Review by Argyle
"Shallow, simple and soulless"
Ah, beloved Star Fox. I'll never forget the hype that was Nintendo's Super FX chip and the wonder of piloting an Arwing through the hazardous Lylat star system. Followed by the N64's wild sequel, as fun as the original and tidily packaged with the big N's virgin rumble pack. And now, years later, along comes the latest in the Star Fox saga. But continuing the drama of Fox McCloud as an adventure and not an action-riddled shooter? Well, my expectations were very high - higher still given the fact that the genius of Rare was at work, since who else could possibly capture the magic of Fox and friends and give them the 3d platform treatment they deserve. Only something, quite unexpectedly so, went terribly wrong in Rare's delivery and presentation of Star Fox Adventures.
The story is strange, convoluted and coincidental. You'll be shrugging your shoulders, rolling your eyes and occasionally wincing throughout its telling, but given the nature of video game plots these days I suppose it works well enough to help the game plod along. On the flip side, however, Star Fox Adventures is visually astounding. Very careful attention to every graphic detail was obviously Rare's focus, exemplified by fantastic environments, animation, and brilliant use of color. And, with certain exceptions (glaringly so in the hub), frame rates are consistently high.
The sound gets mixed treatment. The music is appropriate and somewhat memorable, and the effects are certainly fine, but the voices are, although well acted, very poorly chosen. I couldn't shake the feeling that Rare was working to capture the essence of a cartoon for children under the age of six. I suppose that could have been their target audience, except most of the Star Fox fans I know are at least old enough to remember the original. But graphics and sound are superficial - perhaps Rare, in keeping with their tradition of crafting finely tuned action adventure romps, managed to provide us with some solid gameplay.
Which brings me to the real letdown... Mechanically, Star Fox Adventures is smooth - easy controls, manageable inventory system, good camera. But the general process of collecting items and getting from point A to B is poorly designed. Rare presents a ridiculously shallow experience by guiding the player through every event and puzzle. There was no need for the designers to specify, at almost every point along the way, exactly what needs to be done and how. Further, the combat is frighteningly simple and lacks variation in both attack style and enemies encountered. A few more combos and villains would have certainly eliminated some of the tedium. The same applies to the incredibly weak Arwing sequences, into which I won't give much detail since there really isn't much to tell. They just feel incomplete and do little more than provide nostalgic heartache.
Overall, Star Fox Adventures rides high on its aesthetics but fails in its attempt as a thought provoking adventure. At under 20 hours total playing time, the game is paced appropriately enough that it does not feel rip-off short or overly long, but there is nothing that tempts me to work my way through this a second time. And while it manages to provide some personality to the Star Fox team and universe, it does so through shallow gameplay and childish presentation. It's unfortunate that Rare's last stand with Nintendo disappoints as both a continuation of what had the potential to be a grand saga, and as an action adventure game from the masters of 3d platforming.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 09/30/02, Updated 02/27/03
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