Review by MSuskie

"A game 65 million years in the making."

I can easily admit that I'm a Rare fan. Their N64 games are some of my favorites of all time, and such classics as Goldeneye, Banjo-Kazooie and even Conker's Bad Fur Day are held dearly to my heart. So, you can imagine that I was quite disappointed when Nintendo announced that they were selling Rare to one of their biggest opponents – Microsoft! Still, Rare was to release one more game on a Nintendo system before they left. That game was, of course, Dinosaur Planet – or, at least, that was what it was called in the N64 days. After countless delays, Rare finally moved it to GameCube with the Star Fox license attached to it, dubbed Star Fox Adventures.

Now, I've been a fan of the Star Fox franchise for a while now. The original Star Fox on SNES was absolutely amazing, as the first game on the system to take advantage of polygons. Star Fox 64 was a very fun 3D shooter on the N64. But, really, Star Fox Adventures really has little (if anything) to do with the Star Fox series. It's still got the same characters, but as the name implies, instead of being a shooter, it's an action/adventure title along the lines of the Zelda games. The story is that a planet simply named “Dinosaur Planet” is under attack by its own ruler, General Scales. It's up to Fox and team to check out the situation and deal with it in the most appropriate way possible (in other words, without blasters or ships – dang).

Okay, so the story in Adventures is pretty… shall we say, ordinary. That's okay, right? Right, because a game can have a mediocre plot and still come out on top in terms of gameplay. So, let's put all traces of story behind and focus on the gameplay. As I mentioned before, Adventures has a design very reminiscent of a Zelda title. It has a targeting-based battle system. You'll trek through several dungeons with Zelda-like puzzles. When Fox runs off of a ledge, he'll automatically jump. It's very clear that the Adventures team got much inspiration from Nintendo's beloved franchise, and that's in no way a bad thing… Especially since there was no Wind Waker at the time of Adventures' release.

The Adventures weapon of choice is a magical staff that Fox inherits early on in the adventure. This can be used to attack in the heat of battle, cast magical spells used to kill enemies and solve puzzles, defend yourself… Fox even uses it to flip switches and open compartments such as boxes and crates. It's Fox's main tool since he won't be using his blaster this time around. Fox also gets to befriend a little dinosaur named Tricky, who becomes Fox's sidekick and is a necessity in solving puzzle and gaining access to new areas. He can hold switches, distract enemies, start fires, dig up treasure, and plenty more.

All of Fox's actions, items, spells and commands and enter through the convenient and innovative “C-menu” that Rare has incorporated. At any given time during the game, you can use the C-Stick to scroll through a small menu in the upper-right portion of the screen, select a command and use it by pressing A. This is a nice little addition that prevents the tedium caused by Zelda games when you have to enter a pause menu every time you want to use a new item. Now, since the C-Stick can't be used for the camera, this means that the only camera option you have is to straighten it with the L shoulder button. This sounds limited, but as a matter of fact I've never really had any problems with the game's camera, so Rare did a fine job in that regard.

Before we get into any more details about gameplay, I would like to briefly rave about Adventures' graphics. I'm writing this review at the end of summer 2004 and this is still the best-looking game I've ever seen. The lighting effects are phenomenal – Fox and all of the other characters in the game are light-mapped to perfection. Rare has put an insane amount of detail into the character models. Zoom up close and you'll see thousands of tiny individual hairs on Fox's body, or hundreds of scales on the skin of a dinosaur. I initially thought that the water effects in Super Mario Sunshine were the best we'd see this generation, but Adventures proved me wrong. Animation, art direction and shading are all top-notch and display the best of GameCube's capabilities. As I said, the best-looking game I've ever seen.

But that's to be expected from a Rare game, right? No, what really disappoints me about Adventures is the gameplay itself. It was a thrill at the time – my original score for Adventures here on GameFAQs was a 9/10, and because on GameCube this was, at the time, the closest thing we had to Zelda. However, now that Wind Waker had come and gone it's far easier to see through Adventures' concept and into its deepest flaws.

For one thing, Adventures is way too easy. Whereas The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the N64 constantly had me stuck with the latest puzzles, but Adventures just doesn't try hard enough to challenge the player. The “puzzles” themselves are usually just some sort of target-shooting exercise or obstacle course, and I can only remember one moment in the game when I was truly stumped. And even then, I figured it out eventually. To make things worse, the battles are far too easy as well. The battle system is pretty simple, with a few combos and dodge maneuvers. Most of the enemies are very similar, and boss battles are too few and far between (and lack imagination).

Another thing, Adventures is fairly short and very linear. Before release, I heard somewhere that Adventures would be on two discs with over eighty hours of gameplay. Whoever said that was a dang liar. Adventures takes roughly 15-20 hours to complete on your first run, and possibly less than that if you've played through before. That's a pretty decent length, but the Zelda games are longer. What's more, Adventures had few (if any) side quests to engage on outside of the main adventure to extend the life span of the game. Once you've beaten Adventures, there's little reason to come back and play it again.

On occasion, Adventures tries to mix up the gameplay by adding something different. Every time you travel off of the planet, you'll play through a stage that goes back to Star Fox's roots in a space shooter sequence. As fun as these levels are, they're very brief and feel as if they're only there to provide some nostalgia for fans of the franchise. There are also a few race sequences in the game, plus the ability to ride animals, play mini-games, etc. However, as with the shooter levels, all of these elements don't really tie in with the rest of the game and feel as if they're only there to mix up the gameplay a bit.

Pros

+ This remains the best-looking game I've ever seen.
+ Zelda-like gameplay design (dungeons, puzzles, battles, etc.).
+ Intuitive “C-menu” makes selecting actions a snap.
+ Easy-going battle system.
+ Much variety in the design of the game.
+ Camera, though limited, never gets in the way.
+ Nice soundtrack, and the voice acting is for the most part good.
+ Widescreen support!

Cons

- It's a very linear game.
- Shorter than expected.
- Story is pretty bleak, especially with such a boring antagonist.
- Puzzles are too easy and lack imagination.
- Battle system is almost too simple, and enemies are too similar.
- Bosses are infrequent and pretty boring to battle.
- The musical score can occasionally be a bit over-the-top.
- Shooting missions are too short.
- Voice acting occasionally takes a dip in terms of quality.
- Lacks that “Rare charm.”

Overall: 7/10

As a whole, it feels like Star Fox Adventures was simply a holdover until Zelda: Wind Waker arrived, and now that that time has come and gone, I'm not as overwhelmed as I used to be. Adventures is still a good game, and any and all Zelda fans should definitely check it out if they haven't already, but there are certainly better action/adventure games out there. There are still plenty of compelling reasons to pick this up. As I said, Adventures is the best-looking game I've ever seen, and it has widescreen and Dolby support. It's also less than twenty bucks, so I don't see how you could go wrong with this.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/03/03, Updated 08/22/04


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