Remember Star Fox 64? Chances are, if you lived in New Zealand when it was all the rage on the Nintendo 64, you don't. Here, you probably remember the same game as Lylat Wars — due to some sort of legal shenanigans, the game had to have a different name in New Zealand and Australia than the one it used everywhere else. Regardless of the name you know it by, though, the killer space shooter is back - and now it's not only 3D with no glasses required, it's also able to fit in your pocket.
Not familiar with the game? It’s primarily a mission-based shooter, and you spend most of your time flying down a virtual "tunnel" (eg. hurtling in a pre-determined direction). Some of the time, you can fly anywhere you want to — within a small area — and for one mission, you'll even be in control of a tank on the ground. But for most of the time, you need to fly down a pre-determined path and shoot the hell out of the enemies that get in your way.
If you think that sounds dull, think again. You have buddies flying along with you and they regularly get into trouble — keeping them alive is enough to keep you on your toes by yourself. The environment you find yourself in is generally either falling on top of you or moving around in a way that is designed to force you to heavily utilize the deep control scheme on offer. It's all go, all the time — something which has translated perfectly from the much cherished original.
So what's different? For a start, it looks phenomenal. This is no straight port, no retro re-res. The graphics on display leverage all the tricks that the 3DS has up its sleeve. Lighting, reflections, textures, and characters are all gorgeous — and yet they manage to maintain the same feel of the original. You'll feel at home and yet you'll be enjoying the most sophisticated visuals the 3DS (and perhaps portable gaming full stop) has ever presented. About the only thing that lets it down are the oddly comical animations and the fact that the camera occasionally causes your ship or the ground to be in the way enough to annoy. It's not that bad, but it's worth noting regardless.
The 3D is also extremely well done, adding a whole new level of immersiveness — particularly when navigating an asteroid field or taking on a host of laser-firing enemies. Maybe there's something about space-based games, but whatever the cause, this is the new show-pony for Nintendo's 3D-without-glasses gimmick. It looks fantastic.
Another new trick is the optional gyroscopic controls — these let you, as you can probably imagine, control the game by tilting, twisting, or otherwise turning the 3DS itself. They work well enough — quite well, even — however if you're using 3D and gyro controls, it's predictably hard to keep the 3DS in the zone that ensures you can actually see what's being displayed on the screen. Either one or the other is recommended, depending on how you feel about 3D.
What isn't cool? The lack of online multiplayer. It seemed such a natural inclusion, we didn't even check it supported it — we just started setting up online sessions with fellow reviewers from other publications. When we went to actually play it, however, we found that it only supported local multiplayer — something that's quite difficult when the only other person that owns the game is hundreds of kilometres away. So the multiplayer, complete with its cool feature that allows you to see the face of your enemies, is untested. A shame and a surprising omission. The value hit comes from here, as the game is quite short - unless you're a completionist and want to find all the alternate routes or take on the score-based challenges - without a solid multiplayer option to fall back on.
Is it worth it otherwise? Every single cent and a whole pile extra besides. Star Fox 64 was a phenomenal game and it's even better the second time around. This is the definitive version of one of the most important games of a generation. You absolutely need this game if you have a 3DS, and if you don't have one, this game is genuinely good enough to justify looking into rectifying that. Get it. Immediately.