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GamePad demo or deep Star Fox-ing experience?

Some time ago I talked about how I thought that the demos that Miyamoto showed off – Giant Robot and Guard – would be some kind of new way to make a modern Star Fox game interesting. I’m glad to confirm that I was half right but also surprised to see Star Fox Guard become its own separate product. Star Fox Guard is available as a physical disc with the Star Fox Zero First Print Edition or digitally via the eShop. But a question remains – is this game worth it? It’s hard to say. It’s from a genre you have to be a fan of to begin with to start. But Star Fox Guard is a surprisingly fun little distraction and one that makes good use of the Wii U GamePad.

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In Star Fox Guard you take on the role of a new recruit for Corneria Precious Metals, a mining company in the universe of Star Fox. Grippy Toad, Slippy’s uncle is the CEO and owner of the company, having set up mines on planets throughout the galaxy. Recently, for reasons unknown, robots have begun to invade Grippy’s settlements and it’s up to you to use the camera and gunner system (designed by Slippy) to defend the base. That’s it! It’s simple yet effective and much more effort than the developer had any right to go to for a project this small.

Star Fox Guard is a pretty typical tower defense game. You have a phase where you prepare for an invasion and then subsequently defend against the invasion. You’ll be invaded by a selection of robots – which the game divides into two classes. One class are the ones you’ll want to target first and foremost, as the elimination of these will mean the defense was successful. The other don’t count towards your goal but can hinder the player in some way – by blocking surveillance cameras or cancelling the firing ability of one of your weapons.

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During the first phase you’ll be tasked with placing your cameras, which are equipped with weapons, around the location that you’re defending. You do this by dragging them across the GamePad to make placement quick and easy. To begin with, you’ll find it pretty unimportant where you place them as the robots slowly make their way through one or two entrances. But as the difficulty ramps up you’ll make sure every camera is placed in the right spot. Should you use them all on the outside because you know you’ll take down every robot outside the compound? Or should you place some inside just in case. These kinds of decisions are where the crux of the strategy comes from in Star Fox Guard.

The second phase is where the actual invasion occurs and where you’ll have to do the defending. On your television you’ll have control over a camera and its weapons in the center of the screen. On the outside you’ll see lower framerate screens of the other cameras. See a robot encroaching on Camera #4? Tap the camera on the map on your GamePad and take it out with the guns. It’s rather fast paced and exciting to take down the robots while scanning the other cameras for any signs of movement and then quickly tapping over to them to take them down too. Could this perhaps be mapped to a controller instead? Most definitely. But the ease and intuitiveness of the GamePad means that Guard never becomes too boring too fast.

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Adding to this is the sheer variety of levels and encounters on offer here. There’s roughly twenty or so different robots that will slowly encroach their way into the different bases on the different planets throughout the Lylat system. Some are simple and just make their way to your areas core. Others will steal cameras from your base and jump over walls rather than just find their way around them. There’s even some boss encounters here and there to keep things interesting. Guard could’ve easily been a throw away but the sheer amount of enemies on offer means it’s an interesting experience from beginning to end.

Perhaps even more surprising about Guard is just how much content is on offer for what is ostensibly $20. Completing a defense earns you metal which allows you to level up. Each level unlock a new bonus mission or a new piece of equipment for Slippy and you to play around with – including cameras that can see through walls and penetrate them with their weaponry. These little things give great incentive to continue playing Guard beyond the first ten or so minutes and keeps the experience fresher than any of us expected it to be.

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If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, then it’s definitely worth investing in some amiibo. With select, compatible amiibo it’s possible to call upon the Star Fox team to conduct an air raid and help you take out the robots invading the Corneria Precious Metals sites in under a few seconds. They’re great emergency options but by no means required – we only found the need for them to test them for the purposes of this review. But Guard can be pretty difficult at times and having this option will definitely help lesser experienced players get through.

Even more surprisingly, Star Fox Guard includes some notable online functionality. While there’s no explicit multiplayer modes, other players can create their own enemy attack patterns and upload them to the Nintendo Network. Popular creations will be featured in the game too. While we liked the idea of creating these squads and sending them online – this functionality was unavailable at the time of the review so it would be disingenuous to comment on how well it works.

 

Star Fox Guard is available in the First Print Edition of Star Fox Zero (physically) or available digitally via the Nintendo eShop.

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Star Fox Guard might not be as big or as ambitious as Star Fox Zero it’s still a very enjoyable experience that the developers have poured just as much heart and soul into. It’s got a good variety of challenges, lots of unlockables and a great slew of enemies to keep things interesting throughout the entire experience.

The use of the GamePad, while nothing innovative nor something exclusive to the control scheme, may alleviate some of the frustrations usually associated with this genre. But generally speaking, while Star Fox Guard is an in-depth tower defense games, it’s unlikely to win anyone over who doesn’t already like this genre but it is deceptively addictive.

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About The Author
James Mitchell
Avid gamer since I was as young as three years old when I received my first NES. Currently studying full time and consider myself a balanced gamer. Enjoy games on all systems, from all genres, on all platforms. Sometimes feels like he's too optimistic for this industry.

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