Many modern indie games wear their influences on their sleeves, but one aesthetic that has been rarely emulated is that of the original Star Fox for the Super Nintendo. Being one of the earliest 3D games on a Nintendo platform, it has a very unique look, with chunky polygons and solid colors only vaguelly resembling reality.
The upcoming indie game Ex-Zodiac is set to fill that niche with its own take on the on-rails 3D shooter. To learn more about it, we went hands-on with the game’s early demo at EGX 2019.
Naturally the first thing that pops out about Ex-Zodiac is its bold use of those polygons – it doesn’t shy away from the simplicity in the slightest. Even the controller options screen is displayed with a gorgeous pan around of a low-poly controller. That isn’t to say it feels archaic to play, though, as it runs at a silky frame-rate the SNES could only wish it could achieve.
Yet with great speed comes a much greater challenge compared to the original Star Fox. Where that game was balanced around the sluggish controls, giving you ample time to move out of the way of obstacles and enemy shots, Ex-Zodiac is much more fast paced and I found myself bordering on exploding more than a few times, only to be saved by some lucky Repair item drops. In some ways I can see fans of bullet hells taking a shine to the game, as it could easily become a 3D rendition of that genre, especially if there are multiple difficulty options in the final product.
I’m also quite intrigued as to where the game’s story will go. These arcade-y shooters rarely have much of a story to write home about, but the design of the main character already looks unique and indicates it won’t retread the same anthropomorphic Thunderbirds-homage ground as its source of inspiration. She also doesn’t say “Do a Barrel Roll”, which is a level of restraint I can’t help but appreciate. Though it was incredibly odd that such an iconic move isn’t present at all in the current build.
While Ex-Zodiac has yet to be confirmed for any platforms – it’s still a work-in-progress after all – let’s hope it heads to its natural home, the Switch, eventually.