StarFox Zero…Time For a Fresh Look

Sometimes it seems as though the rumor mill has an affinity for Nintendo and their games. Several weeks ago a rumor surfaced regarding StarFox Zero and a possible second delay. Despite Nintendo’s saying there were to be no more delays for the game, the rumor actually began to gain more and more traction going in to the recent Nintendo Direct. Those who have been anticipating this game since it was first announced will be happy to know that those rumors were indeed proven false, and StarFox Zero will indeed still be releasing on April 22.

In addition to the information given out during the Nintendo Direct, Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto also recently shared more information on the upcoming title. The recent interview was very insightful, shedding a lot of light on his thought process, and what went into creating this game. Miyamoto-san referred to StarFox Zero as neither a sequel nor a prequel in the series, but as a re-imagining of the Nintendo 64 version of the game, StarFox 64.

“Because the game is split between two screens, we feel the gameplay this time is going to feel very fresh,” says Miyamoto in response to a question about the game’s name. “And thus we thought it would be a good opportunity to go back to the roots of Star Fox. The game itself is not a Star Fox ‘4’ or ‘5’, and it’s not a new spinoff. It really is going back to the roots, and that’s where the ‘Zero’ comes from.”

Miyamoto-san also shared that the game’s unique design will have a dimension-hopping, narrative-bending plot. It will be interesting to see how the story unfolds for the players as they go through it multiple times. There is also the introduction of teleporters that will play a role here.

“We designed the game in a way that you play through the map the first time and you get to the end and you defeat Venom,” says Miyamoto, referring to the final enemy planet. “At that point, the teleporters become very important from a gameplay perspective. You’ll have perfected your own skill and then you’ll use those teleporters to find new routes through the map. Even if you’re not paying particular attention to the story, finding those different routes and playing through the map will help you understand the character relationships and the role that the teleporters play.”

StarFox Zero Teaser SiteDuring E3 last year, Nintendo introduced two new developmental game ideas that they had been working on, as Project Giant Robot and Project Guard. Both of these were in the prototypical phase as they were being made into games. Since then, however, Miyamoto-san has decided to curb Project Giant Robot for the time-being. He then reiterated that Project Guard is now StarFox Guard.

“‘Project Giant Robot’ [control giant robots using the Wii U GamePad’s motion controls] was something we started as a second project, and unfortunately we haven’t yet decided to turn that into a full game,” says Miyamoto. “But ‘Project Guard’ [a tower defense style game involving security cameras and nefarious encroaching robots] was something that even at E3 2014 was loosely set in the Star Fox universe. “Project Guard” we’ve been working on simultaneously, and we’ve actually completed the game, and it’s now titled Star Fox Guard.”

One thing that Miyamoto-san has said about the origins of this new installment, was his desire to create the game in the form of a TV series. That, however, is no longer the case due to further development ideas. It’s also encouraging that he is thinking beyond StarFox Zero to future installments.

“At the time of E3 2014, that was the direction,” says Miyamoto. “Afterward, going back to work on the game in Kyoto, we got a lot of feedback from Star Fox fans and fans on the staff. And what we decided to do at that point was take the game more in the direction of Star Fox 64. So it will feel more like a longer form movie, and we did that because we wanted to try to complete the game in a way that will satisfy those longtime fans.”

“But I still have a desire to create Star Fox in a form that’s maybe better suited to the current age, where people have different competing demands for their time, where you’d be able to play maybe in shorter bursts in a more compact form. So I’ll continue to look at those ideas and see what we can do with them in the future.”

Another key element that Miyamoto-san wanted to build into the game is a significant replay angle. Many of the games that are released nowadays are void of much replay value, as many are easily beaten, then traded in for as much as possible at the local game store.

“I look at the essence of Star Fox as being an action game, and I feel like we don’t see much of this type of action game in the marketplace anymore. To me what really defines an action game is that you learn a new skill, you perfect that new skill, and then you really use that skill to find the best possible path through the game.”

“So in this case you’ll play the game and get all the way to Venom and defeat Venom, then based on the skills and the techniques you’ve learned along the way, you’ll use those to find different pathways to get to Venom. And along those pathways you’ll find that the skills you’ve learned will be challenged more by the new missions you’ll unlock. That to me is the essence of what makes an action game great, and I think we’ve done a really good job of perfecting that with Star Fox Zero.”

Keeping in line with Nintendo’s strategicStarFox Guard 3 focus on continued expansion of the gaming community, this game has been designed to welcome new, younger players. Because most people are not familiar with the Action Game genre, or at least may be new to gaming, on the whole, accessibility is a priority.

“We recognize that there are probably going to be younger kids who are playing a Star Fox game for the first time with Star Fox Zero, and maybe this will be their first action game,” says Miyamoto. “So we feel we’ve designed the game in a way that it will be welcoming to those new users and help introduce them to this style of action genre.”

“At the same time, we also feel the game is going to be a lot of fun for people to play in the living room with other people in the household. In particular with the cooperative mode, and also with the very simple shooting style of gameplay that’s in Star Fox Guard, we think it’ll be a great way to introduce people who maybe aren’t as good at this action style of gameplay to the fun of the Star Fox universe.”

Miyamoto-san even believes that a bit of handholding isn’t a bad thing. Not everyone who picks up a controller has the desire to be a game master, nor do they necessarily have a background of playing games at all. Sometimes they are either brand new to gaming, or are not familiar with a particular genre, but they still desire to have some fun with something new. That is where handholding can be beneficial. He is not looking to lower the hurdle, so to speak, but to allow the player to master certain skills, and have a sense of accomplishment.

“So I think that action games like this have to have a certain level of difficulty to achieve that satisfaction. And particularly with Star Fox Zero, if you try to complete this game, I think you’re going to find it to be quite challenging. But it’s because of that, that we have things like Star Fox Guard and the cooperative mode in this game. What those do, is allow people who maybe can’t deal with that level of challenge or difficulty to easily be a part of the gameplay and enjoy this universe.”

“And then beyond those modes, we have additional ones for people who like the game but find it too hard to get past certain levels. So for instance there’ll be a way for them to get an invincible Arwing, so that they can fly through and see the levels. But at the same time, we’re also preparing modes for Star Fox fans looking for an even harder challenge, such as a ship that does more damage, but which also takes more damage.”

After E3 last year, many people who either watched the footage of StarFox Zero or even attended the event and got some hands-on time with the game, determined that the early version was sorely lacking. Many sited the visuals of the prototypical build saying that they needed a big overhaul, as if they were being presented as a final cut. Others noted the lack of enemies in the environment and said that this just was unsatisfactory. While there were still those who felt the controls would simply not work…there was just no getting used to them to be done. Well, Nintendo obviously was not finished making the game, so all of the above concerns were addressed, especially the controls and the two-screen controls have been significantly play-tested and finessed.

“We realized that for players who were seeing it for the first time, we needed to come up with additional ways to make it easier for them to understand,” says Miyamoto of the unusual ways Star Fox Zero makes use of both your TV and the Wii U GamePad’s 6-inch screen when you’re operating the game’s vehicles. “So that was an area where we put in a lot of effort. For instance, since you have many different vehicles, and because the gameplay differs where each of those vehicles appear, people may have different control expectations. So we worked very hard to try to find the right balance on each of the vehicles. Those are some of the things that have changed.”

“…So we spent a lot of time identifying the right balance in control responsiveness for each of the vehicles.”

In the end though, Miyamoto-san’s broader goal is to build interest in dogfighting games. Most contemporary gamers are not very familiar with many of the game genres that filled out the rosters of local arcades. The games that survived off eager players pouring countless quarters into the slots to get another crack at their goal. Some were puzzles, so were platformers, some were shmups, and others were dogfighting games. The multiple genres gave gamers a hearty variety of game choices, so it allowed them to avoid getting stuck behind some wall of repetitiveness created by the unimaginative. That is part of what Miyamoto-san is hoping to do, bring more people to this type of game so that they can experience more.

I hope what will happen is that people will play with this new control scheme and we’ll be able to introduce new players to the Star Fox universe and get them interested in playing more of this dogfighting style of combat and action games in the future. That’s my real hope.”

There was a lot to learn from Miyamoto-san on his motivation behind the creation of StarFox Zero, and I hope by sharing that here, more people will understand the aim and goal of the game’s design. Far too often, we are inundated by the negative musings of commentators in this community. There is rarely a shortage of opinions, and sometimes it is just a bit too much. Give this game the opportunity to stand on its own when it releases next month on April 22.

Are you a fan of the StarFox series? Is this game on your must-buy list? What are you most looking forward to experiencing with StarFox Zero? How excited are you for the game, right now?


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