I can think of two ways to look at Star Fox: Guard. It’s either an incredibly deep bonus feature or a mediocre standalone game.
Star Fox: Guard comes with all physical copies of Star Fox Zero, which plays like a much more traditional game in the series (with all that flying and shooting and whatnot). Guard, meanwhile, is a unique take on the tower defense game, except that all of your turrets have cameras on them and you need to do all of the aiming and shooting yourself.
It’s a neat idea, but it doesn’t have enough traction to hold your attention for long.
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What you’ll like
A different twist on tower defense
In a typical tower defense game, enemies follow set routes to a central point that you have to defend. You build towers along those path that automatically attack those enemies, and you typically see everything in an over-head view. Star Fox: Guard is very different.
You still have enemies marching toward a central point, but you see everything through a series of cameras (kind of like something a security guard would look at). On the TV, you see the a large view from the camera you have selected while the smaller screens of every camera available border it. On the gamepad’s touchscreen, you see a map with icons for each camera. Touching it will make that camera the focal point, and that’s also the one you can aim and shoot with.
So, the game is as much about monitoring each screen as it is about aiming and shooting. It’s an interesting idea, and I appreciate that it’s something you can really only do with the Wii U. Of course, trying to keep track of all those different cameras can get tricky.
Playing with friends
That’s why you’ll have an easier time if you have some buddies to help you out. While it’s not a traditional multiplayer game, Star Fox: Guard is much more enjoyable if you have friends that can keep an eye on all of those different monitors while you’re busy shooting robots. Of course, it can get kind of hectic regardless, since robots will begin appearing multiple screens (some of which are just showing the same enemy at different angles).
Star Fox: Guard does reward your efforts. You’ll level up as you play, which opens up new stages and — more importantly — upgrades for your turrets. These include ones that can target multiple foes and others that will slow enemies down. The game also gets more interesting as you unlock more turrets, since figuring out where to place them before each round adds an extra level of planning and challenge.
What you won’t like
It gets old
Even with those constant rewards, I found myself getting tired of Star Fox: Guard pretty quickly. Some of the strategy feels useless. For example, in the beginning of each stage you can actually move your cameras around wherever you want. However, the game already has them placed in pretty decent spots, so I never felt inclined to bother.
Again, strategy became more important as I began to unlock more upgrades, but by then I was getting kind of sick of playing “Where’s Waldo” with robots.
The game doesn’t help itself with its unappealing visuals. You’re supposed to defending a factory, but everything looks more like children’s maze in a tacky amusement park. The bright reds and blues that dominate the graphics remind me of something from the battle mode levels in Super Mario Kart.
It doesn’t really take advantage of the Star Fox brand
This is a Star Fox game, but it doesn’t really have much to do with the series minus shooting lasers. You’re actually working for Slippy Toad’s grandfather, Grippy, so he serves as your main point of contact (although Slippy will make a rare appearance here and there). It turns out that Grippy is a war profiteer who’s making a killing mining materials used for building death machines. So, uh, help him!
It almost feels like Nintendo had this idea for Wii U tower defense name and then picked Star Fox out of a hat. You can imagine them making it work for pretty much any other brand. And, as the annoying Star Fox Adventures taught us, this series is really at its best when it sticks with piloting space ships and other vehicles.
Star Fox: Guard is a fine diversion, but I couldn’t imagine wanting to play it for more than a couple of hours. Again, that’s why it’s a great bonus for getting Star Fox Zero. It’s like a free game, and not an awful one. But when you judge on its own, it’s novelty quickly becomes tedious.
Star Fox: Guard comes out on April 22 for the Wii U. Nintendo provided us with a copy for this review.