Oh, boy. This could get dicey. Now I don't have a fundamental problem with using the gamepad gyro to aim. I have more problem with the implementation and how it functions in certain scenarios. I’d also like to state that I’m no stranger to unorthodox controls. I loved Kid Icarus Uprising (main problem is it can cause pain on long play sessions), I had basically no issues with Skyward Sword, and I practically play Monster Hunter for a living (pretty much every new player complains about that series controls).
For starters, it never feels super valuable in the on-rails sections. I rarely felt like it was better than 64 style aiming. There were very few things that needed it to hit them. It helps, but usually doesn't feel necessary. I think they could have implemented more things to make it worth using in these sections.
It is certainly more valuable in all range mode, as you can actually do strafing runs (where it's most useful). I think the reason for so many all range sections is because it's more useful here. Unfortunately, only the spiders and satellite lasers really require it.
Something that bugs me is when you change your direction while flying, it actually manipulates the position of the cursor on the gamepad. This occurs in both all range and on-rails modes. What happens, is that the game pad's main view angle is still straight ahead relative to the tv screen, but the gamepad cursor moves with the arwing’s direction. There can be up to a 30 degree difference between these directions. It makes it harder to aim with the gyro while you do anything but move in a straight line. As a result, you have to overcompensate with the gyro when you turn. Alternatively, just continue moving in a steady direction while you aim, which makes you a sitting duck.
Next, when using the walker or landmaster, moving the gamepad causes the tv camera to move, while your vehicle's movement remains as though the camera were directly behind it. I found myself constantly looking at the gamepad to aim, then glancing at the main screen and thinking, "I'm not going quite the right direction, I need to turn" when I didn't need to turn, which would also move the gamepad cursor, and I'd keep over correcting as I switch between both views thinking one of them is wrong. The main screen doesn’t need to move side-to-side a bunch.
Another thing is, why is there a bounding box on the gamepad screen for the cursor? If I’m moving the gamepad to aim, why does the cursor have to move before the view moves? Splatoon doesn’t do that, any turret game I’ve played doesn’t do that, dual analog shooters don’t do that, so why does this game do that? I can understand when aiming with something like the wiimote, as you are pointing at different parts of the screen. It makes sense that the cursor would move to that part of the screen, but when I am actually moving the screen itself to aim, there’s no need for the cursor to move on the screen.
The cursor and gamepad view should be constrained together more, like it logically would as a turret gun. What I would do to the aiming is at least make the cursor on the gamepad stay in the center when using gyro controls. It would follow the arwing if you disable the gyro aiming.
Next, in the on-rails sections, cursor/gamepad view would not be affected by the turning of the arwing, only its position on the screen. This is how the aiming works for co-op rail play, so I don’t know why they felt the need to make it different for single player.
In all range mode, they would at least be tied to the yaw of the aircraft, as you can be going any direction tangential to the planet (or whatever qualifies as the floor in outer space). I personally wouldn’t have it affected by the pitch of the aircraft, though a toggle for that in settings would be welcome.
The above complaints are my main problems with the gyro aiming. It is fundamentally simple, but mechanically complex. If I could see a reason for it to be designed this way, I wouldn’t be so down on it, but I see no reason it couldn’t have been simplified. It feels like all they did with this method is raise both the skill ceiling and the skill floor, without giving a benefit to compensate..
Also regarding the cursor, a center point would be nice to help decide where exactly I'm targeting. Not a huge deal really, but I would have liked it. Maybe a small cursor change when my cursor is actually over an enemy on both screens so I have a better idea on whether or not I'm directly on an enemy. Especially on the main screen since it’s very inaccurate to aim from there.
Next, I vehemently disagree with left and right on the R stick being turn/tilt/barrel roll for all vehicles except the gyrowing. Having to double tap it to roll makes it sloppy, as accidentally not letting it go back to center before the second tap will cause you not roll, and take damage. I would have relegated this control to the L and R buttons, similar to previous games.
I believe there are many benefits to this. First, veterans wouldn't have to retrain their instincts while learning how the gyro aim works. Secondly, rolling would be snappier. Thirdly, it would make it easier to tilt/turn while fully boosting, braking, or hovering. In its place on the R stick should have been the somersault and u turn maneuvers.
Regarding the target lock, I dislike when it locks for me and I can't disable it. While there are moments where it is useful, I usually wouldn't use it, so it's annoying when I can’t disable it.
The gyrowing also needs up/down on the R stick reversed. In every other vehicle, you use down on one of the control sticks to either angle up or hover. The gyrowing is the sole vehicle to buck this trend. While normally not an issue due to the slow nature of its levels, it becomes problematic in the heat of the moment.
Some other, minor nitpicks:
-Recall direct-I faster in the gyrowing
-Be able to fully move upon recalling the direct-i (not just ascend/descend) instead of having to wait for the full animation
-Landmaster charge shot lock on faster (not useful to lock onto multiple enemies due to how slow it is), maybe have it fire slightly faster too
-add a minimap for all range mode
I think the fundamental ideas are good. Multiple different vehicles to use, and gamepad gyro to aim so you can shoot independently of your movement direction. The problem is heavily on the execution. Sure you can learn how it works and adjust for it, but by the time people who dislike the controls get to the point where it starts to feel natural, you’ve already completed all the levels at least once, and might feel done with it.
The level design isn’t super interesting. Lots of all range mode that don’t feel very different from each other. On rails sections are short and few. Couple gems, but on the whole it certainly isn’t amazing.
This is an arcade style game, so the controls should be easy to learn, with the levels being difficult to master. That’s not what I got. Which makes me really sad to say.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I think it’s terrible. I’m not saying it’s great, but it certainly isn’t unforgivable. I’m not sure I can give it a numerical score, as my opinion varies a bit depending on how generous I’m feeling. Overall, it just feels “Meh”. I think the controls could have been designed better, the levels could have been more interesting, and it could have overall spent more time in the oven. Feels surprisingly unpolished for a Nintendo game. If you really need a Star Fox fix, it will help, but it’s no game changer.
I really wanted to love this game, but I didn't, which is perhaps the most depressing thing of all.