It can often be hard to anticipate a game and build expectations when you forget it even exists. This is probably the best part about starting to play Star Fox Guard, since the games initial reveal as Project Guard back at E3 in 2014 I had actually completely forgotten about the game’s existence. It was not until a recent Nintendo Direct when the game was revealed once more as Star Fox Guard that I remembered it, and in this time I have left my mind open to determine whether I would actually like it or not, thankfully I really enjoyed what the game offered.
I am going to outright admit I am not a fan of tower defence games, I often find them dull, repetitive and I don’t seem to have fun but this is only in the ones I have played. Interestingly, Star Fox Guard could turn my thoughts around as everything about the way this game was played and took on the particular genre was interesting and meshed into a pretty interesting game.
The important thing of this game however is its story or should say the barely existing events of the game, to lure us in and grab our attention we are treated to a basic tale that does enough to provide the necessary details. In this game we have just been hired as a security officer for Corneria Precious Metals, Ltd, a company that operates various mining sites across several planets throughout the Lylat system. This company is owned and operated by Grippy the uncle of Star Fox team member Slippy, the mining sites are being used to help the war effort against Andross and need to be protected from an army of robots that are attacking them.
As part of your job you are tasked with defending several bases across many planets from incoming robots, to do this you are given control of twelve camera’s which you use to protect the base. Each camera is armed with a laser to stop enemies and you must remain vigilant and maintain patience in order to complete each level. Your overall objective is to take out all robots that will destroy the bases power core and you need to avoid enemies getting anywhere near it, if the core is attacked even once you lose.
The design behind this is very interesting, you are put in front of twelve camera’s each used to see and protect against robots across the facility. The numbered camera feeds are all shown on the television screen and you need to monitor for incoming threats, meanwhile the gamepad shows a map of the entire facility and shows where each camera sits on the field. You need to constantly switch your attention between the television and the gamepad as you switch camera’s to take down enemy threats, this is a particularly interesting part of the games design and makes great use of the television and gamepad in synchronicity.
Across the game this particular playstyle never grows tiresome especially with the amount of foes that are sent to keep you on your toes. In fact there are two different forms in which you need to deal with, these are the combat robots and the chaos robots. The combat robots are the most important type, whether you win or lose a mission is strictly built around these enemies, the sole goal of combat robots is to destroy the core of your base and you need to stop them from getting there using your varying camera’s.
The chaos robots on the other hand are mischief makers which make it more challenging to complete your objective, these robots have no intentions towards attacking your base but will use their powers to mess with your camera’s. These robots come in varying forms and often proved to be bigger concerns to me then the combat robots, often they would completely disable a camera I really needed or would provide a false feed. However it is the constantly evolving issues of these foes that really provides the most enjoyment, there is never a moment to rest knowing chaos robots can prevent victory if you are not careful.
The best thing about these robot enemies is that new types are frequently added making victory harder, once you get used to one type over a couple of levels Star Fox Guard throws new types at you which can often be quite stressful. In addition they vary in types by level and you can never be quite certain what the game will throw at you next, it is the constant uncertainty that made each level that much more of a thrill.
There is one hundred levels to play through over the main mode of Star Fox Guard, half of these are completed over the course of the main story (which is about four hours long) while the others are unlocked after certain conditions are met. The main missions are pretty basic, in these missions you are given a simple objective to defeat enemies, and these follow suit with boss battles among other points. These missions often left me with a sense of urgency and panic but overall were not too difficult, it was honestly very rarely I failed in these missions but they were still enjoyable. The bonus of completing of these missions is that you unlock the additional missions over time and these are where the true challenge of Star Fox Guard is born.
These missions add additional components for you to deal with making each mission more difficult to beat, in one mission you have limited ammunition and must take great care in your aim. In another your cameras are constantly moving and you need to take down the combat robots while dealing with this slight impairment. Each of these missions offer the greatest thrill to Star Fox Guard and continue to tackle the unique ideas of the game in a greater fashion, I really wanted to play through the game more just to unlock all these levels and enjoy the greater challenge that I was afforded.
Each battle begins in a simple manner, you are shown exactly which combat robots you will be facing in the level then are put in control of camera placement. This part is all handled on the gamepad with your map showing the main locations to which enemies will arrive to help you best create your defence, one thing I will note is that the default camera placement was already pretty good and it was rare I ever felt the need to alter their placements. The setup is simple but really does help to prepare for the match ahead and ensure you the best possible results with the varying camera types, as well as placements.
You can of course drag camera’s to all different points on the stage to cover every major point, this is done by simply tapping the camera then moving it to a new position and you use the TV to check the viewpoint. This can also be done during the battle segments, but I did not use this side very often as I found it did not quite work as well as the set up screen. In addition you can use your Fox and Falco amiibo’s on the set up screen, one a day per amiibo you can tap it to the gamepad and this will provide air support for the mission, again not a big feature but I appreciated that it was there for when I was having a difficult time.
Along with this comes another really helpful feature, after each level whether you win or lose you are given a timeline showing each enemy and the gate they entered from. Each base has six possible entrances and this showing is very well constructed and I found it really helpful in determining my battle results, it was often better when I lost so I could remember to co-ordinate my attentions on an enemy when I retried and was always aware of what I did wrong.
Another thing I really liked was the unlocking mechanic, after beating each mission you have a little robot who will enter the base and will collect all metal scraps the robots left behind. These in turn goes towards unlocking new camera’s as well as the additional missions, this usage made it so the game unlocks things at a regular pace but you also need to have some kind of skill in order to focus enough to unlock everything.
I love the character of Star Fox Guard, while the story may be generic and lackluster our constant companions Slippy and Grippy are often quite enjoyable. They develop and push the story as needed but it their personality’s that truly interested me, Grippy particularly was interesting to explore, he is a smart and cunning character who knows what he is doing, I just hope he doesn’t just appear in this game and will expanded into the greater Star Fox universe in future adventures. Likewise I also really liked the chemistry he had with Slippy which often led to some amusing banter, the two characters worked well together and it was nice to see Slippy taking a bigger role.
One thing I really have to note about this game is that it is an over glorified minigame simply used to advertise the Star Fox brand, this is one thought that I could not escape as I played through it luckily Star Fox Guard is good in its own rights. While the gameplay is admittedly tedious at times and can become even more stressful as you dart your eyes between the gamepad and the television screen it is here where the fun lies but a new question is also born. I have to ask why we did not get this game sooner, as we move closer to the end of the Wii U’s lifespan we finally have a game that does the consoles unique features true justice, and this is its biggest negatives.
Star Fox Guard may have issues with being a case of too little to late but it is still a pretty good game in its own rights, as I stated earlier I am not typically a tower defence fan but the way this game positioned its gameplay was gripping. The only thing is I really am not certain how much appeal this will have for people or if it will get the attention it deserves, sure it’s unique but it does not really have lasting appeal.
I will admit I do not see myself coming back to this very often, for as fun as the game is it does get repetitive quickly, perhaps this might be one of those games that really only comes back into play every now and again, but at least it is worth something of a revisit which does say a lot. Still, Star Fox Guard is a decent game which I think is bettered by the knowledge that I forgot it existed and I developed no over the top thoughts about what I should expect which is honestly rare in the modern game industry.