Review by discoinferno84
"I spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly..."
Have you ever dreamed that you could fly away, that you could just escape from the stress and worry of your daily life? No, I'm not talking about taking a vacation to some beautiful island resort with sandy beaches and a blazing sun. I'm talking about opening your bedroom window, jumping off from the ledge, and soaring away into the sky, discovering whatever mysteries lay ahead in the unknown. Sure, you'll fall flat on your face if you actually tried this, but that can't stop you from having dreams of gliding amongst the clouds. Human beings have taken this dream and pondered over it for centuries, eventually leading up to the invention of the airplane in the early twentieth century. Since then, people have been able to traverse the sky, gaining a whole new perspective of our planet. We as a society take flight for granted with its commercial and military use. However, there's still something magical about flying to new and strange locales and having the adventure of a lifetime, with the horizon as your only boundary.
Take Fox McCloud for example. This ace anthropomorphic aviator has been cruising the Lylat solar system for years, helping preserve the peace of the respective planets with his trusty Arwing and rest of the elite Star Fox crew. Considering that he had an entire solar system at his fingertips, one could say that Fox had the dream job of countless pilots everywhere. However, things aren't looking up for this skilled and dashing young fighter. An evil monkey called Andross has amassed a huge military force, wreaking havoc and destruction all over Lylat. In the darkest hour of this invasion, Fox's home planet of Corneria lay battered and crippled, its once beautiful cities aflame and the population on the verge of extermination. In the last act of desperation, the Cornerian government recruited our hero to stop this evil menace and bring prosperity back to the shattered planets. The government was more than willing to pay the Star Fox team for their success with a hefty reward. But for Fox McCloud, it isn't about the money. It's about shooting the hell out of the enemy and saving his home from destruction.
So our furry and potentially rabid hero is ready to kick some monkey ass. Luckily, his mad piloting skills are matched perfectly with his beloved Arwing, a fighter plane capable of smooth interstellar flight and dishing out some mass destruction. It comes with a standard laser gun, which can be upgraded with a few quick powerups. You'll start off with a pathetically slow single-shot laser, but you'll eventually end up wiping enemies away with a quick blast from your spectacular double-barreled laser gun. Or, if you prefer something a little flashier, you can always break out the smart bombs and watch in delight as your foes disappear in a flash of light and burn to death in the subsequent explosions. But if utterly dominating Andross' minions isn't your thing, you can focus on the Arwing's maneuverability. Thanks to its excellent speed boosts and somersault capabilities, it can weave in and out of the toughest aerial battles, thus letting you bring down swift punishment upon your hapless foes. But if you happen to be caught in the crosshairs of a few enemies, you can always do a barrel roll to avoid fire and avert your impending doom.
But despite wielding the deadliest technology in the Lylat System, Fox is still only one pilot. He's got the bravery and the firepower, but he can't take on Andross and his army by himself. Thankfully, the rest of the Star Fox team is flying right beside him through the duration of the war. He's got Slippy Toad, the young but dangerous rookie. If things get a little too rough, the arrogant and short-tempered Falco Lombardi is more than willing to blast your foes to smithereens. And if you find yourself in the clutches of some mysterious trap or level hazard, Peppy Hare can muster all of his scrappy war veteran knowledge to get you through the area unscathed. A few other colorful characters are roaming around Lylat, but these three comrades are your best bet against the countless enemies you'll encounter. However, the relationship goes both ways. You'll find yourself saving them from death multiple times in the various levels, forcing you to pay close attention to your friends if you want to get a high score in the level. But despite this minor annoyance, these guys make the game far more entertaining. Not only do they back you up in battle, but their personality quirks add so much more flavor to what could have been a bland shooting experience.
You'll have to deal with Falco's spew of insults and mean-spirited jokes, or Slippy's irritatingly youthful attitude towards warfare. Despite the words of wisdom constantly pouring out of Peppy's aging mouth, his signature countryside voice will either come off as endearing or unbearable by the time you finally get to Andross. There's something about screaming Do a barrel roll! or What the heck? that makes playing this game so memorable. Even though the dialogue is cheesy and cliched beyond the standards of video games, you can't help but like this band of unlikely heroes. It's a shame that the voices come off a little scratchy due to the limitations of the Nintendo 64. Sure, there's plenty of raw emotion behind the words, but you'll wince in pain every time that Slippy opens his slimy mouth to say something. Thankfully, the rest of the audio quality makes up for this slight setback, complete with an epic soundtrack and some realistic shooting and crashing sound effects.
However, the colorful dialogue makes up only a portion of what makes Star Fox 64 so great. As you try to save all of Lylat, you'll get to fly the Arwing to various planets, each with their own unique look and feel. Even though this game was created in the N64's infancy, the designs of the levels make up for the shoddy graphics. You'll have to dodge the crumbling ruins of Corneria or endure the burning lava waves of Solar. Not only will you battle through air and space, you'll take the good fight into the depths of the ocean and onto some flat land terrain. All of these levels are portrayed in epic glory, from the first boss skirmish to taking on literally hundreds of enemies in the last few levels. But no matter what Andross can throw at you, the awesome feel of this adventure makes the constant trials and tribulations worthwhile.
I miss this game. I miss jumping into an Arwing, saving Lylat and annihilating anything that gets in my way. What will become of Fox McCloud and his band of top gun pilots? We were given a land and puzzle-based Star Fox game on the Gamecube, but that poor sequel doesn't hold a candle to the excellence of this game. Does Star Fox have a future? Absolutely. Thankfully, the folks over at Nintendo are giving us an upcoming addition to this great series. But will this new game match the fun and magic harnessed in Star Fox 64? Maybe. But in the meantime, I look back on this game with fond memories and a desire to pick up that controller just one more time, just so I can fly away again.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/26/05
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