Review by Malorkus
I have a confession to make about something that I am particularly proud of - I used to enjoy furry art. At the time, I never said anything because I was too afraid of being pelted with rotten eggshells and subjected to creative forms of humiliating torment, like getting hung upside-down like a pinata and poked with a candy cane. That phase of my life eventually came to pass, but I also loved video games at the time, and the Star Fox franchise magically combined the two, pitting run-of-the-mill woodland critters in jet fighters and space aircraft in a mission to save the galaxy. How awesome can you get? Unfortunately, it's not quite as awesome as it sounds. Star Fox 64 is a shallow, linear, far-from-enjoyable space romp. Now granted, the original version of this review was a bit too harsh, hence a needed revision here, but it's a game I still do not quite understand the love for. Now you all may pick your blowtorches back up and hound me while I attempt to give an alternate perspective of this glorified space shooter.
Star Fox 64 is not an entirely new adventure. Rather, it is a graphically enhanced remake of the original Super NES title cloaked as a promising new entry into the 3-D world of space shooters. Likewise, the story has also been recycled. For those new to the series, some deranged baboon psychopath named Dr. Andross is threatening the Lylat System. The bad doctor had been banished from the galaxy for his destructive behavior, and now he's seeking revenge by attempting to conquer it. James McCloud, along with Peppy Hare, rises to the challenge to destroy Andross before his plans come into fruition. Unfortunately, the mission goes awry, and Peppy returns to Corneria to report that James had gone missing. Now James' son, Fox McCloud, must follow in his father's footsteps and stop Andross before the Lylat System falls under his control. Along with Peppy, Slippy Toad, and Falco Lombardi, Fox departs on a mission to save both his father and the galaxy.
Veterans of the original will recognize the style of play relatively quickly. As you begin the game, you will find yourself in control of Fox's signature aircraft, the Arwing. Like any standard intergalactic space combat jet, the Arwing is equipped with an arsenal of weapons and abilities. The simplest command is firing your lasers, which can strike down enemies and debris. You can also collect and launch bombs for higher sums of damage. And of course, the infamous barrel roll comes in handy while dodging oncoming fire. The Arwing is not the only vehicle you will control in the game, as certain stages will pit you in control of the tank or submarine. The tank's features are very limited, with a simple spinning dodge, and the submarine can launch torpedoes. Neither of them is very versatile and both are an absolute pain to control. Despite actually having the least broken controls of all the vehicles, the Arwing controls are inconsistent, sometimes being incredibly loose, sending the aircraft every which direction, and other times being as stiff as a rock. The tank and submarine are far worse, though. The tank is extremely sluggish and practically impossible to turn with, while the submarine controls very loosely.
Star Fox 64 is also an extremely easy game. However, it tries to make up for that by completely omitting a save option, which is more annoying than actually difficult. You must complete the entire game as a single run, as if you turn the game off, you must begin again from the very beginning. The game is not very long, but it is still an immense inconvenience. First time through, the game will likely take you no more than four hours to complete, and on subsequent plays, it may take merely an hour. Since each stage is not played on every run through the game, there is some incentive for replaying, but you had better be able to dedicate a long playing time without breaks, given how saving works. Boss battles appear frequently and act as a nice diversion, though. Their monstrous designs are enormously creative and visually stunning for their time period. Many of these fights create the tense atmosphere that much of the rest of the game is lacking, even if again, most of them are pretty simple. (Searching for the boss's weak point? Hmm why not try shooting the flashing body part? Who in their right mind would have thought of trying that?)
But the most irritable part of the entire game may actually be your own teammates. Seriously, your teammates are worthless. They have a horrible AI programmed into them, find every possible way to get themselves shot down, and spout incredibly obnoxious dialogue that will make you want to hurl your controller against your television's speakers. That and they hardly offer any assistance at all. Since they are constantly in trouble, your teammates will repeatedly phone you over your intercom requesting assistance. Other times, they will spout completely useless advice about how to destroy a barrier or defeat an enemy, degrading the challenge even more so. Worse yet, if you wish to achieve medals, you must ensure that each of your teammates lives. Of course, if you are merely trying to control your sanity, you can always just shoot them down yourself. Their voices are cheesy in that bad way rather than entertainingly cheesy. At first it's not bad, but it grates on you when you are stuck listening to the same lines over and over again.
The game also features a multiplayer mode, but it's too shallow and broken to be enjoyable. Rather than being on-rails, multiplayer is a free-range brawl in which opponents must merely shoot each other down. The arenas themselves are very uninteresting, with with most of them being fairly wide-open, providing little room for hide-and-seek type games. The controls prove themselves to be just as unruly as in the main game, while the camera does not cooperate when attempting to make a turn. Each of the arenas is bounded by a poorly marked invisible wall, which will stun you if you come in contact with it. And while not exactly a built-in feature of the game, Star Fox 64 was also the first game to utilize the Rumble Pack, a bulky and very inconvenient peripheral that attempted to add realism by causing the controller to vibrate. While this was an industry-changing innovation, it is not something I can credit the software for. I can, however, credit and praise the game's visuals. Star Fox on the Super NES introduced Mode-6 graphics to the world. While the sequel does not establish the revolutionary appeal that its predecessor did, it looked way better than any other game at the time
I have given Star Fox 64 multiple chances in the years since it release, and I still could not find a way to make it an entertaining experience no matter how hard I tried. The bait was tempting, to be sure, with the absolutely gut-busting video that was sent out to Nintendo Power subscribers. But the game is simply too flawed to be considered enjoyable. The venture is void of any challenge, the controls are unreliable, the vehicles are wonky, and the multiplayer feels far too limited. Not to mention your teammates are useless and obnoxious, with gut-wrenching dialogue and worthless advice. Some of the boss battles were nice, and the visuals were fairly impressive for their time, but the majority of the game's substance is severely lacking. Sadly, I cannot reward a game for being shallow. Then again, chances are you may still love this atrocity, as most people seem to do. However, I feel as though I had to throw this alternate perspective out there to prove that this game is by no means for everybody. But hey, at least the promotional video is always good for some laughs.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/07, Updated 03/31/14
Game Release: Star Fox 64 (US, 07/01/97)
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