Review by Sprock
Before I begin, I have a confession to make. It is not something that I am particularly proud of, nor is it something I am necessarily ashamed of. The fact is that I happen to be a fan of furries. Put down those torches for a second and hear me out there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a furry fetish. Sure, you may be pelted with rotten eggshells, and your friends may laugh at you and subject you to creative forms of humiliating torment (like hanging you upside-down like a pinata and poking you with a candy cane), but know that you are not the insecure one. But on top of furries, I happen to also love video games. The Star Fox franchise magically combines 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 an incredibly flawed game; a shallow, linear, far-from-enjoyable space romp. Now you all may pick your blowtorches back up and hound me while I attempt to give an alternative perspective of this over-glorified space shooter.
Do not be mistaken, as 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 storyline has also been rehashed. 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 McCloud 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 other debris with utmost precision. You can also launch bombs for higher sums of damage, although your supply is limited. 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.
Speaking of which, the control in general of the vehicles is absolutely deplorable. Despite actually having the least broken controls of all the vehicles, the Arwing is an obnoxious beast to tame. The controls are inconsistent, sometimes being incredibly loose, sending the aircraft every which direction, and other times being as stiff as a rock. The response time to certain commands is also very unreliable, often not sensing the press of a button. But that's just the standard aircraft. The tank and submarine are even worse. The tank is extremely sluggish and practically impossible to turn with, while the submarine controls very loosely. The next truly unacceptable feature I would like to bring up is the inability to save. 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. Even in the day and age this game was created, this is considered an intolerable atrocity. The game is not very long, but it is still an immense inconvenience.
The next stop on our list of meaningless angst takes us to the difficulty department, which is virtually nonexistent. Without any save feature to speak of, this game is completely terrified of the thought of kicking your ass. Every stage is very straightforward, enemies are easy to dodge and destroy, and the only real aspect that will give even the below average gamer any difficulty is wrestling against the unruly controls. 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 still will not find anything redeeming of the term challenge. And striving for each planet's medals is a tedious task that yields no true reward, anyways. Had the game included difficulty settings, this category may have been more forgivable. But as it stands, this is one pathetically simple game.
Boss battles appear frequently and act as a nice diversion, even if none of them really present any challenge, either. 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. Unfortunately, as said, none of them are truly difficult to defeat. 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? There is some unique strategy involved in the later fights, however, but they cannot speak for the majority. As I mentioned earlier, medals will be awarded for expert completion of certain stages that involves racking up points by blasting an ass-load of enemies. This helps add to the game's limited replay value somewhat, even though achieving these medals can be a completely monotonous task.
Oh, did I mention the most irritable aspect of the game yet? Your own bloody 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. Unfortunately, the game does not give you the option of shutting off your comrades' voices, so you have no choice but to endure Do a Barrel Roll! time and again.
The game also features a multiplayer mode, which is even more broken than the single-player. 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 little in the way of standout features. Most of them are 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. Simply put, the multiplayer is a shallow and quickly put together piece of junk with too many flaws for it to be enjoyable. 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 its 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 still happens to be a visual treat compared to other games of its time. While the character models appear jagged and blocky, and there is blurriness aplenty, the environments are leagues ahead of their time. The gorgeous spectacles of space explosions and titanic bosses were a sight to behold at the time. The audio, on the other hand, is nothing short of a disaster. The soundtrack consists of bland and unmemorable tunes thrashed together in a sloppy mess. The voicing for the characters is even worse, almost as if Nintendo plucked ordinary people off the streets to record. In fact, the voices are so hysterically awful that you cannot help but laugh when you first hear them. But after a while, they become incredibly grating to the ears, especially when you are stuck listening to the same lines over and over again.
I'm sorry, but I just could not find a way to make Star Fox 64 an entertaining experience no matter how hard I tried. The bait was tempting, to be sure, with my shameful love of furries and 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: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 12/17/07
Game Release: Star Fox 64 (US, 07/01/97)
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