Review by nintendosega

"Rareware attempts to cover up fairly generic gameplay with impressive visuals, plot, and atmosphere, and it works."

This one has an interesting history. Originally going to be called Dinosaur Planet and planned for release on the N64, this was to feature a dinosaur main character who was part of a rebel group wanting to overthrow the evil General Scales. Most likely after seeing how N64 games stopped selling, however, (Conker's Bad Fur Day, although excellent, didn't find the large audience it deserved,) Nintendo told developer Rare to cancel the N64 release, and instead put Dinosaur Planet on Gamecube. Of course, somewhere along the line, this became a Star Fox game, and as bad an idea as this may have sounded, I have to say, I enjoyed it.

This is probably the best-looking game I've played on the Gamecube so far. Not only does Fox feature incredible fur shading, but all the dinosaurs look great, showcasing some great character design. Environments are amazing, and feature very convincing changes from day to night. The many different areas on this planet are varied in their look and design, and each has it's own unique layout to fit the personality of the dinosaurs that live there. So there's occasionally some slowdown in combat; big deal. The game's great art direction definitely makes up for it. Some areas do look bland, but for every bland area, there are two beautiful ones. Cape Claw is a stand out, managing to look both warm and vibrant, and yet prehistoric at the same time. The music is another plus. It almost always fits the environment, and features sounds from a variety of different cultures. Even better; when day turns to night and all the dinosaurs fall asleep, the music changes to a much softer, more relaxing tune. As usual with Rareware games, the voice acting's great. Some voices you'll either love or hate, but most of them fit their characters perfectly, and they add a lot to the game. The dialogue's great, as is the lip sync.

The plot's also very interesting and well-presented. Star Fox Adventures actually consists of two good plots (only having one of them would not have been enough) combined to make one great one. Dinosaur Planet is not only being torn apart by General Scales, but Krystal, a character who Fox saw in a mission briefing, has been captured, and it's his personal mission to save her. So essentially, not only must he collect the 4 spell stones to put the planet back together, but he must collect the 4 Krazoa Spirits to free Krystal. (4 always seems to be the magic number in these games.) Though Fox is not initially thrilled about it (he only does missions if he sees something in it for him) he decides to help this planet out, and after landing on it, the adventure begins.

And this is where the game becomes somewhat average. Despite the innovative concept and fantastic world, this follows a similar blueprint to Rare's many N64 platformers in the gameplay department. While this may have once been revolutionary, it began showing its age by the time DK64 came out. You wander a 3-D world. Someone tells you to get objects for them. You do. Repeat. Meet someone else. They tell you to collect something. You do. Repeat.

That's basically the mission structure, and while Rare DOES try to insert cool RPG-like dungeons into the game to shake things up, this developer's reliance on fetch quests is becoming more and more tiring as the years go by. But while the gameplay can be very hit-or-miss, the fun of exploring this world, experiencing the great music and visuals, interacting with some awesome characters, and a solid combat system keep things interesting. It makes the experience feel fresh despite the aging gameplay. The developers have even went as far as to insert flying missions into the game. To get from one part of the planet to the other, you control Fox's ship, and shoot missiles at stuff (from what I hear, somewhat like the older Star Fox games.) But these missions, while fun, don't feel very fleshed out. Things like power-ups, ship upgrades, fuel cells, etc. are available to be collected but never seem necessary. These segments feel like something inserted in at the last minute in order to help pass this off as a Star Fox game, and I think Rareware easily could have put a bit more effort into them.

Let's be honest, it's evident from the start that this was not a world designed for Fox in mind. There are some loose ends, such as the fact that Fox doesn't even speak the Dinosaurs' language, that are too easily tied up. "I've invented a translator!" Slippy informs you early on in the game. And despite Fox's commanders lecturing him on his unfortunate habit of "shooting first, asking questions later," the game certainly gives Fox plenty of chances to use his handy combat spear to kill off tons of dinosaurs.

Still, it's surprising how well Rare's managed to pull this off. Throwing Fox into a Zelda-like adventure might not be what they had in mind, but against all odds, it ends up feeling pretty seamless and works out well.

Combat's on the basic side, (you basically fight every enemy the same exact way) but it's fun. Bosses are often fun to fight as well, despite the final boss, which is....well.... let's just say that another ill-fated effort to please long-time Star Fox fans goes completely wrong, and I'll leave it at that.

Star Fox Adventures features some generic gameplay, yes. Admittedly I had hoped that Rareware would have shot for something a bit better, with this being their move to the next generation, and with this being a character known for fast, arcade-style gameplay. That said, the game's great story, visuals, presentation, characters, atmosphere, and memorable locations and music attempt -successfully- to cover up the somewhat weaker gameplay like sweeping dust under a rug. The experience overall ends up I think being much better than the gameplay that exists in it, demonstrating once again Rare's ability to create an incredible world and populate it with charming characters. The gameplay's getting a bit rusty, but there's still a lot of fun to be had.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/07/04, Updated 01/18/11

Game Release: Star Fox Adventures (US, 09/23/02)


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