The Problem with Star Fox Zero

It’s a bad game. The motion controls don’t work. It’s a bad game. It’s a rehash of 64. It’s a bad game. It’s not what we wanted. It’s a bad game.

Today I’d like to focus my attention on Star Fox Zero and the reception it received from the public at large. As I alluded to in my last article, this is actually a topic that greatly interests me, and I strongly desire to be the first to examine the situation in depth. My opinion is that people are merely looking at the face of the issue, and not all of it’s other components.

There continues to be a lot of misinformation being paraded around about the title, even months after it’s release, but as we examine the situation at hand, we will learn just how unsustainable the backlash really is for long term criticism.

The game was formally announced at E3 2015. It kicked off the show, and right from the beginning there was a lot of criticism lobbied towards it. Not because of anything Zero did in and of itself… rather, it was one of the more well received games at the show.However, due to the overwhelming negative reception to the Direct as a whole, mostly due to extremely angry Metroid fans, people took their fury out on Star Fox as well.

Surprisingly, I don’t seem to recall people complaining about the controls at all during the big reveal. The point of contention, at first, was more due to the visuals and art style. Now, this is actually important, because it really highlights a trend I’ve been noticing when it comes to Nintendo games. It’s not about what is actually WRONG with the game. It’s about what people SAY is wrong with the game.

When it comes to Star Fox Zero, the criticism surrounding the title had NOTHING to do with the control scheme, and everything to do with the supposedly lackluster visuals. Idiots like VideoGamesAwesome and Playeressence spent a lot of time talking about how the game ‘isn’t what they wanted’ from the beginning. Keep in mind these were the same people begging for a Star Fox 64 2 for years. In the beginning, you had people say the game didn’t look fun to play, there weren’t enough enemies on screen, the game was too slow, it wasn’t a real Star Fox game.

In hindsight, a lot of those criticisms came from the fact that, initially, Nintendo only showed off the first few areas. The Gyrowing stage and Corneria. And as we now know, those are two beginning levels in the game and that things  become much more hectic later on.

This is actually quite interesting for a number of reasons, but most pressingly, I found it quite shocking how the very same people begging Nintendo for a new Star Fox 64 rejected it so readily and for so little reason. Remember, at this stage, the primary concern was due to nothing more than the visuals. At this stage, the control scheme was nothing more than a passing concern. Most people actually accepted Miyamoto’s explanation that the game would take a lot of practice early on. There were some people complaining about them, but at this stage the issue was entirely due to the visuals.

Early on, it really felt like the unease lobbied at towards the game was more due to the E3 Direct than anything else. We saw lots of really great games, like Paper Jam and Federation Force, be slammed for no real reason as well. Honestly, the only truly bad game shown was Amiibo Festival… and that was not in and of itself enough to ruin the Direct.

People were just that salty at Federation Force, I guess. Nothing about the rest of it really was all that terrible and I personally really enjoyed a lot of the games they showed. Also keep in mind the games they showed in that Direct have ACTUALLY ALL COME OUT… very unlike the Playstation presentation which ‘won’ that conference. What happened to Shenmue III, again?

Anyway, my point is is that every game shown in that Direct had a following of people who wanted to hate on it just for being in that Direct. Paper Jam was hated because it was seen as taking too many influences from Sticker Star, for example. Star Fox Zero was no exception, and in fact was probably the second most criticized game at the showing, as it was the big game they debuted there. But the reasoning for why it was being criticized felt off, from the very beginning. The complaints about the visuals only really seemed to apply to the textures of the Arwing’s and the enemies. I remember specifically thinking the environments, specifically those brief glimpses of Titania, were gorgeous. But the critics for the game didn’t agree with me, and demanded that the game needed to be delayed to make it look better.

So after a couple of months of this, Nintendo, to my surprise, announced that the title would be delayed until 2016, specifically in response to player feedback at E3. I was disappointed, sure, but knew that they were using the time to improve the game overall. The changes were primarily bent on improving the visuals and giving them more flair, but I believe they also added smart bombs into the game around this time. With the 2015 holiday season loaded as it was, I didn’t mind the delay. In fact, I eventually welcomed it.

That was not the case for those who thought it needed to be improved in the first place. The critics took the delay as ‘proof’ that there was something seriously wrong with the game and scrambled to find something new to blame. Now that the visuals were confirmed to being improved, what else could it be?

What about the control scheme? At this point, this is where people started to take critic complaints that the game had a unwieldy control scheme and started running wild with it. Suddenly the game wasn’t ‘just’ being delayed for visual upgrades. It was being delayed because it was completely broken. Known Nintendo hoaxer and all around fraud Liam Robertson actually played a role in this. He claimed that quality testers are Nintendo of Europe were very unhappy with the control scheme and wanted the game delayed a second time to fix them.

So why is this important? I think this really sets the stage for what the problem is with ‘criticism’ lobbied at Nintendo products. People create a narrative and run with it despite never having actually played the game. People suddenly had this image in their minds of a Star Fox Zero with wonky motion controls and refused to let the idea die, even months after launch.

I think we can divide the backlash towards Star Fox Zero into three phases: Post reveal, post delay, and post launch. People who complain about the controls are still stuck in the post delay phase, since those of us who have actually spent time with the game know that the motion controls are incredibly immersive and add a lot to the gameplay. However, that leads to the problem with the post launch phase… people aren’t spending ENOUGH time with the game. A single playthrough is simply not enough to learn all of the game’s intricacies, which is why a lot of people continue to insist that something is wrong with the game. Whether it be the controls, the way the route system works, anything like that.

It is my opinion that people have become too used to games like Uncharted where you know you have seen everything there is to see in a single playthrough. This is where the post launch complaint about the game not being long enough came from. You are supposed to have fun playing levels over and over again, getting better each time, but people think that clearing each level once means that they are finished with it.

I think this is where post launch opinions differ. You have idiots like SomeCallmeJohnny and DSP calling the game shit because they only played through the game once without bothering to learn the controls (And they have footage recorded online, so I can verify this is the case) and then you have people like myself and the Completionist, who actually spent time playing through the entire game several times. I believe the Completionist took around fifty hours for a complete playthrough. Not exactly what I would refer to as a ‘short’ game, but most people don’t see it that way, and a big reason for that is due to the fact that rail shooters are not very popular right now. Players today are trained to clear a game once, as fast as they can, and then move on to the next shiny thing.

I really enjoyed Star Fox Zero and it’s really sad to see people who haven’t really scratched the surface of the game act as if Nintendo doesn’t know what they are doing. “Fire Miyamoto, he’s the problem!” They cry. Sorry, Pretendos, but Miyamoto isn’t going anywhere.

In fact, if Color Splash is any indication, a sequel improving on Zero is all it will take to make the series truly shoot for the stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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