Fox McCloud is helping out an unexpected team.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas interested me a bit last year when Ubisoft first announced it, but the toy addition made me think twice. Then they said Fox McCloud was on board with his own Arwing accessory and I knew I was instantly sold. But as you know I love weird Nintendo merchandise, so most people will be wondering how the game plays. Luckily I got to play through a single stage using Fox's Arwing the entire time.
Sitting down with Starlink is a bit strange. There was a big plastic Arwing stuck on top of the Joy-Con Controller Grip. Those with larger hands may have a problem bumping into the mounted plastic ship, but I can't know for sure. The setup is a bit goofy, but once I started playing the game I kind of forgot how silly it all was.
The controls took a little while to get used to. The ship seemed to have two modes of control, one in the air and one close to the ground. Switching between the two was done with a simple button press and offered a different experience. In the air you seemed to move faster and could gain altitude. On the ground flying felt closer to an All-Range Mode version of the classic Star Fox Landmaster, even though the ship didn't turn into one. It's also possible to preform jumps during the ground mode. Aiming seemed to be done with the right control stick while steering is on the left. ZL and ZR buttons shoot the left and right cannons respectively. It's possible to boost as well as use a special weapon to slow down time, giving players more of a window to hit enemy weak spots.
While I was playing a representative was kindly trying to explain to me how to play as well as run me through some of the story components. However, under the pressure the story went over my head as I tried to adjust to the controls. After a few minutes I'd say it was smooth sailing, but I still don't understand what was going on.
The stage opened up with Fox in space flying to a planet's surface. From there there was some classic All-Range Mode style action. I had to take out different nodes and enemies. This part of the game felt easier to control while in ground mode as there were many stationary targets, though I had to be careful to jump over different beams that came rolling at me from the ground. After this section I flew over to a boss fight which was a lot of fun too. I had to destroy different enemy weak points which would then briefly expose its core allowing me to damage it for real. The cycle repeats a few times getting harder with each run, and the boss also spawns a few weaker enemies each time.
One of the cool things is that at any time during the game it's possible to attach different guns to the ship on top of the controller. These guns all seem to have different functions and elements. Some are stronger against certain enemies than others and it seems useful to try out different combinations to see what works best against specific enemies. I was able to freeze some.
The entire experience could easily be slapped with a full Star Fox coat of paint, but it does manage to be its own game. Because of this, adding Fox McCloud to the experience feels very natural and is a great way to get Nintendo fans on board the project when they may have otherwise overlooked it. The game is fun and I am looking forward to the full release later this year. Star Fox fans will likely enjoy it.