For many people, the shining moment in the saga of Nintendo's Star Fox series came on the Nintendo 64, with Star Fox 64 (or Lylat Wars as most of us Aussies knew it). Like its technologically advanced (for the time) predecessor on the SNES, Star Fox 64 was a largely on-rails arcade shooter that was a huge blast to play, with a universe enthusiastically lifted from franchises like Star Wars, Thunderbirds and Independance Day. While successive entries in the series have disappointed some and satisfied others, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who played Star Fox 64 back in the day and doesn't have fond memories of it. It's that nostalgia that Nintendo is now banking on, with their latest 3D remake christened Star Fox 64 3D. It's the same game dressed up in prettier packaging, but is nostalgia alone worth your money?
The most notable change this 3D-remake has made is in the game's presentation - not only is Star Fox 64 now in 3D, but the graphics have been updated to take full advantage of the superior hardware of the 3DS, much the same as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. The oceans of Corneria have much better textures, the fiery tides and spikes of Solar have much more impressive effects and that perpetual fuzziness Nintendo 64 games seemed to have is now gone. It all runs at a great framerate too, whether you play in 2D or 3D. Speaking of 3D, the effect is quite impressive and lends itself well to this type of game. We wouldn't necessarily say it helps you that much in terms of the actual gameplay - judging distances and maneuvering don't seem that much easier - but the game looks fantastic, and even more so in 3D.
The majority of Star Fox 64 3D's action takes place in the Arwing, a jet fighter that can take you from bombing ground troops on Corneria to the far reaches of outer space in Sector-Z. Most of these levels are on-rails, although occasionally you'll be allowed to switch to 'all-range mode' and have free movement within confined arenas. Controlling the Arwing with the 3DS circle pad is tight and responsive, allowing you to pull off moves like the somersault and U-turn with ease. Insta-charging your lasers and pulling off barrel rolls is a little harder than we remember, but that's more to do with the placement of the L and R buttons on the 3DS and you find yourself adjusting after a while.
This 3D-revision of the game also brings the option of using the 3DS' motion control capabilities with 'gyro controls'. We had mixed success with these - moving up and down works by simply tilting the system, but moving left and right requires you to physically move the 3DS left and right, or rotate the console. It takes a lot of getting used to, and it makes the game difficult to play exclusively with these controls when you're out and about, but they can be used in combination with the regular controls or turned off completely when you want to play seriously. You also lose the 3D effect on the screen when moving the console about, meaning if you want to actually see what's happening you'll have to play in 2D. Star Fox 64 3D's levels can be played in a '3DS' or '64' mode - the former adjusting the game's difficulty to compensate for the circle pad and motion controls, and the latter replicating the original game's challenge.
Part of what made Star Fox 64 such a joy to play back on the 64, and what has thankfully been preserved, are the branching pathways and little secrets hidden throughout the game. There are three major paths through the game's campaign which send you to different planets and represent hard, medium and easy difficulties, and how you move between these paths is up to certain events you trigger or how well you perform. For instance, if you save your wingman Falco from an enemy squad in Corneria, he's able to discover an alternate path hidden by a waterfall, complete with an alternate boss. It's as satisfying as ever to achieve a 'Mission Accomplished' rather than the standard 'Mission Complete', whether you remember what conditions you have to fulfill or you're figuring them out for the first time. Playing through all of these paths and finding every secret makes the game enormously replayable, which is a good thing seeing as the campaign can be completed in less than an hour.
The multiplayer mode from the original Star Fox 64 returns, with the same four-player support and the same survival, point battle and time battle modes, although these can be configured to your liking. Confusingly for this day and age, Star Fox 64 3D does not feature online play, and can only be played locally via download play. This is made even more confusing by the inclusion of a feature where a live video of every player appears above their Arwings as you play, which is cool but kind of unnecessary as you're likely to be within a close vicinity to your rivals anyway. With that said, these arena-type battles are still fun, albeit basic, and there's nothing better than locking onto another player, shooting a B-bomb their way, and watching the ensuing blue star-explosion. Aside from this, the only other available mode is a Score Attack mode that allows you to replay any unlocked stage to achieve a high score or medals.
Star Fox 64 3D still holds up well today, and certainly enough to justify this remake. It's not a classic that redefined a genre, but it is a very fun arcade shooter with a huge amount of replayability. You can always come back to Star Fox 64 and find something new, and the game's length suits a portable console quite well. Other than the impressive make-over, there's not a lot more to this remake than there was to the original game, but if you're looking for a game which you can pick up and play at any time and have a blast (something the 3DS is sorely lacking at present), Star Fox 64 3D certainly fits the bill.