Review by MaxH
"Kiiiiiiiilll the toaaaaaaad!. *Sound of maniacal laughter*"
Starfox 64 was given the crap name of 'Lylat Wars' in Europe. Why? Well because -you'll like this- George Lucas thought that people were actually retarded enough to confuse it with a Star Wars product! What an idiot! Why didn't he impose the name change of the US version? Maybe he didn't get there in time, or maybe he just thinks us Europeans are completely brain-dead. It's his loss though, since StarFox 64 (Or Lylat Wars as I shall call it) is a tremendous space blaster, and far superior to most Star Wars 'efforts' at video games. To re-iterate to the people George Lucas thinks exist: This is NOT a review of a Star Wars game. Sorry.
Gripes with the Star Wars ruiner aside, let's continue with the review.
This is a Nintendo game though, so even a space shooter is full to the brim with cuddly animals. There is a plot to this, and it goes something (Or exactly) like this: A duck-like creature called Andross is terrorizing the Lylat system of planets, scaring the residents of Corneria. So General Pepper (A dog) sends out a three-man team to destroy Andross. They succeed in trapping him on a planet called Venom, but in the process team member Pigma (A pig) betrays them and reveals their plans to Andross. Using this newfound information Andross kills James Mcloud (A fox) the team leader. This leaves only Peppy the rabbit on the good side.
Years later, strange signals are coming from Venom, and Andross' followers are attacking the Lylat system. The main team is headed by Starwolf and also includes Leon the lizard, Pigma the betrayer and Andross' grandson. General Pepper sends a new team of four to vanquish Andross once and for all. This team consists of Fox Mcloud (Son of the late James) Peppy (The original Starfox team member) Falco (A blue falcon who is cynical of your abilities. The fool!)
and finally *suppresses hatred* Slippy Toad (The most incompetent pilot ever, who constantly gets you into trouble, and only gets to be there because he built the four ships).
The game's levels mainly progress in a linear fashion. Your ship moves forward at a fixed speed so all you have to worry about is moving up, down, left and right. Also, all the action takes place on one screen (i.e if you move your ship to edge of the screen, your ship simply won't move any further, rather than it scrolling along to show more of the level). I like this because the action is a lot more focused, which makes it a lot more fun to play. Some levels and level bosses favor a style called 'All-Range Mode'. This means that there is a set arena (If you reach the edges you will automatically turn back) but you can move about it freely. Apart from bosses, this is used for mission-based levels such as destroy the enemy army, or blow up the six energy poles. Also, this is where the Starfox team will face you. They are incredibly hard to beat, especially relative to the other enemies. Your team are obviously no help at all in these fights, only hindering you with their cries for help. They seem rather bemused that they can't just ponce about the level doing nothing apart from occasionally being slaughtered by one ship the size of a peanut. Needless to say they all generally die in battles against the Starwolf team.
Even though the story may be pretty standard, the implementation of it throughout the levels is quite impressive. In one battle against the Starwolf team, Pigma comments 'Daddy screamed REAAAAL good before he died'. This actually got me a little annoyed, causing me to track Pigma on the arena and attack him with a barrage of bombs until he died (This is accompanied by some satisfying screaming). O.k, so I wasn't exactly shouting at the screen, but it's compelling stuff nonetheless. Personalities are also present throughout the game. Old Peppy is consistently 'forgetful' when it comes to remembering NOT to fly straight into the middle of a bunch of enemies and not do anything. At all. He is very apologetic though, so I suppose I can forgive him. Falco is a nasty little bird, save him from enemy ships and he'll show his 'gratitude' by saying 'Gee, I've been saved by Fox. how Swell' with overacted sarcasm. But this makes it even more rewarding when, towards the end, he starts to trust you. I wouldn't necessarily call it amazing character development on par with that achieved by Square, but it has an atmospheric 'personality' overall. Despite some cringe-making Americanisms, 'Let's kick butt!' and 'Geez Laweez!' being my personal 'favourites'.
As I said the battles with Team Starwolf are very hard, and often extremely lengthy. They're also a lot more talented than you. One advantage you have over them though, is the ability to refill your energy bar. The level are simply FILLED with gold and silver rings that will not only fill, but also extend your health meter. It's almost impossible to die with so much energy around. And as if that wasn't enough, ROB your helper robot constantly sends packages from your mothership. These can include energy, bombs or laser upgrades.
Aside from moving in four directions and shooting, there are other moves you can perform too. A quick double tap of Z will send your craft into a short but high-speed spin, repelling any oncoming enemy fire. There's also a somersault used to fool the Starwolf team and get them off your tail. And for the all range mode levels let you turn to face the opposite direction immediately with a quick flip. If that's not enough for you, there's also brakes and an accelerator, for speeding past dangers, or letting enemies from behind overtake.
This has all the hallmarks of a Nintendo classic: Simplicity, intuitiveness and ingenuity. It's amazingly simple to pick up, thanks to some outstanding controls. They are very responsive and all your moves and attacks will soon become second nature, so you can concentrate on the brilliance of the game, rather than wrestle with the joypad. Far too many developers rely on awkward controls increase the difficulty and length of their games, even if it does lower the quality considerably. Even N64 classics like shadowman suffer from this to a certain extent. But Lylat Wars stands out with it's perfect control system, making the game immensely enjoyable for anyone wanting to have a go, regardless of videogame experience.
BUT. But the easy controls brings me on to the major downfall of the game. It can be completed in under an hour on your first go. Yes, it does have alternative routes through the game. And accessing and beating them does hold a considerably larger challenge, but 50 minutes to complete it? It's not good enough. And this isn't just because of the previously mentioned things (Loads of energy, tight controls) but because the game itself is generally very easy to play through. Most enemies (Especially in the earlier levels) seem to have been designed for the sole purpose of being shot down by you, which is all well and good, but many don't even TRY to attack you. They just sit there waiting to be shot. This is the game's only flaw, and it's quite a big one. But there's more than enough quality game and replay value to save it from the depths of mediocrity.
The game is an absolute dream to play. Aside from Tetris it's the most addictive game I've ever played. Shooting down the complicated patterns of enemies and navigating the brilliantly designed courses is, to put it bluntly, mesmerising. Aside from being a little easy to play, this is perfection for any space shooter fans. I'm not a fan of such games, but I couldn't help get drawn in by the amazing design. As games have proved in the past, shooting things is, as a rule, fantastic fun. But when it's done as well as this, no RPG, FPS or platformer can be as mind-blowingly engrossing. Not to me, anyway.
The graphics are great considering how early this came in the system's life. Full of colour, spacey backgrounds and fairly impressive character models, this game is usually stunning. Some levels are a little bland or repetitive in visual style, but that's unimportant overall. The explosions in the game are of catastrophic proportions and a joy to behold. Things like the explosions and the clever design of some of the enemy ships are real visual gems in a game that has lost some of it's impressiveness, looks-wise, over the last four years.
If you've played Zelda, you'll recognise the music here. Rousing and over-dramatic tunes play through most of the levels. There's also some quiet eery music played in the emptier space levels. And the music to the battle with Andross is genuinely frightening, as is the frog-like ribbit he emits when trying to smack you. There's a HUGE amount of speech here for an N64 game, and an early one no less. It's all well acted with plenty of enthusiasm and feeling. There are some odd little noises in there sometimes though. Like when you kill the train boss he'll scream (quite sedately) 'Gwaaaaaaa!'. Overall the sound was fantastic, atmospheric and of a high quality.
I congratulate Nintendo for creating one of the most addictive, fun games I've come across in ages. But the fact that it's half as long as it should be, and far too easy to boot, dampens the experience to considerable effect. With a few minor adjustments (Being able to replay old level would be nice, and the multiplayer arenas are too large to extract any fun from) and adding a load of extra levels (And maybe a higher difficulty level) Lylat wars could easily score a ten. It's got what it needs, but it's too easy and too short. Still, finding the alternative routes is always a blast and trying to beat your scores provides a constant (If not necessary) challenge. So if Space shooters are your thing, you MUST get a copy of this. It won't disappoint, but it's glaring flaws means I can't give it a higher score.
+ Amazing design of courses
+ Thoroughly addictive
+ The team adds a nice atmosphere
+ Variety in heaps
+ Well-told story
+ Perfect controls
+ You'll want to play it again once you've found everything
+ Well above-average graphics, with some impressive features
+ Brilliant music and excellent SFX
+ To play it is to love it, instantly.
- Cripplingly easy
- Far too short
- No revisiting of completed areas
- Sparse multiplayer
- All-Range Mode can be a bit fiddly at times
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/03/01, Updated 09/03/01
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