Despite its place as a staple in both the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 console generations, in recent years Star Fox has been (mostly) relegated to appearing in cross-over titles and handheld remasters. The heroic space explorer was last seen in the 3DS remake, Star Fox 3D, but it's been a long time since Nintendo actually developed an all-new adventure for Fox McCloud and his squad.
For years, gamers had expected Star Fox to hit the Wii, especially since Nintendo had utilized motion control in other aerial combat games, but a new series installment never took shape. Now, three years after the Wii U was first demoed at E3 2011, in the middle of an enormous software campaign by the Big N, a modern Star Fox project has officially been unveiled.
Surprisingly, Star Fox on Wii U was not shown-off during the E3 2014 Nintendo Direct conference - where a new Legend of Zelda, along with Super Smash Bros., and Bayonetta 2, among others, were featured. Instead, the next Fox McCloud adventure was revealed (along with two other Game Pad-centric titles) to select members of the press on Sunday night - prior to the normal E3 festivities.
Speaking about Star Fox on Wii U, beloved game designer Shigeru Miyamoto admitted that the project grew out of experimentation:
"Obviously the game started off as an experiment. The way that I design games is I start by experimenting with a lot of assets and play styles, then once we have that all kind of understood, we go into full production and add graphics and everything else."
That said, according to the Polygon report, the title is still in early stages of development - and Miyamoto claims he wasn't even planning to reveal the title until after E3.
"I'm looking forward to being able to share more news about the game and the production of it before launch [...] Originally, we weren't targeting E3 for the announcement of Star Fox. But in developing it, we really came to like [it] and I wanted to motivate ourselves to complete the game as quickly as possible."
So what can gamers expect from the project? Most press members who went hands-on with the title at the pre-E3 event walked away with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Understandably, the demoed visuals were rough but it was the actual gameplay that appeared to be giving industry veterans pause. Growing out of experimentation, as Miyamoto put it, Star Fox on the Wii U is controlled by a (potentially overwhelming) mix of tilt and analog thumbstick mechanics as well as game-pad and TV screen synergy. To be specific, tilt moves McCloud's vehicle and the analog stick adjusts the camera and aiming reticule - paired with dual-screen gameplay where the TV screen projects a third-person behind-the-ship view and the game pad screen posts a first-person image from inside the cockpit.
All four mechanics work in harmony to provide an immersive aerial combat simulation - one that Miyamoto promises is far more intuitive than it mind sound on paper. Still, in a time when motion controls are taking a backseat to more traditional control schemes (especially now that Microsoft has sidelined Kinect), it's curious to see Nintendo placing such a heavy emphasis on peripheral-centric gameplay - not to mention in a franchise that did just fine with six buttons and a few triggers during the Nintendo 64 days. For now, we'll just have to take Miyamoto's word that the controls become more intuitive (and ultimately rewarding) as players spend significant time with the game.
Nevertheless, while the game designer has made certain aspects of the franchise more complicated, he's streamlined other elements. Instead of separate vehicles, McCloud's Arwing spaceship now transforms into the Landmaster tank form - allowing for diversified combat experiences within a single environment. In addition, the title will feature a Helicopter-like vehicle - where two players work together, one flying the helicopter, the other controlling a retractable robot arm/cannon.
As for when gamers will get to play Star Fox in the comfort of their own homes, Miyamoto's claim of "quickly as possible" means he's hoping to have the title ready for customers by the end of 2015. Though, as with any in-development project, it's possible the project might need to be pushed back. After all, with over a decade since the last full-fledged Star Fox game, shouldn't fans be willing to give Miyamoto the time he needs to deliver a worthwhile follow-up?
Star Fox is hoping to release exclusively on Wii U by the end of 2015.
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