A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Star Fox Zero is a cartoon space shooter and adventure. You play as Fox McCloud, who must fight against a power-hungry evil villain in the galaxy. But in doing so, you'll aim and fire at spaceships and ground targets, presumably with people inside. There isn't any blood or gore in the game, but combat is very much at the center of the gameplay. While this isn't the most popular franchise of Nintendo's games, there is lots of merchandise for it, and it promotes the use of amiibo figurines and cards. But, unlike with many Nintendo titles, the player needs to use both the Wii U controller and the TV screen to successfully play, which could be daunting for both younger and novice gamers.
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What's it about?
STAR FOX ZERO has you climbing into the cockpit as Fox McCloud, who, along with his brave pals, vows to prevent an evil force from taking over the universe. This first game in the space series that's playable on the Wii U has players team up with the likes of Falco, Peppy, and Slippy to save the Lylat system by dogfighting against enemies in space and blowing up ground targets before they can harm you. The game can be played on the Wii U GamePad, which also offers a different viewpoint from within your Arwing and allows you to aim at and shoot enemies in one direction while flying in another. You can also pilot other vehicles -- such as a biped walker, rolling space tank, and hovering drone -- each of which has a different feel and purpose.
Is it any good?
This adventure is a good game that could've been great, if it weren't for confusing controls that force you to look at two different screens to maneuver your craft. Players have to use the Wii U GamePad for a first-person cockpit view and the television for a third-person, more cinematic view of the action (there's also a button to push the cockpit view on your TV, which complicates matters further). Mind you, controlling your main spaceship feels pretty good, whether you're on "rails" in most missions or freely maneuvering the ship during (mostly) boss battles. Even while squeezing into tight spaces and avoiding obstacles, aiming and firing between two screens can take a while to get used to. Plus, it can be tricky to use some of the alternative vehicles, such as the quadcopter drone for observing your surroundings and possible targets. You'll get the hang of your Arwing after a while, but wrestling with the controls still takes away from the overall immersion factor. The more you play, the more you'll master the dance -- and the more you'll get into the frenetic gameplay.
Visually speaking, the game is quite impressive, especially for a Wii U title, with colorful characters, large environments (including outer space), and good lighting work on the special effects. Music and voice-over talent aren't the best, with clichéd comments from your wingmates, but aren't a concern compared to the often confusing controls and camera angles. Fans of Nintendo games starving for Wii U content might consider picking up this game -- especially for those with a nostalgic leaning toward the Star Fox series -- but everyone else might as well steer clear of this promising but often frustrating space shooter.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is Star Fox Zero OK for kids? Does it promote violence, since you're shooting to kill characters inside of spaceships, or is it OK because it's clearly unrealistic?
Talk about teamwork. How important is it to rely on your wingmen in a space battle? Can you complete missions without help, or do you need assistance from your squadmates? Why?
- Platforms: Nintendo Wii U
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: April 22, 2016
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Space and Aliens, Wild Animals
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.