It's hard to believe 14 years have passed since Star Fox 64 first landed on the Nintendo 64. Fast forward to today, and the title has leapt into the spotlight once more with its very own 3DS remake. But does Star Fox 64 3D live up to the original? In short -- absolutely.
For those new to the series, Star Fox 64 3D offers a part flight simulation, part shooter adventure. You take control of Fox McCloud and, with the help of a host of memorable characters, shoot your way through a series of fast-paced levels to ultimately save the Lylat System from the evil Andross. The levels provide plenty of challenge, with some crazy and hyper strategic boss fights you'll want to relive again and again. If you've never played Star Fox before, now's the perfect time to hop on the barrel-rolling bandwagon.
Just like in the original, the overworld of Star Fox 64 3D consists of a series of branching paths that unlock depending on which route you take in each level, which in part informs how the story unfolds. However, the 3DS version adds the ability to choose which of the available planets you want to go to next, rather than forcing you to go to the planet connected to the path you took. It's a nice touch, and really freeing that you're no longer committed to your original decision.
The game itself controls beautifully, offering a couple of main options for players to choose from. You can opt for the 3DS controls, which means using the system's gyroscope technology in addition to the circle pad to control the Arwing (the star fighters piloted by team Star Fox) by tilting the system. This works surprisingly well, except for the fact that you'll have to turn the 3D off to prevent it from blurring all the time unless you're able (and willing) to move your body along with the system. While this option works just fine, I honestly preferred the traditional controls. Using the circle pad makes for fast and fluid movement, and it's great to not have to worry about messing up the 3D effect by moving the system.
The graphics in Star Fox 64 3D have undergone a complete overhaul from the ground up, and they're absolutely gorgeous. The developers did away with the blocky polygonal shapes and rough edges of the original, making full use of the system's hardware to create impressive environments with tons of detail. Water and particle effects are particularly impressive, highlighting how well the game's aesthetics capture the essence of the original while simultaneously upgrading everything about it. The use of 3D is stunning. The added depth looks fantastic, and it's pretty incredible barreling through space as meteors and lasers jump out at you. There's no noticeable slowdown with the 3D turned on, so you can enjoy the brilliant graphics to their fullest even with the 3D slider pumped all the way up.
The only downside to this otherwise masterful remake lies in the half-baked multiplayer mode. Sure, battling your way through four different levels in an arena-styled fight with up to four players delivers some quality fun. But unless you're fighting against the computer, it's limited to only Download Play. It's great that you only need one cartridge for four people to play together, but the absence of online play against your friends, or strangers, feels like a big miss. Still, the heart of Star Fox 64 multiplayer has always been rooted in local play, so while it's a disappointing omission, it's not the biggest deal in the world.
You can either battle for a set number of points, fight for a certain amount of time, or try to be the last plane flying. Newly added power-ups -- such as temporary invisibility or a position swap with the player closest to you -- contribute to the madness, but can be turned off if you want a more classic experience. The mode itself offers tons of fun -- you and your friends will roar with laughter and curse each other out pretty much the moment you begin, and the fact that you can see a live video of your buddies as you kick their butts (or as they kick yours) only adds to the silliness.