"You got Zelda in my Star Fox."

There aren't many games that feel like Ocarina of Time. It's the best entry in the Legend of Zelda franchise thanks to an amazing, epic set of massive dungeons and an action-packed combat system. No doubt Zelda fans like myself are always eager to scoop up any games that try to emulate the style of Nintendo's best game ever.

So we get stuck playing rubbish like Dark Cloud.

The good blokes across the pond at Rare tried their best to recreate an epic Ocarina of Time-esque title but ultimately developed a cute, heart-warming adventure with a handful of problems.

As Fox McCloud, you'll make your way to Dinosaur Planet to stop a brutal, reptilian dictator named General Scales before his rule brings about total apocalypse. Upon landing, you're spoon-fed a trite “collect the items plot” as Fox learns he'll need to gather mystical artifacts called Spellstones the spirits of a dead species known as The Krazoa if he wants to save the day.

Fortunately, when Rare wants to, they stray away from cliches and make characters gushing with personality and cuteness. You can't help but smile when you meet Prince Tricky, your loyal sidekick dinosaur that's always pestering to tag along and help out. Other times you'll speak with large, menacing dinosaurs only to learn that they're scared of the dark or a towering mass of rock (with a thick Scottish accent) will refuse to help you because no one gives him gifts anymore.

It's very kiddy, but I like the style of the game. Dinosaur Planet is full of so many absurd characters that it's refreshing after playing so many epic Final Fantasies or realistic shoot-a-thon Grand Theft Autos.

As for the meat of the game, Rare decided to anger about 17,893 idiotic Nintendo nerds (17,892 of which apparently live on that series of tubes known as the internet) that didn't know this was never supposed to be a Star Fox game. You won't constantly blast away Andross' minions in action-packed shooting segments, but instead you'll venture into the beautiful landscapes of Dinosaur Planet on foot and equipped with a magical staff. With a few mashes of the A button, you can kick ass with style on General Scales' men thanks to a modified version of Ocarina of Time's combat engine. Fox executes different combos depending on how you jerk the analog stick. For example, you could pull back and Fox will start twirling his staff to continually smack under the jaw of a baddie. Pull to the left and you'll bash your opponent in the cheek and finish them off with a fierce kick.

In addition to enemies, you're bound to encounter many Zelda-esque puzzles involving pushing blocks or using items and abilities. Throughout your quest, your staff gains many spells that you constantly need such as a fireball to activate distant switches or a chilling blast of ice to extinguish path-blocking flames. Dino sidekick Tricky even becomes helpful. By feeding him the plentiful, gooey mushrooms of Dinosaur Planet, he'll obey Fox's commands to dig in obvious treasure hot-spots, stand on a pressure switch plate, or burn through thick vegetation with flame breath.

Unfortunately there are problems with the puzzles. First of all, anything requiring Fox to utilize his items, abilities, or sidekick is bothersome thanks to a stupid inventory system. Not only do you get a scant one button to map an item or skill on to, but you have to scroll through your junk with the horribly puny C-stick in real time. Secondly, it doesn't take long before puzzles begin to constantly repeat themselves. By half way through the game, I'd approach a locked door and just know Rare threw a switch right behind me on the ceiling, a pillar, or some other "obscure" area because they did just that many times before.

Fortunately Rare was able to make a few fun boss fights that require more than mindless button mashing. In the third dungeon, you'll go head to head with a fierce and hungry T-Rex in a narrow pathway. To avoid becoming the beasts next dinner, you'll have to utilize grids of electricity to render it unconscious, giving you the opportunity to toss a barrel of explosives into its gaping maw. Sadly Star Fox Adventures just doesn't have enough adrenaline-pumping bosses to go around. To avoid having to create a bunch of boss encounters, Rare made only four main dungeons (and they only bothered to give three of them bosses) and then put a bunch of smaller temples and caves to fill the gaps in between each.

But mini-dungeons weren't the only thing used to fill in gaps. Thanks to Miyamoto's demands to make this a Star Fox game, the four dungeons have completely broken off the planet and are now drifting in outer space. What a great opportunity to throw in some Arwing segments! While the inclusion of the rail-shooter segments feel tacked on, they're a fun action-packed diversion from the game's exploration. The main focus of each is to fly through a certain number of gold rings to "open the gatekeeper's seal" but there's plenty of cannon-fodder to blast into a million pieces for fun.

This same entertaining mini-game will eventually become annoying. Even after successfully completing a shooter segment, you'll always have to play through it should you ever want to go back to any of the dungeons or Dinosaur Planet itself.

Guess what! You'll be traveling back to Dinosaur Planet a lot! You're going to redo the same REALLY EASY first shooting level far too many times! Yipee! Didn't someone out there realize adventure games shouldn't require force feeding mini games down your throat over and over and over again?

And that's not the only thing you'll see multiple times. Star Fox Adventures suffers from awful backtracking. There are two mini-dungeons you'll need to trek through just to place your found Spellstones in their rightful spot and one with the same purpose for all the Krazoa Spirits. Every time you obtain one of these items, you'll have to go to its dungeon, which usually requires backtracking through already explored areas, only to find one tiny spec of new ground. The game also lacks any way to teleport to areas you've been to meaning you'll be going through the same enemy filled paths many times.

But hey, at least it's pretty. Although there are now better looking games on GameCube, Star Fox Adventures features the same fine visuals and presentations gamers have come to expect from Nintendo and their second parties. Vast jungles and gorgeous beaches are home to hulking dinosaurs and enormous Woolly Mammoths. The game even sports constant framerate and fluid animation. Certainly the PS2 could not muster the power to produce such visuals as this GameCube exclusive. The soundtrack, however, is comprised of completely forgettable incidental music. But at least Rare used competent voice actors that sound as though they were ripped right out of the studio while recording an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon show.

But all in all, the entire product isn't a total trainwreck. Rare obviously didn't make Ocarina of Time's successor, but Star Fox Adventures is a fairly decent adventure game. True, it's one that suffers from backtracking, rehashed puzzles, and an annoying inventory system, but it's not bad for the bargain basement price you can pick it up for. It still has a cool combat system, and the puzzles and dungeons are good enough to keep your playing through the 10+ hours of gameplay. Plus the story sequences may not be memorable or emotion-drive, but they have a refreshing cutesy charm you can only find on a Nintendo console. I'm satisfied with my $10 purchase, and adventure fans will be too if they don't spend too much money.

Besides, it's well worth $10 to hear a large, British dinosaur admit to being afraid of the dark. You can't put a price on that awesomeness.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/21/06

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