Review by Tenshi No Shi
"Watch it Fox! You're in danger of doing tedious fetch quests!"
It's been a long time since I last went on a mission with Team Star Fox- too long in fact. A lot has happened since the Nintendo 64 days. Those were simpler, Rumble Pak-introducing times; times when all a man (er...fox as it were) had to worry about was maneuvering his ship or submarine through various levels, blasting everything in sight. Now it's a new generation and progress demands a new, different adventure. Enter Rare's last Nintendo console title Star Fox Adventures. For those of you not in the know, Star Fox Adventures started off as a Nintendo 64 game by the name of Dinosaur Planet, having nothing at all to do with Star Fox. Comments were made, new consoles introduced and a different game was born from the ashes of the old. Why is all of this relevant? Read on to see.
In Star Fox Adventures, you play as (surprise) Fox McCloud as he and the rest of the Fox Team are sent on a mission to save Dinosaur Planet from an evil dictator, General Scales. Though you begin the game as Krystal, a female fox who has come to the aid of the inhabitants of Dinosaur Planet, she is captured and it is up to Fox to rescue her, with the use of her own magically endowed staff, and heal the torn lands (literally) of the planet. An interesting story that isn't without a few surprises, Star Fox Adventure's only fault in the execution of it's plot is the amount of useless, non-relevant information that you are bombarded with throughout the course of the game. Not some of Rare's finest work, but considering they had to integrate the Star Fox license into an already existing and nearly finished product, it didn't turn out too bad either.
I find myself in a turmoil of mixed emotions when I am confronted with the task of attempting to describe my feelings of Star Fox Adventure graphical prowess. On one hand, we see some absolute stunning textures and eye-candy wizardry- everything from the detail of the grass to the fur on Fox's body looks as real as I've seen on a video game. So too are the character models impressive; looking every bit as polished and seamless as the 'skins' that cover them. On the other hand, a lot of the environmental textures are rather bland, looking for all the world to be high-res Nintendo 64 samples. To add to that, the polygon count for many of the levels seems a little on the skimpy side, giving much of the game a 'blocky' feel. Here we see the first bit of evidence that this game began its life on Nintendo's dying 64-bit console.
Audio-wise, Star Fox Adventures suffers from the same problems as the graphics. You can really tell that a lot of the sound samples (and indeed the entire principal behind the sound itself) started off with the limiting cartridge format in mind. Everything from the shopkeeper's generic 'You pay this much' (then he shows you the amount on a scroll) to Prince Tricky's almost Navi-like limited bag-o-speech ('What's this?' and 'Let's play!' are heard far too many times). That's not to say all of the game's speech is limited as there are a few characters that do quite a bit of talking, but the Nintendo 64 roots still show. The music, on the other hand, probably represents some of Rare's best work to date. There are more than a few memorable tunes that have stuck in my head even weeks after I stopped playing, which says quite a bit of someone who plays a new game every couple of days.
I've seen many an argument break out over fans pointing out parallels between Star Fox Adventures and either of the Zeldas on the N64, most of these drawing comparisons to the controls. Though there are those who will vehemently argue to their very death that Star Fox Adventures controls nothing like Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, in reality they all play very much alike. Take, for example, the ability to freely map a button to any item in your inventory. Or perhaps you'd rather like to know that the auto-jump from Link's 3D adventures is back for Fox's use. Maybe it will comfort you to see the Z-Targeting system, though improved upon with an auto lock-on feature, back in form. There's no denying Rare used Zelda as a template and then tried to improve upon it as best they could. The innovative use of the 'C' stick to control your inventory without need for pausing the game is testament to that. Overall, a well-rounded control scheme that suits the game perfectly.
The problem is, when you get down to the very basic design of Star Fox Adventures, it's too much Banjo-Kazooie and not enough Ocarina of Time. Let me explain in greater detail before you start firing off the hate mail. In a game like Banjo- Kazooie (or, more recently, Donkey Kong 64 if you like), you are essentially on a fetch quest- you spend the entire game specifically looking for a set number of items to progress to the next level. In a game like Ocarina of Time, you look for items to progress as well, but the differences are you can do other things (side-quests) so you don't feel like you have to find an item to proceed. It's all about being subtle, which Rare's latest game lacks. In other words, you generally don't realize that you need an item until you actually get it in a Zelda game, whereas in Star Fox Adventures, you are told, point-blank, you need a certain item in order to move the story along and you can't do anything else until you get that item. Which, as you can well imagine, makes for a rather linear 'adventure'. At this juncture in the review, I don't think I need to elaborate any further on the mistakes Rare made in further reworking this game from its Nintendo 64 origins.
If the Nintendo-Rare split hadn't been announced before Star Fox Adventures' release, the so-called 'bonuses' would have been a clear indication that Rare just didn't give a damn about the game. You can collect six cheat tokens through the course of your adventure that you must then take to a well hidden within the depths of a rather small maze. Dropping these tokens into said well will activate 'cheats' which range from a couple of simple menu options to nearly worthless cryptic fortunes (such as the prophetic "There is sorrow ahead. A close friend does not have much time left. It will be hard to accept but you will grow.") A sad effort considering Rare is usually known for a virtual treasure trove of secrets.
Should you buy Star Fox Adventures? If you are a fan of either the Star Fox series or a follower of Rare, you'll probably enjoy the game despite its flaws. However, fans of Zelda looking for a 'fix' before Wind Waker's release might by a little disappointed in this 'copy-n-paste' adventure which borrows, sometimes poorly, from the best of both Nintendo and Rare's extensive library of titles. Being a fan of Star Fox, Rare and Zelda, I found Star Fox Adventures to be enjoyable...but just barely.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 09/17/09
Game Release: Star Fox Adventures (US, 09/23/02)
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