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Pikmin 3 is still a contender for my favorite Wii U game. Excellent design, controls, and presentation. It's one of the better games this gen in general.
Star Fox Zero needed some more time in the lab. Even if the counter-intuitive controls do magically smooth over with insane amounts of (what should be unnecessary) practice to start to enjoy, it's bad game design to thrust the player straight into the deep end of the pool with no idea how to swim.
You have to gradually teach the player - through gameplay, not text - how to get a handle on all of these new features. Start slow. The game could have benefitted from a prologue chapter with this as it's focus, as opposed to just dumping us right away into the Corneria mission.
No one wants to sit in a training room that ultimately doesn't help you with the actually difficult elements of the controls - and for potentially hours at that. People find that boring and tedious. We want to play the actual game, and we want that experience to be intuitive. A training room shouldn't even be necessary.
Nintendo used to have the strongest reputation for game design in this regard, and SFZ is such a stark contrast to that reputation that it almost feels like it can't be real.
I was extremely excited about Star Fox Zero, and patiently sat in that training room, suspecting it was going to be a rough start without. Even so, I didn't honestly begin to enjoy the game until I got near to the end.
I found that I was just stubbornly pushing through because I love Star Fox so dearly. I was forcing myself to play it as a loyal fan. Without the franchise power, though? I don't think many people would have put up with it. In fact, upon attempting to replay it to find other paths, I sadly decided not to continue out of pure frustration at some clunky design elements that weren't even really the controls' fault (though they played a part too).
This is shocking considering my literal addiction to playing Star Fox 64 inside-out; getting all the medals, scraping up any new dialogue content possible, seeing all the planets, etc.
Overall, it felt like an otherwise amazing experience was fractured mostly by trying to forcefully cram the controls in with no other option available for players who prefer the traditional approach (and after the initial demo reaction, they were aware it was an issue for people long before the game came out).
The graphics, the locales, the music, the stylistic animation for the characters' faces, the voice acting... all stellar. I'm so happy to have the real Fox back with us. It's just a shame that it was under such messy circumstances. I hope the beloved voice cast isn't discouraged from returning after this...
I want the series to come back and redeem itself, and I'd LOVE a movie or a cartoon, but I fear all that will be shot in the foot if Miyamoto is too proud to accept, and adapt to, the needs of the fans.
Sometimes, even if you believe in something, and even if you have a few followers... if it doesn't work for everybody else, you need to have the humility to correct course, or the ship is going to be lost at sea forever. I do not want that to happen to Star Fox. It deserves a bright, relevant future.
Fingers crossed that we get a Star Fox on the NX that tries to please everyone. I'm already blue in the face holding my breath for Metroid to redeem itself, and after Zero's reception, I fear Star Fox may similarly fade into the distance for a long time again. Sigh.