Star Fox Zero is a collaboration between Nintendo EPD, who laid the game design groundwork, and PlatinumGames who lend their action game expertise and quick turnaround ability to build out the game. It is presented as a retelling of the original Star Fox 64-story, a reimagining with a new take on the gameplay covering familiar locations as well as new ones but entirely new missions.
The game uses both the Wii U GamePad screen and the TV screen to present different viewpoints to the player, allowing them to steer and shoot independently. The Arwing can now transform into a ground mech unit that resembles a chicken called the Walker. The Landmaster tank from Star Fox 64 returns and can transform into a shuttle called the Gravmaster until the boost meter is drained. A new vehicle, the Gyrocopter which can dispatch a remote controlled robot, called the Direct-i, to hack panels and reach narrow passages to grab collectibles, makes its debut in the game.
Players experience the new take on the Star Fox 64-story and determine their route through the star system by how they perform on any given mission. Medals can be collected and earned to unlock additional missions.
The entire campaign can be played cooperatively with two local players. It's an asymmetric co-op setup which has one player steering the vehicle with either a Wii U Pro Controller or a Wii Remote + Nunchuk while the other player uses the Wii U GamePad to shoot.
This mode doubles as a challenge mode with tutorial-stages for all vehicles that can then be played to compete for high scores with additional challenges unlocking after certain conditions are met.
In Arcade Mode it's all about speed and scores. This mode hearkens back to classic Star Fox games. All scores are tracked for all possible routes individually and can be shared via Miiverse.
Both the Fox McCloud and Falco Lombardi amiibo figures from the Super Smash Bros. Collection are supported in Star Fox Zero.
The Fox amiibo enables a retro mode that turns the Arwing into the original polygonal model from the Star Fox on the SNES and also replaces all the sound effects and music with the counterparts from the original.
The Falco amiibo unlocks the Black Arwing which can lock onto two targets at once, has a faster charge rate and deals three times the amount of damage but also takes the same amount of incoming damage so it is perfect for players seeking an extra challenge.
Both of these special conditions can be unlocked in the game without amiibo after gaining a certain amount of medals.
Star Fox Zero was first shown off in prototype form at E3 2014 behind closed doors to select press and was not shown at Nintendo's Digital Event. It was properly unveiled at E3 2015 in playable form with a final title. It was then also announced that PlatinumGames was co-developing the game. Originally set for a Holiday 2015 release, Shigeru Miyamoto announced a delay to Q1 2016 in September 2015, explaining that they could ship the game on time but feel they need to add more polish and make the appeal of the two-screen design clearer for players.