Cast your mind back to Nintendo’s 2014 E3 conference and you might remember the legendary Shingeru Miyamoto brought to light a couple of early experimental games he was working on. The aim of the games was to showcase more of what the Wii U gamepad was capable of. The first was Project Giant Robot, essentially a robot boxing game in which you customised your mecha and fought opponents in open city environments. The second had you monitoring a space facility through security camera feeds and fending off hostile robot units; think tower defence meets Five Nights at Freddy’s. Project Guard was the name of this title although now it’s found a new home in the Lylat System and has taken the name Star Fox Guard.
You’ve been hired as a new security operative for Corneria Precious Metals Ltd, a company specialising in rare metals and minerals which conveniently happens to be run by Slippy Toads eccentric uncle, Grippy. Unfortunately as of late he’s been having a spot of bother with a bunch of pesky robots looking to put him out of business by destroying his mining facilities. Robots try to break into the locations from every direction, navigating their corridors towards the central core. Just one touch and you can say good bye to the facility and your career as a security guard. The bases are monitored through a series of cameras fitted with lasers called AegisCams. Your job then is to watch these cameras and take out any bots that attempt to get the bases central core. Sounds easy, right?
Each Facility has a total of twelve cameras all of which are numbered and displayed on your television screen, as well as a close-up of the currently selected camera. The gamepad then displays a top down layout of the base, marking the positions of all your AegisCams. Taping one switches your feed to that camera where you can move it around with the control sticks and let off a couple of laser rounds by hitting any of the face buttons. Before each level you’re given a short amount of time to prepare meaning you can rearrange the cameras wherever you like and position them to get the best viewing angles. Of course you can do this during waves but it’ll mean taking your eye off the other cameras, so do it at your own risk.
Robots attack in waves and you’ll encounter a great variation of enemies which can be categorised in to two types. The first are combat units which target you bases core in various different ways. The second are Chaos units which find ways of interfering with your camera feeds such as self-destructing to destroy all nearby cameras, or ones that replace the camera feeds with static or alternative images. To win you have to take out a set number of attack type units, even if there are still robots coming as long as you get the desired amount you’re safe. A handy feature is a Robot Encyclopedia that details each bots stats and irritating little quirks. Battles are frantic and surprisingly there’s a real sense of tension. The threat is constant and unrelenting; you’ll spend matches on the end of your seat, unable to relax until the last bot is destroyed. There’s nothing quite like that sense of fear when one of the little blighters breaches your defences and you work yourself into a panic switching from camera to camera to try and take them down.
Star Fox Guard thankfully doesn’t rely on cheap tricks, you just have to keep a watchful eye and be quick to react. Players are given more than enough feedback when an enemy approaches or enters a labyrinths perimeter. There’s a sound cue when enemies warp in, a siren for when they break in and noises to let you know when they’re interfering with cameras. Similarly there’s visual cues flashing lights and whacking huge warning signs so it’s easy to know when an attack is at hand. You’re of course eased in gently with only a handful of little droids to contend with and nicely spaced out waves, but it quickly ramps up the pace and it’s not long before you’re up to your neck with sinister bots. Powering through level after level is not advised, it can become overwhelming quickly and it doesn’t take much to get frustrated. This is the sort of game that’s a lot more enjoyable in short bursts, which actually makes it rather appealing as a party game. Just imagine having a couple of friends around monitoring the cameras and yelling out directions while another person or two operate the camera selection and laser turrets.
Every droid you defeat drops rare metal which your dog like robot, Re:bot, runs around and snaps up at the end of each mission. These metals are essentially experience points that improve your ranking. The first couple of levels don’t offer anything but after a certain point you’ll gain access to new camera types, mission scenarios and general upgrades so there’s an enjoyable amount of replayability obtaining everything on offer. Featured are 100 different missions getting progressively harder the further you progress so there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. However the mode players are likely to spend most of their time is MySquad. Taking on board what they did with Mario Maker, Nintendo have given us another very robust level creator. In this mode you can take whatever devious creations the internet has to offer or create your own battle scenarios for the online community to try out. It might look and sound complicated from the in-game tutorials but it’s easy enough to get to grips with. You have control of robots pathing towards the core and rate of spawning by utilising what looks like a music track editor setup; to make sure you’re on the right lines you can also test out designs while constructing them. It’s a great level editor, with a solid control setup on the Wii U gamepad. With what happened with Mario Maker it’ll be fun to see what inventive and creative ways players will construct levels.
Star Fox Guard is an innovative little title that really shows us just what the Wii U’s hardware is capable of. There’s a good deal to do from varying unlockables, to playing with its online community, and for a bright game about silly little robots waging war on a mining company it can be surprising how tense and nerve-racking missions can be. Player’s ability to multitask and stay calm under pressure is the standout factor that will really affect their overall experience. Not being able to focus on multiple things at once will have gamers in a constant sense of frustration as they are quickly overwhelmed with the army of oncoming bots.
This review is based off a review code of Star Fox Guard provided by Nintendo.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.