Star Fox Zero – Dev Team Interview: Part Two
New Vehicles Broaden the Scope of the Gameplay
Shigeru Miyamoto, Creative Fellow, Nintendo Senior Managing Director (pictured)
Yugo Hayashi, Game Director, Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development Division
Hello there! I’m the gun for hire – I mean writer – Akinori Sao. Hopefully you enjoyed the first interview in this series, which was about the need to make the new Star Fox title both cool and immersive. If you recall, the game’s director Yugo Hayashi told me that he had been in high school when Star Fox came out for the Nintendo 64. That really brought it home to me how much time has passed since that title was released.
Now, for the second interview, our theme is the way that the new vehicles in this title have broadened the scope of the gameplay. Naturally, old favourites like the Arwing are present and correct, but now they can transform, and there are entirely new spacecraft available too. Today we’re going to find out how this has affected the way you play Star Fox, and we’ll also learn some top secret techniques for racking up high scores. Right, let’s get started!
Part Two: New Vehicles Broaden the Scope of the Gameplay
Revisiting Things We Created 20 Years Ago
Sao: In Star Fox Zero, Fox McCloud’s ship can transform, and this is a major part of the gameplay.
Miyamoto: Yes, in this title, the Arwing can turn into the Walker, which can travel on land. The idea for this goes right back to the legendary Star Fox 2 which was in development for Super Nintendo but got cancelled once we knew the Nintendo 64 was on the way. In Star Fox 2, you could transform into a robot in order to get into narrow spaces like enemy battleships. Now in this new title, you can press the A Button whenever you like and turn your ship into the Walker.
Hayashi: But actually in the new game, you can play using the original Walker that was developed for the long-lost Star Fox 2.
Sao: Huh? What do you mean?
Hayashi: Well, if you tap a Fox McCloud amiibo on the Wii U GamePad, you’ll be able to use an Arwing from the Super Nintendo era...
Sao: And it’s not just the Arwing itself. You get the full Super Nintendo experience, with the lasers, bombs, sound effects and everything.
Hayashi: That’s right. And you can also change into the robot form we created for Star Fox 2 and control it. We call it the Retro Walker.
Miyamoto: So we’ve resurrected the simple polygon models from more than 20 years ago using today’s technology.
Sao: So you not only get to use the old Arwing, but you can even try out an old version of the Walker!
Miyamoto: There are amiibo of both Fox McCloud and Falco from the Super Smash Bros. series, and we really wanted this game to offer something to players who had bought them. So that’s what we came up with.
Transform and Land on an Enemy Battleship
Sao: So the Walker you created for this title was based on the original in Star Fox 2. When I saw how it moved, I couldn’t help thinking of a bird. I mean, when it comes down to land, it even flutters its wings.
Miyamoto: It looks pretty cute, don’t you think? (laughs)
Sao: Yes, it really does! (laughs)
Miyamoto: When I first suggested we make its wings flap, I wasn’t being entirely serious, but then we gave it a try and everyone thought it looked really good. Actually, the robot that we originally designed for Star Fox 2 had bird feet. We wanted to make this one like a bird right from the start, and the modellers worked really hard to realise that vision.
Hayashi: We’ve made it so that when your craft transforms, all its parts are used and none are out of place.
Sao: So you mean it would be possible to make a plastic model of the Arwing and make it so it transforms into the Walker?
Miyamoto: Yes, definitely. Actually, we experimented with making an amiibo like that, but we were a little worried about whether its joints were sturdy enough, so we decided to hold off releasing it in the end.
Sao: Oh, that’s a real shame.
Miyamoto: Yes, I’m sad about it too. We worked really hard on it.
Sao: Now, on a slightly different topic, I want to discuss how having the space craft transform has broadened the scope of the gameplay. For instance, in the opening stage on Corneria in Star Fox 64(1) on the Nintendo 64, you can only fly the Arwing. But this time round, you can transform into the Walker and travel over the planet’s surface. It opens up all sorts of different angles.
1. Star Fox 64: the second instalment in the Star Fox series was released in Japan for Nintendo 64 in April 1997, and for Europe during October 1997 as Lylat Wars.
Miyamoto: Yes, that’s right. If you transform into the Walker, you can land right on top of the enemy’s battleship and that made me incredibly happy the first time I did it.
Sao: So speaking as someone who made the game, it made you happy?
Miyamoto: You have no idea! (laughs) It’s totally unthinkable to have the Arwing landing on top of an enemy, but by transforming into the Walker, it’s really easy to take out the key targets and destroy the battleship. But you have to be ready to change back into the Arwing and fly to safety when the ground beneath your feet is destroyed. If you stay as the Walker, you’re going to go down along with the battleship! (laughs)
Miyamoto: We’ve been able to make it so the gameplay is quite realistic and coherent and you can try landing on various enemies and find out what happens.
The Excitement of an Adventure Game
Sao: So in Star Fox Zero, as well as flying in the Arwing, you can travel over the surface in a tank called the Landmaster.
But there’s also a curious vehicle called the Gyrowing which makes its first appearance. Can you tell me how the idea for this variant on the helicopter came about?
Miyamoto: Well, as you’re always navigating a 3D space in a vehicle, we wanted something that would allow a lot of freedom of movement and let you hover in mid-air. That’s how we ended up coming up with the Gyrowing. Then we had the idea of a robot called the Direct-i which you could lower to the ground to perform tasks for you.
Sao: Direct-i is really lovable, isn’t he?
Miyamoto: Yes, there’s something really pure-hearted about him! (laughs)
Sao: Right. And his voice is really cute too! (laughs)
Miyamoto: We had two screens to play with, so we experimented with showing what Direct-i can see. We played with all sorts of visual effects, like having him look up and see the Gyrowing floating above him. That was a lot of fun and inspired us as we went about designing the stage itself.
Hayashi: It was an idea that really broadened the scope of the gameplay. Direct-i is small, so he can access areas where the Gyrowing can’t go, and that means…
Miyamoto: Ah, but you always have to remember that Direct-i is attached to the Gyrowing with a cable, so it can only travel over a limited distance.
Sao: Direct-i can fire lasers, but the Zoness stage where the Gyrowing appears is by no means a shoot ‘em up, is it?
Miyamoto: No, it isn’t. The stage where you get to use the Gyrowing is essentially an adventure game.
Sao: Zoness is a little like The Legend of Zelda, isn’t it? There are all sorts of gameplay elements to enjoy. So it’s not just a question of blasting every enemy. For example, there might be an object above an enemy that you can shoot down and hit them with. There are lots of things like that, so you really have to use your head.
Miyamoto: There are different ways to defeat enemies, and you’ll get a different score depending on which one you use. There are these submarines that float on the surface of the water and get in your way. You can either take out their robotic sections, causing them to stray off course, or you can hit their cannons and blow the whole sub up. And you can catch the Zoness Sharks, of course. You know about that one, right?
Sao: What’s that? You can catch fish now? (laughs)
Miyamoto: Yes, you can! (laughs) When you’re in the Gyrowing, there’s this enemy called the Zoness Shark which jumps out of the water, opens its mouth and fires at you.
Sao: Oh, so that’s a shark, is it? I found those really annoying, so I always blasted them right away.
Miyamoto: Ah, but that’s such a shame! (laughs) You should have got one to eat Direct-i.
Sao: So those things can eat that little robot, can they?
Miyamoto: Yes, if you dangle the Direct-i above the surface of the water, a shark’s going to appear and swallow it.
Sao: And what happens then?
Miyamoto: If you reel in Direct-i right at the moment he’s swallowed, you’ll earn five Hit points.
Sao: Well, I never! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Once you know that little trick, you can rack up lots of points. Also remember that there are sharks that pop up all the time, and then there are those that only appear when you’re at a distance. But they’re there all right, under the surface. So if you dangle Direct-i above where they’re lurking, you can lure them out and get yourself five points! (laughs)
Miyamoto: There are all sorts of mysteries on Zoness waiting to be revealed, so see what you can find!
Sao: I’m very glad we had this little chat! (laughs)
A Title You Had to Be Involved In
Sao: Listening to you speak, Miyamoto-san, it sounds like you were deeply involved in the development of this game.
Miyamoto: Well, I am credited as both producer and supervising director, and I’d say that what I did was pretty close to working as a director.
Sao: When did you last take on that kind of role?
Miyamoto: On The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time(2), which came out in 1998, I was close to being a director, but was credited as a producer. So the last time I was credited as a director would have been before that, on Super Mario 64(3).
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: an action-adventure game released for the Nintendo 64 in Japan on November 1998, and for Europe during December 1998.
3. Super Mario 64: the first 3D action game in the Super Mario series. Release for the Nintendo 64 in Japan in June 1996, and for Europe during March 1997.
Sao: So it’s been 20 years since you were last credited as a director.
Miyamoto: Yes, that’s right.
Sao: What was it about this title that led you to be so involved in its development?
Miyamoto: Hmm. I wonder. Perhaps because I couldn’t find anyone who’d do the job for me?
Miyamoto: Anyway, we ended up with three directors on the project. Myself, Hayashi-san, who’s sitting next to me, and Yusuke Hashimoto(4) from Platinum Games who we developed the game with.
4. PlatinumGames is based in Osaka in Japan. Yusuke Hashimoto works there as a game designer. He also worked as director on Bayonetta 2 for Wii U.
Sao: Perhaps the reason you took on the role of director for the first time in 20 years was because you thought Star Fox Zero was a title you felt you had to be involved in.
Miyamoto: Yes, yes, that’s it. Very well put!
Miyamoto: I was the one who originally said he wanted to make Star Fox, so I guess I had no choice but to decide how it was going to be made.
Sao: But when you play the game, you can tell that you really enjoyed working on it.
Miyamoto: Right. That’s because I just did whatever I wanted! (laughs)
Sao: Hayashi-san, you were in high school when the original came out, as we know. What did you learn as director this time round? Were there moments when you thought, ‘Ah, so that’s how they did it...’?
Hayashi: Absolutely. There were plenty of moments like that. I’d realise, for instance, that the placing of every single building had a purpose. That kind of thing happened a lot. When I’d played the game at high school, I’d always felt like I was free to fly wherever I wanted, and this time I learned that the buildings are positioned precisely so that you feel that.
Miyamoto: You learned that simply by changing how something is positioned, it can really affect the gameplay.
Hayashi: Yes, that’s right. I learned where the best place for an enemy to appear was so that it feels really satisfying to blast it.
Sao: So it took 19 years for you to finally understand why a certain building was where it was, or why an enemy appeared at a certain point.
Hayashi: You’re right! (laughs) With this title, I learned how much thought goes into ensuring that everyone is going to enjoy playing it.
Prepare yourself for take-off and learn more about Star Fox Zero at our official Star Fox Zero website.