Review by brutusmuktuk
"The beginning of Rare's downfall"
Star Fox Adventures marks Rare's downfall. The N64 holds their most memorable library of games, such as the Banjo Kazooie series and Jet Force Gemini. Their two first person shooters, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark still rank among the top in the genre EA is still attempting to make a Bond game that even equals Rare's masterpiece. Conker's Bad Fur Day marked the N64's and, so far, Rare's last great game. As the generation of consoles moves ahead, Rare gets stuck behind, and Star Fox Adventures highlights this. For those who loved their games in the past, do we still care about Rare?
Boy oh boy. I have nothing but fond memories of Rare's great writing for Conker's Bad Fur Day. With that said, I have to wonder what happened to the personality, the comic precision, the charm even, that Rare put into their dialogue. You'll cringe at the formulaic, plot-driven dialogue and gag at the sad attempts to make the gamer laugh. The story never engages the gamer to begin with and only gets worse as it moves on.
The story begins with two interweaving storylines, one with Fox, and one with newcomer Krystal a sexy purple fox who stirred the imaginations of many a Rare fanboy. Fox crashes his ship into a planet, which serves as the home of the majority of the gameplay. Krystal is attacked and falls onto a temple, where eventually she is imprisoned of course for Fox to rescue her later. Fox maneuvers around some puzzles and eventually meets up with some Triceratops people. Now see, this game was originally supposed to be called Dinosaur Planet, and not even have Star Fox in the game, but Rare and Nintendo mixed things up a little. So yea, this world is inhabited by dinosaur people, and obviously the predators are the villains, and the rest are good guys.
Fox talks with these people, saying he needs fuel for his ship, but this turns out to be quite an endeavor he doesn't expect. First of all, to my surprise, the dinosaurs do speak a different language, and one Rare made up for the game. I'm only saying to my surprise, because too often games and even movies just have the aliens speak English. After hearing a translation of what the Queen dinosaur says, Fox learns he must rescue her son, Tricky, before learning about the world and getting fuel for his ship.
Now, Tricky serves as the single most annoying character in the game. Usually when a character talks a lot, they are annoying, and Tricky proves that. Not only does Tricky talk too much, but the voice used for him is also annoying, serving as a very bad combination. Worst of all, Tricky ends up following you for the majority of the game as a partner. Fox, the other major character, is like any other generic hero a do-gooder and just plain boring. I wanted a character with some personality as the hero, but got just a face and a name Fox McCloud.
At the time Star Fox Adventures came out, many other games had already mocked or were about to mock Nintendo's Zelda 64 games. Another game in particular that comes to mind is Beyond Good and Evil, but at least that game felt original. SFA mimics the 3D Zelda games with everything from button-mapping items to the dungeon crawling aspects. The only thing it forgets is making the game fun to play. Everything from puzzle solving to combat is included, but none of it is very interesting.
Toward the beginning of the game, Fox finds a staff and uses that as a weapon. Like in Zelda, combat consists of locking on to an enemy, blocking, and attacking. It's button mash central where pounding the attack button soon after the enemy grows bored of attacking you is priority number one. There's no real strategy to fighting enemies, and they have too much life to just blow by them, so you'll find yourself growing bored with the mundane task of fighting simple enemies that take too long to die. There's not that much combat, like there is in Vexx, which has the same problem, so it's not such a bother. I just wish Rare did something more interesting with the enemies, like Nintendo does with the enemies in Zelda games.
Then there's the problem with the game's puzzles. They're easy. That's a real problem as far as I can tell. All of them have obvious solutions, and some with obvious solutions are tedious in how long it takes to actually complete them. The rather dull items you get are what are usually used to solve and complete puzzles. You also use your good bud, Tricky, to help you out when needed as well. He has different abilities to use, fueled by food you collect. Sometimes you know exactly what to do with him, and sometimes you find yourself cycling through his powers in order to figure out what you need to do. Rare forgot to include an aspect dealing with Tricky whenever you cross large chasms with or without his help, and leave him on the other side, well, you'd think you'd need to figure out a way to bring him over with you, but as you run along he pops up at your side when he has absolutely no way to make it across the pit. This is one detail that separates Rare's game from Nintendo's Zelda games in Zelda games you would need to figure out a way to bring Tricky across the chasm.
Exploration is a big part of this game. To be honest, I like exploration, and at times, exploring SFA's world was pretty fun to do. I've always enjoyed, for example, in Zelda games, exploring the large worlds just for the sake of finding secrets that aren't part of the main game. In SFA, I enjoyed doing that as well. The problem comes when you have a goal for exploring. Usually these goals involve searching for collectible items. I'm sure you all dread the word collectibles by now, and, yes, SFA has plenty of them. The only problem with collectibles is seeking them out in the large, complex worlds where skipping over areas that house these items is very easy to do. Perhaps those of you who recall Jet Force Gemini will recall your frustration when you had to find only one more tribal in the area, and you swear you searched everywhere, but still couldn't find him. That happens often in SFA.
It might not be too much of a surprise to hear that SFA so closely mimics a winning formula. Rare has, historically, mimicked tried and true formulas: Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 closely follow the Super Mario 64 formula, yet they add their own flair to help them rise above being a mere clone. Even Jet Force Gemini felt very similar to other games out there, mixing shooting elements with fetch quests. I wonder if Rare has realized some of their greatest games are their most original games: Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, and Conker. Even Blast Corps, a very original game, was fun to play. SFA's close resemblance to the Zelda 64 series greatly detracts from its quality.
Rare has always done a great job with visuals. They found some neat tricks with the graphics code in the SNES in order to create the nice graphics for the Donkey Kong Country series. Along the lifespan of the N64 they found ways to continue to make the graphics better and better. The difference from Goldeneye to Perfect Dark was astounding, with improvements in lighting and character animation. Then Conker came out and boasted, arguably of course, the system's greatest visuals.
So what should we expect from SFA but nice visuals? With the power of the GameCube backing it, of course, the work is much better than that of the N64 games, but even today SFA betters the visuals of most other games for the system, with some exceptions such as the Resident Evil and Metroid Prime games. Textures are well done, water looks nice, Fox has some fuzzy looking fur, and so on and so forth. The graphics aren't quite as fun as in Rare's previous games, but they're still something to marvel at.
There's not much to say about the sound except that it's annoying. The music is terrible, the voice acting will induce cringes, and nothing else is worth mentioning. Some of the music isn't that bad, but after hearing the tune to the beginning village so many times, you will hate it. After hearing Tricky's annoying, high-pitched voice speak over and over again, you will cherish the moments he leaves you. An important part of video games is the aural part, and Rare screwed that one up.
Rare throws in a twist at the end, which may or may not be worth it, but some people may enjoy it. I enjoyed it, but it's still debatable whether it was worth playing the whole game for that twist. I say no, this is a tedious experience of a game, with some enjoyment, but not enough to warrant a play through. It's not a terribly long game, being in the 15-hour range, but I don't think too many of you will find it worth your time to play it even that long. So I just suggest avoiding it, even if you're looking for a game to fill up time while you wait for the next Zelda.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 01/16/06
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