Star Fox is back, reinvented by many of the original designers.
Shortly before the launch of the Nintendo 64, Nintendo showed off a sequel to the breakthrough game Star Fox. With the release of the Nintendo 64 and the upcoming Star Fox 64, Nintendo chose to cancel the game, despite its nearly finished status. While some of the elements from Star Fox 2 were used in Star Fox 64, the main idea behind the game, which deviated significantly from the original’s on-rails game play, was not. A decade later, the Star Fox series returns to explore this game play. Developed by the original team behind Star Fox and Star Fox 64, Star Fox DS shows promise to return the series to its former glory.
Instead of a rails space shooter, Star Fox DS is a timed, free-flight, goal-based game. At the beginning of the mission, Fox team is given 100 clock ticks to complete their mission. On the map screen, paths are drawn with the stylus, one for Fox and one for Slippy, which direct the pilots to their destination. Players being in the lower-left corner from the Great Fox, and can fly to various labeled target areas. In addition, enemy fighter groups are also visible on the map screen. These enemies may target the Great Fox, and it is up to Fox team to defend their transport while on their mission, meaning that the group may have to stop what they’re doing in order to fly back and protect their ship.
The E3 demo featured several difficulty levels, each of which sent the Star Fox team to various locations both in space and on the surface of planets. Once in a mission area, time counts down. Several targets are designated, which must be destroyed, or the mission is not completed. Time extension items can be collected, which help in making it possible to track down all of the enemies. On certain stages, a mothership may begin to attack. Once all of the targets are destroyed, the mothership can be destroyed by flying along a designated path, in an apparent kamikaze attack on its core. However, Fox escapes unharmed.
Arwing ships are controlled simply by pointing the stylus on the lower screen (over top of the map, much like Metroid Prime Hunters) to direct the ship (there is no Y-axis inversion). Rolls can be performed by circling the stylus on the screen. Rolls as well as U-turns and bomb launches can be performed by pressing the appropriate button on the touch screen. All other controller buttons can be used to shoot the blasters. Holding the button charges the blaster as usual. At least on the demo, there was no option to change to more standard controls.
The graphics are highly reminiscent of Star Fox 64. Newer characters such as Krystal and Beltino Toad still make their appearance, with Krystal sporting a new dress. The character art has been changed to give the characters a somewhat plastic look. Translation does not seem complete as the featured text was brief and not in character. Web browsing fans may get a little chuckle as Fox’s new Arwing is named FireFox.
Fans of Star Fox have a reason to celebrate as Nintendo has shown they are still serious about keeping the Star Fox franchise alive. Not all fans may appreciate the game, since it is more open-ended than the most popular games in the series, but the game is apparently in an advanced stage, and shows much promise.