Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: Star Fox 64 3D

The 3DS is great for remaking old games from the 64 bit era, which is an era of video games that I was never really a part of. Yes, I was a "deprived" child who never owned a Nintendo 64, and I had no experiences playing one,  which means that this is my first time ever playing Star Fox 64.  (As well as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but that is for another review later)

O.K.  So, this is the same Star Fox that people know and love.  All that changed was the inclusion of gyro controls, the ability to invert the controls, and some slight alterations to the control scheme.  Oh, and of course the updated 3D graphics.  The 3D effects are definitely one of the more eye-popping ones to look at.  However, sometimes these effects can be eye-straining during cut-scenes.  Thankfully, the 3D effect during gameplay is not so sore on the eyes.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that the 3D effect helps make gameplay easier, as it is now easier to tell where an object is relative to the Arwing.  The player knows how to maneuver through obstacles with greater ease, as they are now capable of seeing where that ring is, or where to go when flying underneath various arches.  All in all, the updated graphics look amazing.

As for the controls, the player can stick with the new re-vamped controls, or the classic N64 controls.  Plus, players can now invert the Circle Pad to match their tastes.  Gyro controls were added in, but to be honest, they are really distracting.  It is nearly impossible to play with the 3D slider turned on.  Plus, the Gyro controls do not feel as precise as playing with analog controls.  However, I can see how some people may prefer to play with Gyro controls on, especially since they can switch back to analog controls at any time by moving with the Circle Pad.

Even if a game looks amazing, it still needs to have the gameplay to back it up.  Thankfully, Star Fox 64 does.  At first, I thought that the gameplay was pretty bland; it is just your average shooter/dog fighter.  The game does not really take up that much time to complete (about 20-30 minutes is all it takes to complete a campaign).  Individual missions last around five minutes,  which is good for portable games.  If someone just wants to kill a few minutes, Star Fox 64 is the perfect game to do so.  Yet, the game did feel a little lacking,  that is, until I decided to play though it a second time.

Now, if I thought the game was a little lacking at first, why would I replay it?  Well, it is because the game is just fun in general.  Yet, fun only gets a game so far.  However, I quickly learned that each time you play Star Fox, it can be an entirely new adventure each and every time.  This replay factor turned an OK game into an addicting and fantastic one.  It made the player want to go back and challenge themselves, to see how far they have come.

As such, the campaign can be in one of two modes. 3DS mode is an easier version of the game that allows continues and the ability to choose the  path, and even go back to undo past mistakes.  This makes getting a specific ending much easier, in case the player had some bad luck.  Plus, this feature is still optional to use, so the player can challenge themselves if they want to, or breeze through the game.  The other mode is the N64 mode, which is the original N64 challenge, with no continues.  Enemies, especially the bosses, have a few more tricks up their sleeves, which was a nice change of pace, since 3DS mode was getting a bit too easy for me.  Oh, and Gyro controls are not allowed in N64 mode.  Also, for those players who like defeating their own high scores, there is a Score Attack mode which has players running through any specific level of their choice (once they have already played through that level in the game's campaign) and going for those perfect runs.  Sadly, there is no online leader board, so this mode can quickly grow stale for the gamer that is not into beating their own high scores.

Now then, this is truly a re-make of the original N64 title, with the multiplayer presented in traditional N64 fashion as well.  Remember when you had to go over to your friend's house and play on the same console to actually play the same game?  The good news was that you just needed at least two controllers and the one game cartridge.  Well, that is pretty much what Nintendo did here.  Multiplayer is strictly Download Play.  Which is good for those friends who do not own the game, but were curious about the game, or are already in the know of things.  Online would have been welcome, but it can be forgiven, as the multiplayer is pretty fun.  Matches end quickly, and the ability to fight against bots (which put up a good fight, challenging even the best Arwing pilots) extends the replay value of this mode.  

So, in conclusion, Star Fox 64 3D has been a blast for me to play.  I am happy that I joined the party late, so that I can now share my own stories of this game.  The game could have been an even better experience if some of the features would include online support, but all in all, the game still has a good gameplay formula that holds up well, even now.  Fans will be happy that it is the same Star Fox 64 they knew, and newcomers will simply have the time of their lives.

Find Star Fox 64 3D on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2011-09-09
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo

Review: Mighty Flip Champs!_Coverart.png
As I've stated before in my reviews, I've had a very love/hate relationship with Wayforward. This would be expected of a company that regularly produces tie-in games that, while above the usual standards of such games (Thor: God of Thunder DS, Justice League Heroes as examples) but even taking these games out of the equation (which are likely used to fund their more creative games which is understandable), they do produce games of varying quality. This is more of a testament to Wayforward's creativity to the point where I think that the company is at their worst when they make games that try to emulate other, better games in a given series (Contra 4, Bloodrayne: Betrayal) and at their best when they create a new genre altogether. Mighty Flip Champs is their best game for this reason.

The one universal constant of all of Wayforward's games, good and bad, is their sprite work. Wayforward and Capybara Games are the last two bastions of great sprite work in the west with enough care and attention to their crafts to put them in the upper echelons of 2D games along with Vanillaware and Arc Systems. Mighty Flip Champs is no exception as Wayforward takes their sprite talent and applies it to a group of colourful characters which make the game even more endearing (and they even mask how bland the backgrounds and music are!).

Where the game shines through the most is in the gameplay. For one thing this is one of the few DS games that is actually as "DS" game. I use this etymology because while you could arguably port this game to other consoles, Wayforward realised Mighty Flip Champs is best suited for the DS and designed it as such. This is a philosophy that applied to fewer games the more you think about it when  the DS is usually assigned as an interface while Wayforward makes it a core aspect in all their games.

The gameplay is the simple goal of getting your character from Point A to Point B as is the staple in most puzzle/platformers. Might Flip Champs central trick is with the push of a button your character waves her magic scepter and the entire screen changes to a new area (previewed in the top screen). This causes the game to become part memory test as you predict what moves you need to make to get to the end (a complaint about Wayforward is that their games are designed for speed running but have no speed to them which is also true here) and part adapting to your surrounding in a way that not even the best action games can successfully mimic.

Mighty Flip Champs is packed with content with over 100 levels to explore and Wayforward becomes even more creative when they start asking you to traverse the levels even more to attain items before going back (mandatory nonetheless). It's around this point in the game where you realise that Mighty Flip Champs isn't even really a game and it's more like some sort of genre exercise for amazing level design for 2D puzzle games in the same way that Portal is for 3D puzzle games.

Mighty Flip Champs was also (somehow) ported to Playstation Minis which is nice if you don't own a DS but this game was clearly made for DSiWare and it deserves to be played as such on a DSI or 3DS. This was only the first game in the Mighty series, followed by Mighty Milky Way and Mighty Switch Force (Didn't like the former, haven't played the latter). This series doesn't seem like a concrete trilogy so more Mighty games could be made but it's going to take a lot of work at Wayforward to top Mighty Flip Champs.

Released: 2009-06-01
Developer: WayForward