A Star Fox Zero Conversation With Shigeru Miyamoto And His Team
Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to go hands-on with Star Fox Zero. The use of both the Gamepad screen and television for play introduces a more frantic experience, and one we delighted in as we gradually learned when to look at each.
After we had a chance to play and digest the different vehicles, flight modes, and enemy types, we were given the opportunity to chat with Star Fox creator and development elder statesman Shigeru Miyamoto, game director Yugo Hiyashi, and Yusuke Hashimoto of Platinum Games, which is co-developing the title.
We inquired about how this partnership came to be. Platinum is working on its own projects, but Nintendo's timing couldn't have been better.
"The way I tend to make games nowadays is to work with a smaller team internally to make the core of the game," Miyamoto explains. "Once that's done, I look inside and outside Nintendo what would be a good development team to work on this game. And right about that time, it was when Bayonetta 2 was finishing up. It occurred to me that Platinum would be a great company to work on Star Fox. Now we're working very closely. We're working the same way we would with an internal team. We have meetings every day. We're looking at the ROM every day."
When we played Star Fox earlier this week, our hands-on time focused exclusively on solo play. We were curious about whether multiplayer would be making a return in this installment.
"Multiplayer has always been something that we've focused on in the previous Star Fox games," Miyamoto tells us. "Obviously in Star Fox Assault, it was a big part of it. During the course of that, we started to feel that the single player wasn't getting enough attention or was being lost in the shuffle. This time, we're really focused on the single player experience and figureing out how we can use the two screens to create a really rich single player experience for Star Fox."
He isn't writing off this type of gameplay in an online environment down the road, though. Whether that emerges as an add-on or a separate game isn't clear, though.
"Once we get people used to the system, it's possible in the future as in Splatoon, set up some network feature and allow people to have one-on-one combat in that way," Miyamoto says. "It's something we'll see maybe in the future."
When Star Fox Zero launches this fall, players will be able to instead hone their skills by returning to completed planets with new vehicles. As we were playing the Corneria stage in an Arwing, we noticed a sealed gate off to one side. We inquired about its purpose.
"The Corneria map does have a branching path within it, but another big thing we're focused on this time is that once you clear a stage, you'll get a second mission on the same stage," Miyamoto explains. "You'll have a different set of goals."
Star Fox has also featured different paths through the galaxy. The upcoming title takes a more linear approach, using its variety of transformations as a hook to revisit completed areas.
"In terms of what you saw in Star Fox 64, with the actual map with the different planets and lots of different branches, this time it will be simpler, but more variety in terms of different missions on the same planet," Miyamoto says. "We want it to be that you can complete the course of the game in the same amount of time you would spend watching a movie, so it's a cinematic experience. While there are still some branching paths, the main thing we are focusing on is having second and third missions available for each planet."
This also impacts difficulty, as there won't be an option to take different paths through the galaxy. There also won't be an option to tweak the game's difficulty in either direction. What you see is what you get, so it might be a good idea to practice if you're having trouble. While Nintendo wants to keep things simple, there is also a focus on bringing this type of shooter back to its roots.
"As everything around the player is getting more extravagent, the core gameplay is getting simpler," Miyamoto says. "With Star Fox, what I wanted to achieve was having players actually aim at things themselves. It was very important to me, and I'm happy to see that even beginners are able to aim at things and shoot them. The biggest thing this time is that there are no bombs this time. You have to aim."
There will likely be a cooperative mode though, so younger players can use the gamepad cockpit view to shoot while someone else uses a Wii remote and nunchuck to steer the craft. The pilot will also have a laser, so you won't be completely defenseless if you're playing with a younger gamer.
Star Fox Zero includes a scoring mechanic that awards points for defeating enemies. The team believes that players will work to better their performance over time. While its inclusion isn't new for the series, there are more options for boosting it given the control scheme.
"I think one thing that's interesting about having the two screens is that it opens up a lot of strategies and ways to attack each course," Miyamoto says. "You might see someone else playing something a different way and that will change your experience and add to the replay value. In this game, we have a point system like we had in Star Fox 64. But in Star Fox 64, taking out every single enemy in a stage was kind of impossible. Now with these new controls and being able to look around, it's actually an achievable goal to shoot down every enemy."
While Star Fox is well into development, Miyamoto and his time are still working out some of the design issues. There were coins and medals scattered throughout the game.
We know that these won't be used to unlock different decorations for your Arwing, but that will be a feature with a different unlock scheme. They also won't be used to unlock other characters for your squad or upgrade your craft. "Being able to collect something and gradually beef up your weapons is something that's very common in these types of games," Miyamoto says. "While I do think it's fun, I want to focus on making a game that's fun without that kind of element. I want to keep it simple and pure."
And as for Amiibo, which seem to be popping up in every game lately? "It would definitely be great to get a Slippy Amiibo, but the Amiibo lineup is so full now," Miyamoto tells us. "Obviously, there's a certain amount of them getting sold out. So just filling the repeat orders is kind of a challenge right now. It might be difficult. Making more of those is way harder than filling new orders of games."
You'll likely still be able to make use of your existing Star Fox Amiibo figures, though. "One function we're thinking of is that there's already the Fox Amiibo and the Falco Amiibo will be out by the time Star Fox comes out," Miyamoto says. "Tapping those will give you a small bonus in the game."
Our first look at Star Fox Zero was a positive one, and the core of the game is solidly in place across six levels we played. The title is on track for release later this year, and you can read more about it in our hands-on impressions.