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Editorial: Open Letter to Nintendo Re: Star Fox

I'm at a loss at Nintendo's way of thinking right now. It seems that half the stuff they produce is experimental to point where it will only be enjoyed by the most niche of gamers. One of the biggest examples right now? Star Fox Zero. It has a very cinematic approach, the controls are difficult to master, it offers little to no replayability, no multiplayer, and it has very severe pacing issues. Now I doubt Nintendo would actually read this, but I am writing this with the express intent of them eventually seeing it as I have several ideas that could be implemented in a sequel to Star Fox Zero. I'd like to make a fan game if I could, but considering that I lack the knowledge to do so (and the fact that doing so is technically illegal) this is the best I can do.

Okay so let's start with the number one glaring issue: the controls. I know that Nintendo and Platinum were trying to be intuitive with the Gamepad, but it just winds up being awkward and confusing. I propose going back to the traditional way and just use a standard controller and no motion controls, but if intuitiveness is what Nintendo wants, then I think the picture below says it best.

Inspired partly by Sin & Punishment's controls, this is the simplest and most intuitive control scheme I can think of. It has enough familiarity of the old control styles for anyone to get the hang of quickly and offers a new challenge by needing to control the targeting reticle separate from the vehicle. Oh and while we're on the subject of vehicles, this needs to be addressed. All of the vehicles that can transform NEED to have the ability to do so from the get go. It promotes a greater emphasis on replayability through experimentation. Giving the ability to the player because of plot reasons is sloppy design in a game of this type. In addition, ONE VEHICLE TYPE PER LEVEL PLEASE. Swapping between vehicles in the middle of a mission defeats the purpose of having a stage dedicated to those specific mechanics.

Now onto issue number 2: Pacing. The Arwing and Landmaster stages usually are pretty good when it comes to pacing the action in a stage, but the addition of the Gyrowing in Star Fox Zero kinda flopped. Know why? Because those missions were a play style that COMPLETELY changed the pacing of the game from action to stealth. So if you want to keep its inclusion in the series, here's how to fix it, AKA make it more tolerable: make the Gyrowing faster, and have the enemies be more aware of the vehicle's presence. Or you could of course completely remove it altogether in favor of the Blue Marine, but to be honest I kinda liked those stages. They just weren't meant for fast paced action. While were on the subject of the Blue Marine though, I really think it needs to make a comeback. Instead of giving it the ability to transform, maybe plop the sub in Zoness and have it maneuver through the murky water using a dedicated sonar button? I think it could work quite well if the pacing was done right.

Issue 3: Optional sub missions and branching paths. I think everyone can agree that one of the things that made Star Fox 64 so great was the fact that just about every stage had a hidden secondary mission that, when completed, would change your route and send you on a harder path. This reward system was great. It gave the player incentive to get better at the game and try the harder paths, unlike Star Fox Zero which had a linear path. And if that wasn't incentive enough, Star Fox 64 made it so you could get an extended (and harder) final boss accompanied by a better ending if you always took the harder choice of the two paths given to you. While I'm at it, the short "satellite" missions in Star Fox Zero that were your "reward" for finding the secret path in a stage were boring. This is not how you reward a player for finding secrets.

Number 4: Story. Now I think this might be the hardest thing to do in a sequel to Star Fox Zero as Nintendo hasn't had the best track record when it comes to this series, and because Nintendo completely rebooted the timeline with this game and altered so much (namely the vast change in Venom's size), it might be a bit difficult trying to reintroduce old characters and worlds. But I think I might have a story that could work. Allow me to elaborate. (Keep in mind this treads on Fan-Fiction territory, just bear with me for the moment.)

Set 7-8 years after the events of Star Fox Zero, the few remaining stragglers of Andross's fleet (known as the Venomian Cult) are fleeing from the Cornerian army at the edge of the Lylat System. Believing that Andross is still alive in the alternate dimension he was imprisoned in, Andrew Oikonny (Nephew of Andross and former member of Star Wolf) breaks away from the fleet and researches into an alien artifact called the Warp Stone, an ancient autonomous construct built by the now extinct Krazoa of Sauria, which he believes can open a doorway to that dimension. Some time later, the Star Fox team intercepts a distress signal from Sauria and broadcasts it to Peppy Hare, the new General of the Cornerian Army after Pepper retires. Fearing the worst, Peppy tells them to investigate, but not after having Star Fox enlist two new recruits, Miyu: a lynx; and Fey: a dog (from the cancelled Star Fox 2). After arriving within range of Sauria, the Star Fox team intercepts the being that sent out the distress beacon: A young vixen bounty hunter named Krystal that calls Sauria her home. She explains that a swarm of cybernetic insectoid creatures called Aparoids started pouring out of a portal in the sky shortly after a lone ship landed. Fox and his crew decide to help and thus sets the story in motion.

Now I know this is probably something that might not fit in the new chronology that Nintendo has set up with the reboot of the franchise, but this is just one of many things they could do to reintroduce characters that were erased from the timeline when the canon was reset. They don't have to do this with their next game, I just think this would be a good path they could take. Plus if they did go this route, they could make it so that Andross was assimilated into the Aparoid hive and have the final boss be Andross on the easy path and Andross followed by the Aparoid Queen for the hard path.

Number 5: Game Modes. Hoo boy, this probably made a lot of fans angry when they played Star Fox Zero. The fact that that game had ZERO competitive multiplayer modes, neither local nor online, caused the game's replayability to suffer greatly. This game NEEDS a versus mode in order for it to sustain any kind of life. Here are some examples on how I'd do it.

  • Score Attack - First to a specific number of kills wins (Arwing, Gyrowing, Landmaster, up to 16 players when online)
  • Dogfight - 3 lives then game over, last pilot alive is the winner (Arwing Only, up to 16 players when online)
  • 4v4 - Star Fox VS Star Wolf (Arwing Only, Online Only, must have 8 players to play)
  • Warzone - 3 lives then game over, be the last man standing in a 1st-person only tank war (Landmaster Only, up to 16 players when online)
  • Ring Race - First to pass through all rings in order wins (Arwing, Gyrowing, Roadmaster, up to 4 players)
  • Base Hacker - Whoever has control of the most computer terminals when the timer runs out wins (Gyrowing Only, up to 4 players)
  • Bounty Hunters - A handful of enemies spawn hidden on the map and you need to hunt them down, first to a specific score number wins, killing other players penalizes you. (Arwing, Gyrowing, Landmaster, up to 4 players)

These are just a few game styles that could work quite well in the Star Fox series and the fact that Nintendo didn't make a single one for Star Fox Zero is disappointing. Instead, we got some single-player challenge maps. Not bad ones mind you, just underwhelming is all.

Number 6: Bonuses and Extras. If there is one thing that promotes replayability the most, it is usually a bonus of some kind. Star Fox Zero had a couple, but they weren't really all that special. Plus if you had the Fox and/or Falco amiibo, then you didn't even need to attempt to get 100%. In my experience, this is not how you get someone to come back to your game. Yes, Star Fox Zero had an "Arcade Mode" you could unlock where you could go from start to finish in just one go, but that mode should've been the main campaign from the start just like in Star Fox 64. The extras that you get from the two amiibo are nice, but they aren't enough. I think that instead of two new Arwing designs with slightly altered stats, every amiibo should be usable and they should give your vehicles a new paint job based on that figure.

Number 7: Challenges and Collectables. This was by far the most underwhelming portion of Star Fox Zero that I played. Not because they were bad, but because on how they were unlocked. In order to unlock a Challenge Mission, you needed to find and collect medals hidden throughout the stages. Now this is all well and good, but some of these medals were really tedious to collect or were downright unfair. 5 medals per stage is perfectly fine, but there should at least be some consistency on how you find them. Here's what I'd do:

  1. Getting a certain number of points by the stage's end (needs to be more fair though, the current system is downright brutal. Remember, this series is played by children too)
  2. Keeping all teammates alive
  3. Finding 3 specially marked gold rings
  4. Beating the stage boss within a specific amount of time
  5. Completing the secondary mission to achieve a "Mission Accomplished" at the stage's end

This is consistent, easy to remember, and simple. I didn't really care for finding specific medals that were just hidden throughout the stage. Hide-and-Seek with collectibles does not a good Star Fox game make. You need to earn them.

Final Issue: Something to set it apart from the other games in the series. Besides the Gyrowing (which we already established was implemented poorly), Star Fox Zero really only had one thing going for it, and that was the fact that both the Arwing and the Landmaster could transform into the Walker and the Gravmaster respectively. This is all well and good and I hope to see it again in a future installment of the series, but if Nintendo doesn't take the next game seriously, then I foresee the possible death of this franchise. Now if I remember correctly, each of the past games had something about them to set them apart in the series. The first one was the first console game with full 3D graphics, 64 had the rumble pack, Adventure was an entirely different genre, Assault had a variety of on-foot weapons, and Command was a tactical game. There is one thing that I think might, I repeat MIGHT, be able to shake up the formula enough without completely alienating fans from a true "Star Fox experience" and that is customizable vehicle load-outs. I think giving the player a variety of different laser and bomb types that they can apply to their ship/tank before a mission would bump up the replayability dramatically. It certainly would be a step in the right direction anyway.

Closing Statement

As you can see, there is SO MUCH that can be done to fix this series in the next installment, but unless Nintendo sees this article themselves, the chances of that happening are slim to none. If you agree with the points I made, please share this article as much as you can. Maybe Nintendo will listen if enough people agree with these ideas. But until then, I'll be seeing you.

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