The Continuing Saga of Star Fox Zero

Posted: February 11, 2016 in Current Gaming
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Star Fox Zero

At E3 2014, Nintendo confirmed what had become a poorly kept secret. A new Star Fox title was in development for the WiiU. Titled Star Fox Zero, the game would utilize both the television screen and the WiiU Gamepad for play. The television would be a sort of action view, whereas the Gamepad would be used for aiming and controls, taking advantage of the Gamepad’s gyroscopic abilities specifically for aiming. Reactions to the unveiling of the game as well as the control structure were mixed.

Star Fox Zero was confirmed for 2015, with a release date in November finalized in August, 2015. Star Fox Zero did not release in November, 2015. Instead, it was moved into the first quarter of 2016 to allow for extra development time. Star Fox Zero will not release in the first quarter of 2016. In North America, Star Fox Zero will now release on April 22, 2016…maybe.

Star Fox Zero in Development Hell Due to Motion Controls

Star Fox Zero is so Bad it Might Not Pass Quality Assurance

More Details on Star Fox Zero’s Development Situation

All of the above are rumors, but they are all reporting almost precisely the same situation with the game. Nintendo (and Platinum’s) determination to stick with the Motion Control aspects of the game are creating multiple problems, to the point that the game could see yet another delay and/or fail in quality testing. My favorite part of this entire story is this quote:

I also heard that Star Fox Zero is in the final stretches, which makes sense since it’s coming out in April. But it’s not all cat treats and scratching posts for the game. The foxing minds at Nintendo and PlatinumGames doubled down on motion controls.

I love Nintendo, but all too often, their strongest assets, originality and innovation, are also their Achilles heel. Nintendo loves to think outside the box. They love to differentiate themselves from other console makers. They did it with the Wii by introducing motion control gaming. They did it with the Nintendo DS, using dual screens, one being a touch screen. They are attempting to do it with the WiiU, adapting the idea of the DS to a home console, while also incorporating aspects of the Wii. It’s a tall order, and based just on sales, it has not paid off (we can argue about games and such all day long, I actually do like my WiiU).

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Thanks in large part to this game

The problem arises when Nintendo sets out to prove that their new ideas work. They are extremely stubborn and will seemingly compromise a game to make their newest innovation fit. Everyone remember Excite Truck? It launched with the Wii. It was a racing game that had you steering with the Wii Remote…and nothing else. There was no other option to control the game. I have to believe that some people avoided it because they prefer tighter controls in their racing games. I have to believe this, because I am one of those people. Remember The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass? A DS title that had you controlling Link by using the stylus? No other option was given to you. I tried the game and gave up on it because I hated the control scheme. This was also one of the few aspects of the game to receive any criticism. Remember The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword? The game that utilized Wii Motion Plus and was the game that would show the fulfilled promise of the Wii? It was critically acclaimed upon release, yet as time has passed, more and more people have pointed out the overabundance of motion controls in the game and how, while some are intuitive, some are just over the top and unneeded.

None of these games were failures, quite the opposite actually. All were quite fun, but all are examples of how Nintendo can be ridiculously stubborn with their ideas, with their innovations. Mario Kart Wii got it right. You could control with the Wii Remote, or you could use more traditional controls. Why did Excite Truck (and later, Excite Bots) deprive the consumer of this choice? Why, in games like MadWorld and de Blob (not developed by Nintendo, I know), did motion control have to be added in a situation where its addition only served to remind the player that “Hey! I can wave this controller around?” It’s because Nintendo, as great as they are at being creative, simply can’t let their new ideas grow organically into their franchises/games. Sometimes, they just feel the need for justification, and I think it sometimes gets the better of them and their judgment.

Wii Music

A minor example

This brings us back to Star Fox Zero. I don’t recall anyone ever complaining about controlling and aiming with an analog stick in a Star Fox game (excepting Command here, which used the stylus). But Nintendo needs to further justify the Gamepad, and they will do that by putting the aiming mechanic in the Gamepad. Now, since the game announcement, Nintendo have clarified that you can opt to use the analog stick to aim, which is a concession that means maybe they are realizing where they have erred in the past. Still though, they are so insistent that the motion control play style be included that the game is obviously suffering as a result. Also, even with the concession of analog controls, this is still a game that was built to use the Gamepad, so how will analog aiming work now? My fear is that it will be quite choppy simply because it wasn’t planned for from the beginning. The game is meant to be theatric on the television, with most of the action taking place on the Gamepad. So, essentially, you’re playing a handheld game on the WiiU (unless you can swap perspectives, no idea if that’s going to happen).

Look, I’ll level with anyone reading this. I have not liked the ideas behind Star Fox Zero from its first preview. I demand tight controls in my games, and maybe that puts me in the minority, but unless I see something dramatic in future previews, this is a game I will most likely skip simply because I believe the control scheme is absurd (again, possibly in the minority). The continued rumors of the motion controls being problematic are only serving to strengthen my resolve against Star Fox Zero. My past frustrations with some shoehorned in motion controls aren’t helping matters.

I realize I’m being hard on Nintendo here. They have had far more hits than misses. The Metroid Prime Trilogy, Super Mario Galaxy, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Pokemon, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and Super Mario Maker are all examples of games that implemented Nintendo’s console innovations seamlessly with gameplay. This is where Nintendo shines, but at times they buy into their own hype a bit too much and combine an idea with a game in such a way that doesn’t work well and will potentially put fans off. When they do this, they rarely leave an avenue open for more traditional play. But then, that seems to be Nintendo’s modus operandi. As I stated, maybe there implementation of analog controls in Star Fox Zero is a good sign in that Nintendo has learned from previous criticisms, but it’s only too bad that they realized it so late in the game.


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