Review by Adori

"Word."

The small starcraft zooms in with her built-in boosters, taking aim for the inevitable kill. She fires out a double streak of blue lasers, and it catches the enemy ship on the right wing. Amidst the sudden destruction of a good amount of its components, the ship falls to the earth with its irreversible demise, saving a spectacular fireworks show of a large fiery explosion for when it hits the ground. Once again, the day is saved by the Star Fox team.

The original Star Fox came out for the SNES as a first-party game by Nintendo, being the first game to utilize the jaw-dropping power of the Super FX chip. With the chip in hand, graphical power was taken to a new plane in this addictive shooter, as Star Fox was made to look 3-dimensional. Years later, Star Fox was remade with numerous additions that made it even more eye-bulging, on the Nintendo 64.

In the Lylat system, which happens to be populated by animals instead of man, the evil Andross had been aping around in his dangerous experiments, threatening the very existence of the capital planet Corneria. So, General Pepper of the Cornerian Army decided to banish the monkey to the hazardous Venom. However, years later, an increased amount of feverish frenzy was detected on Venom, and Pepper sent his three best starship fighters to find out the reason for it; James McCloud, Peppy Hare, and Pigma Dengar. On arrival of Venom, Pigma betrayed the team to the still-subsisting Andross. While James was captured, Peppy escaped and told Fox McCloud, James's son, about James fate.

Years later, Andross's takeover has begun, and his clawed reach extends throughout the star system. Only Corneria is safe. One day, however, this last bastion is attacked. General Pepper summons the newly formed Star Fox Team consisting of Fox and Peppy, mechanic Slippy the frog, and mercenary Falco the bird. Together, they must repel the invaders off of the planet Corneria, and take the fight to the world of Venom itself.

Star Fox 64 is not a classic shooter. Instead, you take the role of an Arwing, the main craft in this game, from a third-person view. Heading through a level, you go straight ahead, shooting anything in your range of sight, basically staying two-dimensional in the perspective that you can only go straight ahead. However, in some parts of the game, you can move freely in all directions around a battlefield, which is where some of the action takes place.

You have your basic laser to shoot enemy ships. This can also be charged up, of which the charged shot can be locked onto an enemy, and cannot easily be blocked. The laser can be upgraded twice, once from its single green laser to dual green lasers, and the second from dual green lasers to dual blue lasers. The second weapon that is integrated into the game is bombs; although they are of an abundance in the game, you can only carry up to nine of them. You shoot them out, and if you wish, can press B to make them explode at a precise moment. Otherwise, they will explode whenever they hit something. The neat thing about bombs is that you can also lock onto an enemy using bombs, but they aren't so able to track down the enemy as lasers.

Spread throughout the courses are silver and gold rings. Your ship operates on a shield HP system; basically, if you get hit, you take damage to your shield. By collecting either silver or gold rings, your shield recovers somewhat. In addition to this, if you collect three gold rings in a level, your shield bar will double; it will revert though after the level you are on. The amount of gold rings you have stay with you even after a level. This means that if you got off Corneria with two gold rings and went into Meteo, you would already have two gold rings and would only require a third.

Enemy spacecraft are not the only thing that can damage you; so can your environment. On a few levels, certain natural features can harm you, such as a giant amount of heat, but for the most part, it is buildings or asteroids/meteors that you encounter in space that will be looking forward to ramming into you. Sometimes, you might take a hit so badly that you may lose a wing; until you can find a spare wing part on the battlegrounds, you will have a decreased amount of maneuvering, and your lasers will be downgraded to a single green laser.

Besides just streaming along through a level, you can do five other actions with your ship; you can use your boosters to get an immediate burst of speed for a short time, your brakes to slow down for a short time, the barrel roll to repel enemy fire, the somersault to get behind an enemy, or flip around and head the other way. Except for the barrel roll, all these activities heat your ship up for a few seconds; you'll have to wait until it is completely cool to continue.

What I really like is how Star Fox 64 uses the Rumble Pak add-on – in fact, buying this game got you a free Rumble Pak. It utilizes the Rumble Pak by making your controller vibrate during certain things, such as the explosion of a boss. This in all makes it feel a lot more like you're in the game.

The development of this game by Nintendo and Rare was really in-depth. The environments that you are thrust into in the game are really convincing. They certainly made me go wow the first time I played this game. As an asteroid is freefalling towards you, with no influence by the force of gravity, you don't feel consciously aware at all that you're in a game; you think it's the real deal. That, and the fact that the music for each level seems to fit perfectly, with the frenzy of feverish activity on Corneria, the peacefulness of Aquas, and the last efforts on Sector Z to stop you from making it to Venom. The graphical and music departments were well done, and personally, I think the voice actors that were hired for the characters of this game fit. Fox sounds like a no-nonsense person only concerned with the now, Wolf sounds like a cocky and arrogant rival who will stop at nothing to win, and Andross really sounds like an insane monkey. The only real complaint here is Slippy. Sure, it would make sense for a frog to have a high-pitched voice, but I'm actually cheering when he gets shot down because it means another level without having to listen to him!

Star Fox 64 is the kind of game that cults are dedicated to. The characters are memorable, the gameplay rarely gets tiring, the environment can overwhelm you, and it hardly feels like a game. It is, however, the kind of game that only a certain group of people like, and in this case, that group of people are those who have instincts tuned towards games like this. Nevertheless, buy it, play it, like it. That's mandatory.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/24/04


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