Review by MalachiX
"A very Polished title that misses what's most important."
Perhaps I should start this review by explaining just how excited I was about Starfox Adventures. You see, like many Nintendo fans, I was disappointed by the new Zelda look. It appeared that the series would loose the epic feel that it had always had. Sure, I would later eat my words when I saw the game in motion but, at that time, I was looking for something to fill the void left by Zelda’s new art style. That something was Starfox Adventures. It looked to have everything I was hoping for: great graphics; gameplay based off Zelda: Ocarina of Time (the best game ever made); a variety of other gameplay styles such as the shooting levels, and a truly epic quest that spanned several planets. Simply put, I was more excited about Starfox Adventures than I was about any of the other big Gamecube titles like Super Mario Sunshine, Eternal Darkness, Metroid Prime, and especially Zelda: Wind Waker. It’s painfully ironic then that all those other games turned out to be so phenomenal and Starfox Adventures was such a disappointment.
SFA’s chief flaw is in its gameplay. When I first heard about the game, I was sure that this area would turn out fine. Rare had often been known from copying the gameplay of other titles to the letter and what better game to steal from than Ocarina of Time? Unfortunately, Rare decided to put some of their own trademarks into the mix (such as item hunting) and the result is that they have managed the impossible; they have somehow managed to suck the fun out of the classic Zelda gameplay.
The best way to describe SFA’s gameplay is, “it’s like Zelda, only linear!” Rather than being able to explore a large portion of the world from the start, the player can’t is set on a fairly linear path of where to go and what to get. Getting a new item opens up some new areas but not many. In fact, the only way to open up most of the game’s other areas is to fly to them on your ship. This usually can’t be done until you’ve beaten the previous dungeon. It’s as though they have taken the core gameplay of Zelda but manage to destroy the most important part; the exploration. Speaking of dungeons, they’re a mixed bag as well. Some aren’t bad. They may not have puzzles as deep or complex as those seen in Ocarina of Time or Majora’s mask but they are solid never the less. Unfortunately, other dungeons are nothing more than tedious collection fests (another unfortunate thing that Rare has become known for as of late).
The game’s combat leaves a lot to be desired as well. At first, it seems cool. Players lock on as in the N64 Zelda games and can perform different combos by holding the control stick in different directions while attacking. Unfortunately, it quickly gets tedious. Combos work very mechanically and players must do them over and over to kill even the weakest enemies. About a third of the way into the game, most players will likely start avoiding fights simply because they get so monotonous.
Perhaps the one interesting addition is Tricky, your dinosaur sidekick. Trick can search out usefully items as long as you keep him fed and also has several other skills. If you buy a ball, you can play fetch with him and, if you play with him for long enough, he’ll change color.
Oddly enough, the best thing about SFA’s gameplay is the minigames. As I mentioned before, each new planet must be flown to and this is accompanied by a shooter segment reminiscent of Starfox 64. These segments are quite fun and really makes me long for Namco’s upcoming Starfox game. At several points, the player ditches their space ship in favor of a flying pterodactyl and these points manage to capture the Panzer Dragoon feel quite nicely. Finally, there are several points in the game where the player races on a speeder bike, similar to the kind in Return of the Jedi. While these races are rather simply, they manage to be a whole lot of fun and welcome change from all the item hunting.
Graphically, SFA is one of the prettiest games around. The environments are stunning, with sharp textures and dozens of little details like leaves falling from the trees or Fox’s reflection in the water. Characters are quite impressive as well, all containing quite high polygon counts and excellent animation. Perhaps the most touted aspect of SFA’s graphics is the fur effects that cover each of the game’s fuzzy characters. Simply put, this effect looks great and I spent my fair share of time simply gazing at the characters. In fact, I spent a lot of time simply staring at SFA’s beautiful graphics. I’m ashamed to admit that a large part of the reason I keep SFA is because it’s one of the best games to show off the GC’s power.
The sound may not be quite as amazing but it’s still fairly strong. The voice acting is generally good with many characters talking in their own languages. The music fits most of the locations nicely and there are a few nice tunes in there. It may not be the type of game where you run out and buy the soundtrack but it’s very solid to say the least.
SFA’s story is adequate though nothing special. Eight years after Starfox 64, Fox and Co. come across a world called Dinosaur Planet that is being run by a tyrant named General Scales. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before but it’s involving enough to keep the players interested.
SFA will run you 10-20 hours depending how good you are at puzzle solving. There are a couple mini-quests scattered about but nothing that will take you very long. For some odd reason, the game also does not let you leave the final area. In other words, if you decide to beat the game, you won’t be able to go back and do any miniquests unless you have a second memory card and make a copy.
SFA is a lot like the movie Hannibal. Hannibal had a great cast, strong sound track, and an excellent director (Ridley Scott) who made sure the film looked gorgeous. Unfortunately, the script was lousy and the film, while entertaining, was a disappointment. SFA certainly has a lot of polish to it. It looks, sounds, and controls great. Unfortunately, like Hannibal, it simply isn’t satisfying. In the end, it’s kind of fitting that Starfox Adventures turned out how it did. I, along with many other Nintendo fans, was so worried about a game being “epic” and not “kiddy” that I totally forgot what’s important to a game. Now that Zelda: WW has been released, it’s even more clear why SFA falls short.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 04/05/03, Updated 04/05/03
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