The best Nintendo 3DS games so far, oddly enough, are Nintendo 64 remakes. That was true of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, and it remains true with the addition of Star Fox 64 3D.
However, the simple fact of the matter for this remake is that it doesn't offer much beyond being the original game in new, 3D, graphically remastered digs. That's not necessarily a slam on the product itself, but buyers should understand that Star Fox 64 3D does not benefit from the 3DS upgrade as much as Ocarina of Time did.
Ocarina of Time 3D was great on the new system for two major reasons: the graphical update did the masterpiece justice, and the bottom screen on the 3DS made in-game inventory management and map use an absolute joy. In fact, speaking as a long-time Zelda fan, the addition of a second screen for item sorting and map looking really makes the rest of the gameplay sing.
Star Fox 64 3D, though? Yes, the graphical update is fantastic. Seeing Andross in glorious 3D at the end of the game is stunning for franchise fans. Space combat looks visually deep, and the effects environments bring to the gameplay (like lava on Solar or asteroids in space) make using the 3D portion of the game a treat.
So, in that arena, major upgrade. But the second screen and gyro controls don't do that much for the gameplay itself. While Ocarina felt reinvented with the addition of the second screen, Star Fox 64 simply feels revisited and gimmicked. The gyro controls work, but twisting and turning your body on a 3D portable with a limited sweet spot for the 3D illusion is pretty lame. Moreover, the second screen is only used for dialogue, a phony ship cockpit, visualizing ship damage and tap-to-activate supply drops. Things that could have worked below? Constant Star Fox team health indicators, enemy health, radar, a mini-map in open combat, etc…
There's also a new game mode tailored to the addition of the gyro controls and Nintendo 3DS circle pad. When selecting a new game, you'll be presented with two options (before beating the title and unlocking a third Expert mode): Nintendo 64 and Nintendo 3DS. The 64 version is a re-creation of the original game. The Nintendo 3DS version is, supposedly, balanced for the new control methods. I tried both; however, other than the Nintendo 64 mode disabling the gyro scope (something you can do in the 3DS mode as well), I couldn't tell the difference between either choice.
I was able to play the Battle Mode by myself (single tear); however, no one near me owns a 3DS. Star Fox 64 3D features a Download and Play multiplayer feature that requires other users to have a 3DS of their own. You bring the game, and other gamers will boot up and download what they need to engage in battle locally. Nintendo's been touting this new 3DS camera feature that lets other players see your face in quick stills during combat. Granted, they could just look up and see you in real life, but where's the fun in that?
The major bummer in the Battle Mode department is the absence of Wi-Fi multiplayer. You'll only be able to engage locally; if you're like me, that means you won't be piloting against anyone. 3DS owners may be hard to come by, folks, simple as that.
Now, I understand that this review may come off as being a bit too harsh. I'm afraid that may lead you to thinking I had a bad time with this game. Well, that's not the case. I loved the original Star Fox 64, and when it came time to sit down and play this 3DS remake, I had an absolute blast. The game is just as fun as it always was, and the 3D upgrade, circle pad and portable nature make it an out and out joy to experience. If you're a Star Fox fan and you've been looking to revisit the best entry in the saga, this is your game.
I am an old school Star Fox fan, and I loved this game.
But to call it anything more than a remastered port would be a stretch. Worth the $40 price tag? Definitely. Just don't go in expecting a re-imagined version of a classic. And if you never liked the original, you'd certainly not like this one.
Full Disclosure: CraveOnline received 1 advanced copy of Star Fox 64 3D for the Nintendo 3DS from GolinHarris on behalf of Nintendo. We were not held to an embargo date. Before starting our review, we played the game through completion three times in order to explore some of the alternate campaign paths, tried several rounds of single player Battle Mode, tried several missions in Score Attack mode all on varying difficulties.