Review by Malorkus

"Flight turbulence."

Confession time: I used to hate Star Fox 64, and this review used to be a poorly-written bash piece. Everyone has that one game in their childhood that all their friends were addicted to, and you just could not understand the hype for the life of you. There was also a point in all of your lives when having a slumber party with your friends was considered a huge fun get-together and not something creepy or sexual. Sleepover parties were the best. We got to stay up past 8pm and drink soda! That was extremely edgy for us. But then someone would pop Star Fox 64 into the game system. And maybe it was because the closest thing I had ever played to a sci-fi shooter at the time was Super Star Wars, but at friends' slumber parties, I was counting down the minutes until they popped Mario Kart back into the system. I have given Star Fox 64 another chance in the years since, and I now enjoy it. Somewhat. It is now a game I have fun with, and yet I cannot get over it being such a short and linear space romp.

Star Fox 64 is a graphically enhanced version of the original Super NES title cloaked as a promising foray into the 3D space shooters. Likewise, the story has also been recycled, with a psychopath named Dr. Andross 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. Now James' son, Fox McCloud, must follow in his father's footsteps and stop Andross along with this friends. As you begin the game, you will find yourself in control of Fox's signature aircraft. 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. 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. Both are an absolute pain to control. Even the Arwing controls are inconsistent, sometimes being incredibly loose, sending the aircraft every which direction, and other times being too stuff. 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. 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.

Boss battles appear frequently and act as a nice diversion, though. 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. They have a horrible AI programmed, find every possible way to get themselves shot down, and spout dialogue that is sometimes entertaining, and other times utterly obnoxious. At first it's not bad, but it grates on you when you are stuck listening to the same lines over and over again. 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.

The game also features a multi-player mode, which is briefly fun, but its shallow nature fails to live up to its potential. Rather than being on-rails, multi-player 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 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.

Star Fox 64 is a revered classic, but it is not for everyone. I have given the game multiple chances in the years since it released, and while parts of it have indeed grown on me, it's a game that I have ultimately accepted is just not for me. 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 and too short-lived for my enjoyment. The main adventure is quick and easy, the controls are unreliable, the vehicles are wonky, and the multi-player 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 much of the game's substance is severely lacking. But hey, at least the promotional video is always good for some laughs.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/07, Updated 04/13/15

Game Release: Star Fox 64 (US, 07/01/97)


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