I was invited to test the wi-fi aspect of StarFox Command yesterday, and have written my impressions on the experience. I will have a full review of StarFox Command sometime this weekend.
I have been dying to play StarFox Command for quite some time now. You guys know that I have been pushing the game like crazy, grabbing any piece of news I can. Being a huge fan of the StarFox series, I couldn’t wait to try out this new take on the series. Obviously one of the biggest changes to the game is the inclusion of wi-fi play. Little did I know that I would have my chance to try out StarFox Command’s wi-fi offerings before the weekend even got here. Two days back our Nintendo rep got in touch with me, and asked if I was up for some wi-fi testing for StarFox Command. After screaming with excitement, I graciously accepted the offer. Now that I have two days of wi-fi play under my belt, I thought I would let you guys in on how it went.
Wi-fi play in StarFox Command comes in two flavors…Battle Royale and Free Battle. Battle Royale puts you up against three other gamers from anywhere around the world. This game play mode will also affect your player ranking. The better you do during your Battle Royale game, the more points you earn for your player ranking. For instance, right now I am a Z ranking (the rank you start out with) and I have played nine games. When playing this mode, the number of stars you collect is also counted, but I will get into that later.
Free Battle gives you four different options. The first option is Friend Battle, which offers you dogfights against people registered on your friends list. Within friend battle, you have the option of setting up a four person dogfight, as well as a three or two person fight. The Free Battle heading also allows you to play Random Battles. These games match you up with rival gamers that have a similar skill level as you. You also have the option here to choose between a two, three, or four person fight.
Alright, lets get down to the nitty gritty. I know you guys want to hear how the wi-fi games actually play, and what you have to do. If you remember StarFox 64’s multiplayer option, then you already have a pretty good understanding of how things work. There have definitely been a few changes, which add a lot to the experience. The fighting takes place in pretty standard StarFox locations…outer space, a corneria-style city, and a planet with both water and mountain ranges. The space level is pretty much nothing but a giant open game play area, but the other locations leave much more room for strategy. Mountain trenches, and sections of buildings offer great places to get away from your rivals.
At the most basic level, you are constantly on the lookout for rival dogfighters. Each dogfight map varies in location and cover, but they are all the exact same size. You can see a grid map of the level on the bottom screen of the DS. This grid displays an arrow for your ship, as well as different colored arrows for the other gamers playing. You can also find special controls for your ship (loop, turn around), a bomb slot, and speed indicators as well. The grid is an extremely important part to wi-fi battles. It constantly lets you keep track of where your enemies are in the level, as well as providing information for various power-ups and bombs.
As for the top screen, you will see your health meter, boost meter (which refills as time passes), and a countdown timer. Every match you play has a set time limit, and each game play session consists of 3 matches. To help keep track of rivals, the top screen also displays the screen name of everyone on screen. That way, you can hunt down a specific player for payback, rather then remembering his color arrow from the bottom screen.
So how do you win a dogfight? This is without a doubt the best part of wi-fi matches in StarFox Command. You don’t get any points for blowing up a rival. Every time someone is destroyed, they drop a star where their ship last was. The match keeps track of who is in first place by how many stars each gamer has. I didn’t even realize this fact until halfway through my first match! Instead of just hunting out a ship and blowing them up, the game play actually contains an element of strategy. Rather then fighting until you are blown up, you can hang back and watch other fighters from a distance. There’s no better feeling then being low on health, laying low while a fight is going on, and then swooping in to steal the star right out from under the other players. It’s evil I know…but you do what you have to do! You can also do a barrel roll (thanks for that infamous line Peppy!) to grab stars and other power-ups. When the ship spins, it creates a sort of vacuum effect, sucking in all the goodies around it.
Power-ups are equally important during game play, without them you are going to get your ass handed to you pretty often. You can find the standard power-ups you expect from StarFox games. There are items to give you a double laser cannon, as well as a plasma cannon. The cannons still allow you to either shoot single shots, or lock on and charge up for a powerful burst. Yellow rings are scattered throughout the levels as well to help refill your health, just as they do in single player. Bombs function a little different from what you are used to. Instead of launching a bomb in front of you, you drag the bomb to somewhere on the touch screen. This way you can line a bomb up right over your enemies on the radar, and drop it on them. A few seconds later the bomb detonates, and you can swoop in for a couple of stars. One new power-up is the stealth item, and it ends up being my personal favorite. Grab this bad boy and you drop off the face of the earth. Other players can’t see you on either screen, and you are free to attack them all while laughing in that evil way you love to do. The best part is that R.O.B. (another returning character from the StarFox universe) periodically drops in these items during the match. Just because power-ups get gobbled up by other gamers doesn’t mean that they are gone forever. Items are also dropped in pre-determined, but random locations. You may have an idea of where power-ups will respawn, but you have no idea as to which locations they will show up in.
As for my actual wi-fi play, it went wonderfully. Once I got the hang of things (about 10 minutes into my first few matches) I had my strategies all planned out. My first mission in every game was to be a coward, and go right for the stealth power-up. After that I would trail right behind an enemy and proceed to freak him out. Of course, some of the NoA guys were hip to my plans, and shot the hell out of me before I could even get to the power-up. What do you expect, they have been playing it for awhile now! My second set of three matches was with Mark Bozon from IGN, and two Japanese gamers. Once again, I had no idea what I was doing, with Mark following closely behind. There really wasn’t any battle between the two of us other than third and fourth place. It was clear that we were extremely outclassed by our competitors!
I played wi-fi battles for about a two hour period, and not once got disconnected from a game. I also never experienced any slowdown from the action on screen. The game always stayed hectic, but with a smooth frame rate. The entire experience was great, and one that StarFox fans are definitely going to love. I do have to mention one thing…something I think is very important. I am not a huge online gamer. I pick up a few games here and there for some online fun, but I never really stick with it. I am much more of a single player person. Having said that, StarFox Command’s wi-fi is really sucking me in. Rather then just having a win/loss record, the addition of a ranking system that rises with your success really gives me something I want to work for. I don’t want to have a Z rating for the rest of my life! I am a better fighter pilot then that…I think! I can’t wait to hop online and have my confidence destroyed by you guys once StarFox Command hits store shelves.