In many respects Star Fox Zero is a loving tribute and reimagination of Star Fox 64, yet it takes a different approach to unlocking stages. It starts off relatively linear, in a first run-through of the story, and then it's time to play through once again. As you unlock new transformations and vehicles new options emerge, yet in theory you can replay unlocked levels in any order you want. It's the Arcade mode that has the 'classic' route-based approach, yet it's worth working through the Story mode to unlock all of the stages.
There are a few ways to do this, so we've put together what we think is a logical route to unlocking every stage in the game. After the initial run you'll have the freedom to approach things in a different order, of course, though we've tried to lay out a roadmap (spacemap?) to triggering the events you need to make progress. It also goes without saying that you should also always endeavour to earn medals in stages, as these will unlock extras in Training mode.
So, below is our recommended path to unlocking all levels, with videos showing the key moments. Even if your route and level order diverge from this, it'll still show you how to access all of the extra stages.
Corneria - Enter Star Fox
The iconic opening stage, which will be familiar to many already having seen video demonstrations and marketing from Nintendo. Due to the lack of initial abilities there are no hidden routes to exploit here yet, just one way to fight through the city and then take down a series of foes by General Pepper's tower.
Sector Alpha - Frenzied Firefight
As the name suggests this is a level that steps up the intensity a little as you take the fight to space. The goal in the first section is to destroy the large enemy gunships before they attack allies, which is a tough ask first time around, at least.
As you transition into the second phase you unlock the Arwing's transformation, the Walker. As with Corneria, outside of hunting for medals and power-ups / rings this is a linear stage to progress the story while giving you a new ability.
Area 3 - The Key to Victory
This is a stage that was shown off a lot during E3 2015 and at expos, as you battle enemies outside the station before engaging in a dogfight with Pigma Dengar.
Phase 2 shifts you inside the station. After heading into an underground area and fighting your way through in the Walker form you get access to the Gyrowing and Direct-i for the first time. It's a relatively simple introduction to the drone-like device (which is a good thing), and you eventually learn how to hack and (after a neat sequence with a giant robot which you can discover for yourself) you progress through a scripted path to the next stage.
Zoness - Covert Ops
Still in the Gyrowing, this is another stage shown off a great deal by the Treehouse during E3 2015. You work your way through an enemy base while trying to avoid spotlights. It's a very methodical stage in which you carefully take out foes, learn how to pick up and drop bombs and destroy two shield generators. There are silver coins to get for a medal and avoiding detection is a good idea, and when reaching the large main area we recommend taking out the left generator first, just for the purpose of giving the stage's narrative a little more drama.
Sector Beta - Reunited with a Friend
Easily the most dramatic stage of the game yet, this is a multi-stage battle in space in which you take out multiple enemy gunships first of all. After an initial four are down a 'boss' ship of sorts will appear after some scripted moments. To get past the shield here you wait for it to fire its cannons and manoeuvre through the gap. Once inside head to the back of the ship and land on it by transforming into the Walker - hack your way in, destroy the core and get out of there quickly by hovering back to the top, transforming into the Arwing and hitting the boost! We suspect you'll enjoy this moment.
It's here, also, that we have our first branching path, believe it or not. Another dogfight ensues and the Star Wolf gang shows up.The key moment is when Wolf O'-Donnell appears. Most players, at this stage of learning the game, will see an event that takes them to Titania. If you play well and destroy Wolf quickly, however, you'll go to Fortuna.
If you end up at Fortuna then skip to that below BUT come back here after you see the credits roll for the first time, replay the level and avoid defeating Wolf. If you end up on Titania then that's handy, as it gives your first run more stages, drama and - most importantly - unlocks.
Titania - A Fox in the Desert
This is a stage much shown in trailers, mainly because it's the first showcase for the Landmaster. You'll have to put the hover and barrel roll abilities to work here, in addition to the option to lock on to multiple enemies with one charge shot / missiles.
At the end of this stage is a particularly tricky boss fight that we'll cover in detail in a separate guide. Suffice to say it may take a few attempts for some players, but stay patient, learn the patterns and be persistent. One of the game's trickier bosses, but also one of the most thrilling to defeat. In any case, clearing this stage has given you the first taste of the Landmaster.
Sector Gamma - Copperhead Chaos
This is the modern recreation of the classic level in which you destroy large missiles, except in this case they're heading for a portal to take out Cornerian forces (these portals remain a key part of the plot). Your task is to destroy three missiles in total, and naturally it makes sense to take them out order. First port of call for each is to shoot the weak-point / turret rotating around the back section, and then the multiple points in the middle. After this the rocket speeds up, so stay close and shoot the multiple rotating weak points and then get out of the way - the missile's explosion can damage you.
At two points in this stage new weapons will come in towards Great Fox. If you destroy these before they reach the ship it's easier, otherwise small bots deploy and attack it. It's all very frantic, but keep your cool and don't feel bad about failed attempts.
Fichina - Frostbitten Fray
You start this stage in the air and can trigger another Star Wolf dogfight, before eventually switching to the Landmaster. The key here is that you unlock the Gravmaster, the transformation that gives you the temporary ability to fly. The game introduces you to crab / spider (?) enemies that switch their weakspot from below to above, encouraging you to get used to switching from the ground to the air.
After tussling with a lot of enemies a cutscene triggers to a major boss fight. This one's pretty darn difficult and will be covered in our guide. To give some simple tips here you need to be quick in attacks and, when flying and attacking the top side, get out quickly when it begins its recovery.
In any case, victory means clearing the stage and, most importantly, unlocking the Gravmaster transformation for future use.
Sector Omega - Blasting Through
One of the most fun levels of the game, in this stage your Arwing goes to maximum speed and you rattle through a linear route at a breakneck pace. If you die a few times simply from hitting obstacles don't feel too bad about it. A couple of branching paths don't affect the ultimate outcome, so just enjoy the ride.
After this crazy sequence you come up against a classic foe, which we'll let you discover in the game or our upcoming Boss guide. In any case, this stage is one of the best in the game.
Corneria - Hidden Plans
Here's where the story takes a twist and you're back on Corneria (it makes sense in the game), which is pretty much the same route as the first level but at dusk and with the difficulty ramped up.
When you reach the tower you have a conventional battle and then a tricky boss encounter. Progression through that then takes you to the final showdown.
Venom - The Final Battle
As the name suggests, this is the final stage in the storyline if not the actual game. We're going to try and stay spoiler free here, but will say it comes in three stages. Stage one first necessitates you using the Walker to weaken the main shield on Venom, done so with an access area near the portal / shield itself. Then get ready for some dogfighting...
The second area requires you to pick the right paths in a linear tunnel. The game eventually shows you the right way, but if you want an extra medal then you need to go LEFT, RIGHT, RIGHT, LEFT.
Then it's the final showdown. We'll avoid spoilers outside of our Boss Guide.
If you've followed this so far then you'll see the credits, congratulations! There's more to do, however, and you may have also seen portals popping up on the overview map - don't worry, we've not been ignoring them. The following are the methods to unlock extra stages, so let's break it down.
First of all, go back to Sector Beta and clear get the alternative route outlined in our entry for that level. Assuming you now clear it by defeating Wolf, you unlock a key 'main' level. It's important to do this as it serves as a future trigger point for more stage variations and unlocks.
Fortuna - Dangerous Skies
A heavily stylised and tricky level, this is a natural planet that can actually be rather tricky and cause a few deaths. There are a lot of enemies that require precise aiming on the GamePad, and it's one of the most chaotic auto-scrolling stages.
The boss here is a mechanical Phoenix thing and is a pain in the backside. We'll cover it in our guide but, ultimately, you just have to do it. Its weak points are clear, but it's a nuisance.
After clearing Fortuna we actually carried on and played through Sector Omega and the finale again, this isn't strictly necessary but can be fun.
Corneria - Enter Star Fox Portal
When playing this level again you approach an area where Bill informs you he's heading to the coast, and you see his ship pass in front of you. Transform into the Walker when over land and you can see blast doors - there's a touch panel on the right side of the ground, so make sure you run over it and into the opened tunnel. When you emerge you need to shoot crab / spider enemies off Bill's ship. In the video below Alex does this in his Walker form to show off, but it's perhaps easier to transform into the Arwing to do this.
When you've done this the cutscene triggers, well done!
Aquarosa - Floating Target
This boss is surprisingly difficult, courtesy of weapon dishes that fire multiple deadly beams. Don't be surprised if you die a few times here, just make good use of the GamePad aiming and stay away when the bosses' shield comes up.
In any case, victory unlocks two new paths to old levels, but with a twist...
Zoness - Sneak Attack
Your first time on Zoness was with the Gyrowing, yet now you're tackling it with the Arwing / Walker, and with a 7 minute limit! This is a tricky but fun alternative take on the stage.
Now, you need to defeat Aquarosa again to access the second optional route.
Area 3 - Chaos at the Colony
This is a particularly cool variation, as you find yourself rattling through an auto-scrolling Arwing stage inside the base. It's intense and tricky, especially sections in narrow corridors. It's also worth noting that while Andrew from Star Wolf is flying around in front of you he can't be hit, so don't even bother trying. Focus on the enemies actually doing you harm!
Clearing this stage actually triggers a little remix of the story, with General Pepper summoning you to the front-lines - you set of with Great Fox to do so.
An inclusion that's great for nostalgia, it's just you and Great Fox heading into an asteroid field. Initially you're just shooting a path, but eventually more enemies appear and it heats up.
By now you should have 'Star Wolf events' on the map, at the very least there'll be one over Sector Alpha - Frenzied Firefight, so let's replay that level.
Initially you just play as normal, but towards the end of the first phase Pigma shows up and flies in front of you. Don't both shooting at him, just lock on with ZL to trigger a cutscene.
Wolfen - Meddlesome Mercs
This stage is a simple fight with Pigma and Andrew, though when you damage them enough they unleash special weapons against you. By now you should be a master of ZL targeting, so trust your instincts!
At this stage you should also have another 'Star Wolf event' on Fortuna - if not then skip ahead and come back once it appears. The ordering here is optional.
In any case, assuming the event is on the map head to Fortuna - Wolf shows up half-way through the first phase. It's the same deal as with Pigma, just lock on with ZL to trigger a cutscene.
After seeing off the Mercs you unlock a level rather similar to Asteroid Field - just you and Great Fox. This time around you're under sustained attack, and this level demands a lot of multi-tasking as you defend the ship. Rockets, asteroids, droids, Andross' forces throw everything at you. When the missiles containing drones are coming in try to hit them in advance, as otherwise it can be a gruelling time getting them off the hull of the Great Fox.
Just when you think you're done an old foe shows up - we won't spoil it here, but it will be in our Boss guide.
Hunter - Lone Wolf
Now this is a tricky fight. Wolf is on his own but his love of head-to-head shoot-outs is particularly troublesome. He also introduces a new charge move that can be avoided with somersaults. This is tough, and we recommend hitting him with bombs when he's static on the ground, for example, but can be done with practice.
In any case this leaves us with one more stage to get, and it's a beauty. For this you need to head back to Titania.
After fighting your way through much of the stage you'll see a portal in the sky to the right. When you see platforms with some high collectibles that's your cue to transform into the Gravmaster, as seen below. This only works if you cleared Titania previously.
Salvadora - Peppy's Fight
It's in the name. Just play it, we think you'll love this one.
That's it, we believe that's every stage in the main game. Let us know how you get on accessing all of these, and keep your eyes peeled for our guide on conquering the game's bosses.