Recently, I finally took the opportunity to sit down and give Star Fox Zero a go, I had heard all the critical reception for the game, all the complaints, and yet when I sat down to play this game I could not help but be impressed. For those who played Star Fox Zero they all sing a similar tune, “the controls to this game are awful”, “Star Fox Zero is almost impossible to play”, “Star Fox Zero fails to capture the spirit of the older games due to its supposedly innovative controls.” Yes, I did just make all of those statements up, yet these are simply paraphrases upon the general statements made about Star Fox Zero. However, as I played Star Fox Zero I could not help but be impressed by what Nintendo and Platinum Games had given us, the gameplay, which people complained about so often is extremely clever and for lack of a better word sophisticated.
Let’s think about Star Fox Zero for a moment, shall we? the controls are so difficult to use and yet they are so well created that I felt smarter for having worked them out while I played a mission. The game utilized the gamepad and television in synchronicity, the television showed the traditional Star Fox playstyle with your arwing in full view among the scenery, meanwhile the gamepad presented you with a view from the cockpit of your vehicle and this forced you to think. The view from your cockpit was the only way to accurately fire at enemies so you need to quickly dart your eyes between the two screens to watch for obstacles and enemy shots while also properly aiming.
Yet, in seems people complained about this, one thing people sighted in their argument against this system is that it was too confusing, but was it really? Sure, you needed great hand eye coordination (something I sorely lack) but it was a control system that sought to capture the true feeling of actually flying and fighting, you had to think about everything and I feel that people just didn’t like that. The true reason people seem to present so much hatred towards this game is because they don’t get it, they complain about the controls and this is because they are not realizing that this is an intelligent control system, it is too smart for them, and dare I say it to sophisticated. I feel the control system for Star Fox Zero is something that a child could learn quite well if they grew up learning the system.
Though this was not even Nintendo’s first foray into overly intelligent gaming, and yes people complained about that too. Back in 2011 Nintendo brought us The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword (one of my all-time favorite games), and you know what people complained about with this game, to begin with this wasn’t Zelda! an argument people made against Wind Waker (a discussion for another day). People also argued that the controls were terrible and hurt the experience, yet again to create some comments people likely said, “why can’t they just use buttons”, “I don’t want to get up and move my arms”, “this is not Zelda and the controls feel forced”.
To talk about the final comment for a moment, Skyward Sword was most certainly Zelda, and the controls in the game never felt forced, I would argue that they made this game. Never before was Zelda so immersive and intelligent, most enemies would have a form of defence which you could only defeat by swinging your sword in the correct direction, and often they would change their defence to counter your attack. This control system was so smart and at least from a personal standpoint, it provided a level of satisfaction knowing that you out thought your opponent and your brain and hand worked in sync to take down your enemies.
Where it mattered more however was in the way this control system that used the remote fully cooperated with every corner of the game. Your sword/remote was used to complete certain puzzles that was otherwise impossible to create, and bosses became that much more daunting when a swordfight became a literal duel. You circled round your opponent looking for any opportunity to disarm them, or get a strike in and this required you to be up while also using your brain and sight to find opportunities. This however was something people didn’t like, it was an evolved control system that was equally intellectual as it was sophisticated.
Skyward Sword much like Star Fox Zero shows just how much game play [players don’t know what they want, almost constantly we cry out for innovation, for companies like Nintendo to push boundaries, and when they do, we complain. Both Skyward Sword and Star Fox Zero present what I consider to be the two most innovative and intellectual control systems in gaming. They do what we ask for and innovate the franchise offering a unique experience that asks us to use our whole being to play.
Gaming and sophistication may not seem like something that goes hand in hand, or like something that would work. But in a world where games are following a simple trend, we must consider they are creating something truly brilliant. Games like Star Fox Zero, and Skyward Sword do for intellectual and sophisticated gaming in terms of gameplay what The Last of Us and Bioshock did for story driven gameplay in a similar format. This is where I have to laugh, we praise the clever storytelling of these games and admire the sheer sophistication of their narrative, but we cannot do the same for gameplay. What is it? do we not wish to think about our games and their beneficial controls as we play them and are unable to cope with games that want to make us feel smart for playing them?
If Nintendo keeps going and continues to do things like Star Fox Zero and Skyward Sword then people may need to get over it, they have started a new renascence and these games are pioneers towards making games and their players that much smarter. To close this, if we can play and think about ways to solve puzzles and explore certain ideas, why can we not deal with learning a control system that is tough but ends up being a great reward when mastered. I don’t know, but I thank Nintendo for providing these games that evolve the way we should truly consider gameplay. I think it is time we just accept this situation as these games are showing the push towards the future.