Review by EJRICH
"Fox Better get Those Words Moving....."
Fox's main motto for the last couple of years has been Shoot first, ask questions later. What happens, though, when the only weapon to his name is a stick? He had better start working on those words of his
When my brother and I were little kids, he always had a special preference for anything Star Fox. The games, the toys, heck, even the comic book -- all ended up in his hands. Even though his obsession with it may border that of Spongebob, I actually don't mind. Star Fox is a character that people can relate to, big or small, because he actually shows what it means to be a down to earth cliched hero. Needless to say, Star Fox Adventures was the next title in line of his favorite series, so you can guess how much he had to have it. After waiting a couple of weeks for him to finish playing it, I decided to give it a go. I was literally dumfounded. Everything that I loved from Star Fox 64, the game play, the intense realism all were missing. In their place were shattered visages of the former glory that the series had obtained.
If I had to point a finger, it definitely wouldn't be at the story, though. Not only is it incredibly concrete, but it does a great job of doing exactly what most games should do, keep players attached to it. Team Star Fox has been on an extended vacation for the past couple of years, eight to be exact. Falco left the team for personal reasons, Fox is now a strong captain, Peppy has aged a bit, and Slippy has become fixated to a jute box. Sounds perfect, right? Travel a couple light-years and meet Dinosaur Planet, a world on the brink of total hazard. General Scales (our new bad guy), has brought almost every inhabitant of this tropical world to their knees, leaving almost no hope whatsoever for them to survive. Well, almost no hope. A distress signal was sent out for help, and always making to look a quick buck, Fox accepts Pepper's offer to save its people.
Probably what makes Star Fox Adventure's story as interesting as it is is its ambiguity. Characters rarely, if ever, come out in the open and state their motives. As you could probably guess, this sets things up perfectly for a number of shocking plot twists once the marbles start rolling. Who's really pulling the strings? Can I trust that guy? Who's the fox in the cage? Unlike in other games though where you never find things out due to one plot hole or another, the story wraps up perfectly in the end, or is at least answered in future titles (unlike a game such as OoT, where we still are sitting to this day pondering things).
As I mentioned a paragraph or two ago, Dinosaur Planet is on the brink of peril. What I failed to mention however was that it got split into pieces due to the removal of the Sacred Stones (crystals, whatever they call them) from the inner sanctum. One catch though, each of those stones is located on the planetary barges that were split, meaning that he'll need to travel to them in order to get the stones. That's where the central mainstay of Star Fox comes in the flying.
Flying has never been as good as it is now, seriously. The Arwing controls solidly due to the transition of the control stick to the Gamecube, graphics make space look fantastic, and unlike 64, the action is kicked up a notch, meaning that you'll never feel a boring moment. Dodging meteors, doing crazy stunts in an attempt to get that wildly placed golden ring, blasting enemies everything has been improved. That's great, until you find out that there isn't much to it. In the transition from sky to ground, the Star Fox team left what made the game as popular as it was the flying. The only time when the player will ever set foot in the Arwing is if he or she needs to go somewhere, and that's rarely necessary, if not a hazard, due to fuel costs (scattered around the planet are little fuel orbs that you'll need in order to fly in the darn thing, think gas canisters). Upon landing, it's time to get accustomed to what takes the place of flying, land exploration.
If you've ever played a game such as The Legend of Zelda, then you'll feel right at home in SFA. The player, right from the start, is given a rather large world to explore. Enemies to fight, items to find, money to collect everything that a good adventure game should have comes into play here. The big problem is that SFA doesn't do it nearly as well as something like the Legend of Zelda. Game play revolves around the staff Fox finds at the beginning of the game, and with it, basically everything is done. Puzzle solving, enemy mashing, even the simple tasks, are all done with the help of this staff. I could mind that if it were even remotely interesting. Puzzle solving? You walk up to something, stick the staff in, and you're done. Enemy fighting? Press the A button to whack it until it dies. Energy attacks? Too little energy to make it fun.
It's little things that like that that take away from the big picture, the stuff done well. The mini games, although rare, are incredibly amusing to play. Getting on top of a hover bike and racing enemies, shooting out chains on a rapidly moving dinosaur, riding on top of a Triceratops give me a glimpse of what the game could have accomplished if they had focused more clearly on those things as well as the flying. Instead of that, they chose to make the game play a boring hack fest that never really gets good past those aforementioned games.
The good part is that Team Star Fox at least tried to make things up to us with the graphics. The scenery truly comes alive as it's introduced to the player, and even after that it still does a great job of maintaining the wonder as the game progresses. Dinosaur Planet, in all it's immensity, looks exactly like it should look a tropical planet set apart from the technology of an advanced era. Ruins dot the landscape (beautifully aged if I might add), while the dinosaurs themselves look great. Add that to the fact that the shading effects on the water are beautifully done and you have an excellent combination.
As much as we try to explain it though, that atmosphere is not maintained when it comes to the music. I can understand what they were trying to do, for sure, but it doesn't give them an excuse for what came out of it. Tracks are far too subtle for their own good, and while that may be great in a setting such as the peaceful morning, that does not translate well at all into the heat of day. Another bad part is when it comes to the dungeon music same deal. It's too subtle, not allowing the atmosphere to truly flourish in what the game should be able to do.
Difficulty is another problem, but from the strict stand point of an older player, it's not really that bad. Granted, many people will probably be turned off by the sheer amount of annoyence that comes from this, mainly in the fact of some failed attempts at making the bad mini games. For example, one has Fox pushing a log against some strong guy. Right when his feet are off the ground (literally), he all the sudden gets some sudden spurt that unless you have some amazing finger abilities, will take you down. After repeating the challenge several times, I was about ready to blow. When I was finally done, I was left with a stuck A button that never has worked up to its previous standard to this day.
Thankfully, there were a couple of bonuses to keep the game moving at a steady pace. Replay is kept alive due to the token collecting that will likely take place (you'd have to know where they were on your first time through an area if you wanted them), and even when you do get one, you still have to get through a innovatively designed maze that can and will test your patience. If anything could be said at all, they did feel out of place. Because of that, the atmosphere was compromised.
I guess that's the main problem with SFA in general, the game wasn't allowed to do what it should have been able to accomplish. Every problem, from the game play to the subtlety of the sound, added up to make a mockery out of the franchise that I grew up with and love to this day. Coming from a solid Star Fox fan, I was disappointed to say the least.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 04/19/07, Updated 01/04/10
Game Release: Star Fox Adventures (US, 09/23/02)
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