Nintendo trading in nostalgia is nothing new, but there are differing degrees of success and views on what is and isn't acceptable. The recent Zelda revamp, for example, has been met with both praise and criticism (we gave it an 8) for keeping things virtually identical to the original. When toying with a retro gem for re-release, there's always the dilemma of how much should be changed, improved, altered or enhanced. Detractors suggested that Zelda 3D didn't do enough, the graphical updates were welcome, but it didn't wow anyone visually, and although Master Quest essentially doubled the length of the playtime, it was questioned as to whether it warranted a full price release. They hadn't even used a proper orchestra this time around for goodness' sake!
That said, nostalgia is a powerful drug and there's simply no good way to fully express the joy of having a game you adored and grew up with playable in the palm of your hand. Conveying a warm and fuzzy feeling doesn't quite cut it, but it is exactly how I felt with Star Fox 64 3D sitting snugly in my mitts, a full audio revamp singing into my ears.
The game looks pretty good, the environments, the vehicles, it's all been deliciously remastered for a retinal feast. Where Ocarina was patchy - the shops suddenly highly detailed while the outside areas remained sparse - this looks like every pixel has been redrawn, repainted and repolished. It's still unashamedly retro, but then it's an unashamedly retro arcade title. We had a sniff of 3D flight action in Pilotwings Resort, although I still stand by my initial assessment that, impressive though it may be, that title was far more of a tech demo writ large. Here, pirouetting through the skies, chased by laser fire, when thrown into the dogfighting maelstrom, Star Fox 64 looks brilliant in 3D.
Which is a massive shame.
You see Nintendo have provided a number of excellent new aspects with this one, the much-improved visuals, far more clean and crisp than before, being one of them. The other relates to how the game handles. You can pilot the Arwing using both the circle pad and the internal gyroscope. As with Link's adventuring, the motion controls are absolutely superb for fine aiming. It took a couple of minutes to find the perfect balance, but once you stop treating the two input methods as mutually exclusive, you find that they come together to provide an absolutely glorious control system. Following Peppy's instructions and pulling off flips, turns and barrel rolls still requires face buttons, but when you're lining up a perfect firing run, the subtleties offered by the tilt controls is excellent.
Of course, that's completely redundant if you're playing in 3D unless you construct some sort of rigid harness device that locks your head and neck into a fixed position in relation to the console to ensure that you maintain a perfect viewing angle even when thrashing around like an arachnophobe covered in Shelob's children. As soon as you try to use the tilt controls while keeping the 3D visuals intact, you find you need much more space, which isn't ideal in a portable console, or the constant glitching as your head moves a fraction of a millimetre too far to the left or right threatens an unfriendly migraine.
Choosing between one or the other is less than ideal - we want to have our gimmicky cake and eat it too! - but the separation will be very much down to personal preference. There'll be those perfectly content with simply using the circle pad and keeping the impressive depth that 3D brings to the game, but for me it'll probably be the gyroscope that wins out, the input system offering up a perfect symbiosis of retro controls and modern precision through new technology.
Star Fox 64 didn't exactly have a brilliant swathe of multiplayer options, although there's no denying the glorious appeal of four-way multiplayer dogfighting, but this has been somewhat pepped up for the handheld release. There's still no online play, which seems a little backwards (ignoring the fact that one's dalliance with online play has been mediocre at best and choosing to blank the problem completely is not a constructive response, Nintendo!), but there will be up to four player local download play - meaning that even if only one of you has the game, you can still jump in and get involved. Amusingly, players can now use the camera and microphone to add talking box avatars into the game, and you can touch a portrait of a player to track them, so if one person in particular is gunning for you, you can keep tabs on them.
Nintendo have been, and should still be, criticised for literally doing nothing new with their old IPs this time around. Full price reissues of decade old games is a little cheeky, but people love these games for a reason. As with Ocarina of Time 3D, I'm still not sure they've done enough - the 3DS will need some original killer apps very soon indeed - and Nintendo's cynical recycling of old material and ideas is the most blatant it has ever been. But it's still damn good fun!
Japn will be getting Star Fox 64 3D in a matter of days, we'll be getting it on September 9th.