SUMMARY: The 3DS might not exactly be doing as well as Nintendo might have hoped for but they've planned a steady stream of first-party titles till the holiday season. While most of these first-party games might be new, Nintendo's released two of their best games from the N64 era as updated remakes on the 3DS; Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D. Both are excellent remakes; however, I feel that purchasing Star Fox 64 3D requires a bit more thought before you decide on shedding some weight off your wallet.
The remake doesn't make any alterations to the story. But then again, in a game like this the action's obviously a higher priority. The story revolves around the reemergence of the scientist, Andross, and Fox McCloud's journey to defeat him once more with the help of Peppy, Slippy, and Falco. The ability to choose different paths allows you to alter your experience slightly. For example, if you don't choose the toughest route you'll never run into Katt, Falco's crush.
Star Fox 64 3D is an on-rails shooter and the gameplay really comprises its heart and soul. You take to the skies in Fox's Arwing as you take down hordes of enemies and engage in dogfights. The game mixes it up a little by putting you in a submarine and the Landmaster tank for certain missions. The on-rails part makes each mission relatively straightforward, however most missions have an alternate route (provided certain conditions have been met in some cases) that allow you to change your path on your 7-mission journey to Andross.
As you're gunning down enemies you'll have to collect rings to replenish and increase your shields, bombs to add to your firepower, and laser power-ups. The lasers (your primary weapon) can be charged to fire a homing shot which can destroy multiple enemies. But you'll really need the twin laser and hyper laser power-ups to get you through some of the more frantic battles and keep your allies alive. If you're new to the game, SF64 is a squad-based shooter as your 3 allies fly around offering you advice, helping you out, and in Slippy's case, just being flat-out incompetent.
The controls are pretty straightforward. The analog stick is to move, the shoulder buttons are to bank (double-tap to barrel roll) while the face buttons are for firing lasers/bombs and to brake/boost. The up and down buttons on the d-pad allow you perform them easily while the left and right ones change your view. The touch screen just displays your ship status and messages. My only gripe with the controls is that the 3DS' face buttons are a bit too close together which makes it slightly tough to brake and fire your bombs/lasers simultaneously.
They introduced a new scheme taking advantage of the gyroscope in the 3DS to move up and down or turn. This can be used in conjunction with the traditional setup, but after you try it out and the novelty's finished, you'll probably go back to the standard controls, especially if you're intending on playing with the 3D on.
The audio doesn't make any changes in regards to the music as all the old familiar songs remain to fuel your nostalgia if you're a Star Fox veteran. However, if you're a fan of the original it might be a bit disappointing to learn that the voice-acting was re-done. All the dialogue is still the same. The new voice-overs are pretty close, but if you're played the original to death those voices are ingrained into you and you can hear the difference. It definitely doesn't detract from the feel of the game though.
Sound Test is unlocked once you've beaten the story once allowing you to go back and listen to the game's audio. They've also taken the effort to dub the game in Spanish, French, German, and Italian and have done an excellent job ensuring that the voice-over quality matches its English counterpart.
Visually, the game is fantastic. If they had access to this graphical power while creating the original SF64 I'm fairly certain it would look like this. Gone are the polygonal shapes and they've been replaced by smooth textures and effects. The new visuals retain the feel of the original game's design, but the polish makes it extremely easy on the eyes and gives it a more contemporary look.
Unlike some of the other released games where the 3D seems to have been tacked on for the sake of it, SF64 3D makes excellent use of it to show the depths of space. Combined with the upgraded the visuals, the 3D really makes me wish that the game featured longer cutscenes. It was cool in OoT 3D but a game like Star Fox really makes the best use of it as the depth is useful in gauging your distance in relation to enemies and objects.
Like the original, SF64 3D offers multiplayer supporting up to 4 people with a single copy of the game. Or you can practice against the CPU if you like. I haven't dabbled much with the multiplayer but it's a bit more robust than the original's, offering more levels and power-ups, such as a force field and homing missiles. They've also added player portraits (via the 3DS' front camera) during the fight to show your friends' faces of joy, agony, and humiliation (amongst other expressions) as you defeat them or get taken down by them.
Maybe my memory from the '90s is a bit foggy but I remember the game feeling a lot longer. You can blast through each level in about ten minutes and if you're good then the entire campaign will keep you occupied for about an hour, an hour and a half. Of course there are different paths to take but there's only so many areas you can go through in each playthrough. The difficulty isn't too hard either. You can always play Score Attack (unlocked after your first playthrough) and go through each level again to earn a high score, but the lack of an online leaderboard is a big missed opportunity. It's great that game is on a handheld so you can always pick up the game and finish off a few missions before going to bed. However, given the 3DS' current library, I don't think SF64 3D will keep you occupied till the next AAA title is released.
The upgraded multiplayer sounds like fun...unfortunately it comes at a price. In this case it means sacrificing the online component. A game like SF64 could really have used online multiplayer to significantly boost its replayability. It's understandable that the portrait concept would be abused when playing with random strangers online; however, if the decision was between the player portraits or online multiplayer, I'd choose online multiplayer every day of the week without any hesitation.
Amongst the handful of current 3DS titles Star Fox 64 3D definitely stands out. It's a good example of a game where the 3D doesn't feel like a gimmick but actually adds to the experience. Barring some minor changes, it is a faithful recreation of the original classic. But the lack of any online functionality is a glaring issue as the game could have benefited from it significantly.
If you're a fan of the series or SF64 then this is a game you should certainly consider if you haven't played the original in a while. If you've never played a Star Fox game or SF64 then this would be an excellent game to start with. But, ultimately, I feel that $40 is a bit steep as the price doesn't justify its replayability. Unless you know you'll be playing it regularly, I'd rent it out instead.