Star Fox Adventures

Star Fox Adventures

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 10/13/2002 for GC  

When you think of Dinosaurs what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If you said Foxes and Toads then you’ve probably been hiding under a rock, or perhaps you just work for Rare or Nintendo. The Star Fox universe initially had nothing to do with this title, Dinosaur Planet began life as an entirely unique franchise that had no ties to Nintendo’s money making franchises. Suddenly, the big N stepped in and decided to implant their beloved Fox into the fray and thus Star Fox Adventures was born.

Starting out as just simply Dinosaur Planet, Nintendo came up with the brilliant idea of infusing its Star Fox characters into the foray and arriving at a title known as Star Fox Adventures. Placing the beloved franchise into the hands of a more than capable developer, Nintendo looked to have a surefire hit on their hands. I mean, you’ve got Star Fox and Rare, that’s an un-beatable combination on any given day. But for some reason, this game just feels to be a bit lacking in most departments and the end result is an above average platformer that just barely surpasses expectations.

Being that this is Rare’s last Nintendo produced title they obviously wanted to go out with a bang. That means this title features some of the niftiest that the GameCube is capable of. You’ll get Dolby Pro Logic II rendered sound streams and the option to play the game on progressive scan mode. I had the pleasure of testing this on my friend’s high-priced television. The image is like no other, coming in crystal clear and more beautifully than I could have imagined. Having a nice Pro Logic II setup really helps you get into the game too. This is definitely one of the better looking and sounding GameCube games on the market. If you need a good comparison of just how far Fox has evolved I suggest you compare this model to the one that appeared in Smash Bros. Melee. The rest of the world is equally as beautiful, shimmering ponds, real-time lighting and beautifully mapped terrain litter this gorgeous title. Star Fox Adventures is easily one of the most beautiful and technologically advanced titles available for the GameCube.

Initially developed for the defunct Nintendo 64 console, Star Fox Dinosaur Planet went through a development cycle that rivaled that of the PC debacle Daikatana. When the game was first announced it came amidst great fanfare and excitement. It had the gaming community abuzz and the momentum was just massive. Facing numerous delays and miscues, the title eventually fell off of the N64 release charts and on to the GameCube waiting lists. The delays were so bad that it eventually fell off of the radars of fans as they searched for a viable alternative. This September, the title finally saw the light of day as it hit retail stores nationwide but would gamers be willing to forgive the long development cycle and the delays and perhaps more importantly, would it really be worth the wait? I can’t speak on behalf of gamers the world over but if you ask me, StarFox Adventures is a huge disappointment that doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre. It’s not that SFA isn’t a good game, I was just expecting it to wow me and knock me off my feet but sadly it fails to do so. Sure I had high expectations coming in, but would you really expect anything less from a developer like Rare?
If there ever were a game where the hero seemed to be most out of place, this would be it. SFA gives new definition to the term ‘fish out of water’ because absolutely nothing in the game bears a relation to our protagonist except the sidekicks and the interchangeable villains. This is a title where the main character was implanted as an afterthought and it’s definitely noticeable from the start. You begin the game in control of not Fox McCloud, but rather a female character who is being chased by the forces of evil. As the story progresses, her character somehow becomes intertwined with that of Fox McCloud’s but not out of sheer genius, but rather out of sheer necessity.

The entire game seems to be facing an identity crisis, you’ll be wading through environments that obviously have no relation to Fox and his cohorts. Sure you can say that this is a change to the franchise but you just don’t do that in this day and age. Would it make sense to all of a sudden place Mario into the midst of a fairy-tale land full of wizards and dragons? In essence, this is what Rare and Nintendo have done and instead of giving Mario a Sword and shield, they’ve given Fox a staff that is capable of releasing magical powers. When I think of Star Fox images of the Arwing and Fox’s blaster to come to mind and although the Arwing is indeed present in SFA it’s been reduced to mini-game status.

Speaking of mini-games, this game often feels like one. Whether it’s an odd shooting game or sledding down the side of a mountain, the game features a few breaks in the action that really disrupt the flow of the game. Thankfully most of these mini-games are fun and intuitive but I would have really appreciated had the game been strictly kept as a 3D Adventure game, not Star Fox Party.

Earlier in the review I made mention to the staff that Fox wields throughout the course of the game. Longtime fans will probably be wondering as to the whereabouts of Fox’s blaster and you’ll be happy to know that it’s present, it’s just that Fox isn’t allowed to use it. The reason? He’s not supposed to be hostile to the environment and inhabitants of Dinosaur Planet and there are a few technological concerns. (Of course this doesn’t stop him from landing his Arwing right in the middle of the planet, but who said videogames had to follow logic?) So what does he do? He picks up a staff and decides to bonk them over the head and flambé them to tiny bits and pieces instead.

To be fair, the combat system is absolutely excellent. The screen changes to a wide-screen format and the game auto-targets Fox to the nearest enemy. What happens is the game essentially turns into a 3D fighting game in that you’re always facing your opponent and you can move freely in 3D space. Pressing different directions will yield different attacks that you will need to string together into a chain of combos. What’s sweet is that the action will freeze every time you make contact, giving the action a really cinematic effect. I personally thought it was awesome and just could not get enough of the game’s combat. Thankfully there’s action in the game and plenty of it.
Some of the puzzles are fairly intuitive and make full usage of Fox’s newly gained abilities. For instance, early on in the game you’ll acquire the fire ability. Then a tutorial will teach you to use it on the fire symbols to unlock doors and passages. Afterwards, you’ll need to keep a keen eye out for the symbols in order to progress through the game. This is the right way to pace the game, not make the gamer search for keys but rather give them new abilities that will allow them to proceed. Not only will they have a new power to mess around with but they’ll also be able to move on to a whole new area. There are a few problems though, as intuitive as these may be, they’re few and far between. Often times they are sandwiched by those truly horrendous ‘item hunting’ puzzles that we have come to associate with Rare designed games.

Speaking of progress, you’ll be doing a whole lot of it in this game. In today’s market where the games seem to end far too soon, SFA manages to give you a good 20+ hours of gameplay. This is great for those who are tired of games that seem to end in a weekend and for people who want to keep their children occupied for a long amount of time. It’ll take a good week or two of solid playing time in order to get through this one, and that’s considering you’ve got a firm grasp of the game. As long as this game may be it’s entirely un-necessary. Chances are by the time you reach the 10th or 15th hour you’ll be begging for it to end. Though the game really begins to pick up at the end, the middle portion really slows down to a stand still. The boss battles are excellent as are most of the Arwing sequences but the object hunting really brings this one down.

As you progress through the game you’ll start to run into more and more “Go to area A and search for X amount of items and bring them back” sorts of tasks. It starts to get really old and tiresome pretty quickly, I’m playing Star Fox Adventures, not Star Fox Crazy Easter Egg Hunt Adventure. The control scheme is also quite odd, borrowing heavily from that of Zelda’s. It’s fine in Zelda and all but the inability to jump really hampered my experience. Jumping can only occur in areas where the game dictates you can. This leads to artificial sidetracking that could be prevented had the player been given the ability to manually control their jumping. Cliffs that look like they can be reached are un-reachable due to this form of artificial puzzle creation.

Then there’s that whole redundancy thing, if you like repetitive action then this game is definitely your bag. Half of the time you play this game will be spent hunting around for four objects in a relatively large area. They’re not really puzzles or anything, they’re more akin to those scavenger hunts that you used to participate in during elementary school.

Star Fox Adventures is a hard game to judge. In retrospect, it features some of the best combat and action in an adventure game in some time. However, the more and more I think about this game the more and more the bitter taste of those annoying “puzzles” keep popping up in my mind. There are quite a few flaws that prevent this one from reaching gaming excellency but it’s a good enough game to hold people over until Nintendo’s next big release. It’s not a must-have title though and if you have the patience, I suggest you wait for the release of Zelda early on next year.
Rare’s last Nintendo commissioned title is a beautiful romp through a foreign world that is full of action and surprises. However, it’s hampered by a plot that seems to be too far off the mark and gameplay that is awfully redundant.

Rating: 8.6 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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