Star Fox Zero feels like Star Fox 64, right down to the design of Corneria. As a throwback to the Nintendo 64 game’s first stage, Star Fox Zero’s Corneria mission uses the same layout for Corneria City as Star Fox 64 with a new coat of paint. Fox has to fly under a bridge to save Slippy, boost past falling buildings, and shoot construction robots throwing metal beams. What’s different are the controls.
The left analog stick controls the Arwing, ZR fires laser (you can also hold the button down for a charge shot), Y makes the Arwing do somersault, moving the right analog stick activates boost, pulling the right analog stick back triggers the brakes, and tapping the right stick left or right twice does a barrel roll.
That sounds like typical Star Fox game, but you have to use Splatoon’s motion control scheme to aim Fox’s lasers. Players move the Wii U GamePad to control where the Arwing shoots and the GamePad’s screen shows what Fox sees inside the cockpit. The idea was to give players more precision aiming when looking at the GamePad, but that takes players away from piloting the ship on the TV.
It’s a cumbersome control scheme to adjust to, especially considering other Star Fox titles are easy to pick up and play. One option that worked early on was ignoring the motion controls and constantly recalibrating the targeting reticule to be in front of the Arwing by pressing the left analog stick down. That worked until the end of the Corneria mission where Star Fox Zero switched into all range mode and Fox had to shoot spider-like robots from climbing a tower.
These robots were invulnerable aside from a red target on top. I needed the added precision from the cockpit view to shoot these enemies down. Looking down at the gamepad to aim and then up at the TV wasn’t working, but if I held the GamePad facing the screen as if I was playing with a detached 3DS (or like the photo below) the motion controls were functional. After the spider robots, the Star Fox team needed to shoot laser cannons from a giant saucer.
Nintendo also had a second Star Fox Zero demo set in Area 3. This stage brings Fox McCloud into an empty space field with enemies to shoot down in all range mode. After taking out a few ships Pigma Dengar flies in and turns the stage into a dogfight. Pigma tries to fly behind Fox to get him in firing range. Using the somersault and then a charge beam turns the tables on Pigma.
Aiming is trickier with the Wii U GamePad, but if you hold ZL you can shift the camera on the TV to focus on the action instead of being behind the Arwing. That makes keeping track of somersaults a little easier while you’re moving the GamePad around to hit Pigma’s ship.
We asked a Nintendo representative if there is an option to turn off motion controls or perhaps use the Wii U Pro Controller. The response we got was the E3 demo only had gyroscopic aiming. That said, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata later tweeted that the final version of Star Fox Zero will have the same control options as Splatoon, meaning gyro-aiming will be optional.
Star Fox Zero is scheduled to come out this holiday season in North America.