touch of Mario Kart Arcade GP. The camera films you adds a little icon over your ship so everyone can see your smug face when you shoot down a friend. A few items were added too. Instead of bombs you can pick up homing missiles, mines, a cloaking device, and the transposer which switches your ship with your opponents. These give battle mode more of a party mini-game feel. Battle mode is download play only, but solo Star Fox 64 3D owners can set up computer drones to target.
A trip down memory lane for some, Star Fox 64 3D takes us back to the days when a barrel roll was enough to dodge a barrage of bullets. Star Fox 64 3D is a relaxing shooter, perhaps, even a gateway to the genre. Oh, and speaking of "barrel rolls" the game has language options. Switch your system to French or Spanish to hear the Star Fox team’s classic lines with different voice acting.