Everyone was waiting in high anticipation for Star Fox Zero, the first new home console game in the series in over 10 years. However, very few people even know about the existence of Star Fox Guard, even if you include its previous name of Project Guard. This is because the game was largely just a tech concept, presented at E3 2014 among a set. Legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto had sat down with the Wii U Gamepad and tried to come up with a few gameplay concepts for the device. One of these was Project Guard, which has now become Star Fox Guard, and will be packaged with every copy of Star Fox Zero for free. So, what is Star Fox Guard?
The best way to describe Star Fox Guard is as a tower defense game. You have your core at the center of a small maze. Enemies spawn on the outside and work their way in. It’s your job to stop them using 12 strategically placed cameras around the facility. Using the Gamepad you can take control of any of them at any time, with just a tap on the screen switching which one you are in charge of. You then just aim and shoot.
The trouble comes with the fact that there are 12 cameras to manage. All 12 cameras are displayed in real time on the TV screen, with the one in the center being under your control at that moment. You need to keep checking all of them, as enemy robots can sneak by with little notice. Splitting your attention between them all is a tough challenge, but also presents the most fun aspects of Star Fox Guard.
Frantically checking the TV screen for robots, judging which is the more critical at that second, tapping the appropriate camera on the Gamepad, then having to actually shoot the robots before they reach the core is a bunch of different thoughts, actions, and choices all rolled into one seemingly simple game design element. It takes some getting used to, but the game augments this by having alerts show up. They’re subtle, not really getting in your face or disrupting your train of thought, but if you watch for them, they’ll make the whole thing much easier.
Adding to the complexity are the amount of different robots. There are two main classes, combat and chaos. Chaos are annoying, disrupting your camera feeds, or doing other nefarious tasks. Combat are the real concern though, as any one of them reaching the core is Game Over for you. Amongst these two groups there are further variation, though you’ll have to wait for our review for more in-depth looks at those.
Essentially Star Fox Guard is about pushing the limits of your attention. At any one moment you’ll have to be keeping track of 12 different cameras, two physical screens, and the multitude of robots that are flooding our base, along with figuring out how to actually defeat the special versions. What makes this especially fun, though a bit easier, is to have a friend help out.
That’s right, Star Fox Guard is multiplayer…though not in the traditional sense. Other players can’t really pick up a controller and do anything. Instead, they’ll just help keep track of things for you. You might, for example have one friend watch cameras 1 through 6,while another watches 7 through 12, while you actually do the attacking. It can be really fun as everyone yells out for your attention.
Amiibo also play a part in Star Fox Guard, giving you a last ditch save when necessary. The Fox and Falco Amiibo can each be scanned once a day, then you can press a button mid-mission to call them in for support, eliminating every bot in the facility. It’s a bit cheap, but if you’re deep into a mission it can really save you.
Star Fox Guard was a bit of a surprise, but it’s definitely a good one. Coming for free with the already pretty enjoyable Star Fox Zero, the game offers a totally different take on the universe and characters. Players will find a lot to like here when the game hits on April 21st.