Review by LastStand

"A very good game that will unfortunately be despised by much of the gaming masses for all the wrong reasons"

Warning: This review is quite long. I have much to rant on.

A little history lesson:
Star Fox Adventures was not originally slated to be like this. In fact, it was originally going to be a new series called Dinosaur Planet, conceived completely by Rare. Supposedly this was to be a personal accomplishment for Rare, something they could call their own. This was something that was quite…well, rare for Rare (pun unintended), because almost everything of late that Rare has produced has been in conglomeration with Nintendo, their long-time partner. This partnership was a very strong and very successful one, dating all the way back to 1994, when Rare helped Nintendo come out with Donkey Kong Country. This partnership would remain strong and intact for several years. Then, Rare began to work on Dinosaur Planet. Everything was good until Nintendo made a supposedly fatal mistake. They butted in on Rare’s project and asked that Rare have the game have Star Fox in it. Rare of course was not happy with this, since Nintendo was now taking away what was supposedly Rare’s. Nintendo changed the name of the game to Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet, and eventually dropped the Dinosaur Planet name altogether and called it Star Fox Adventures. We all know what happened next. Quite possibly this series of events indirectly led to the dissolution of the partnership between Rare and Nintendo, and Microsoft quickly capitalized on Nintendo’s mistake by buying Rare. This, in most cases, is why everyone despises Star Fox Adventures. However, I feel that this element is causing people to completely overlook what is a very good game and quite a final accomplishment by one of the greatest partnerships in videogame history.
There are basically three reasons why people don’t like Star Fox Adventures:
1. It’s a rip-off of Zelda
2. Star Fox does not belong in this game
3. It led to the demise of the Rare-Nintendo partnership
Personally, to the first two, I say: Who cares? The only one that I even remotely care about is the third element, and that has already been discussed. The other two I will mention in my review.

Graphics: 10/10
The graphics are, in a word, stunning. These graphics are some of the best you will find on any console, period. Rare has always been known to push Nintendo’s consoles’ graphical capabilities to the limit, and this is no exception. You can point out individual strands of grass. The water effects are wonderful, and you can actually clearly see reflections in them. The units are superbly detailed. You can point out the individual strands of fur on Fox and see them individually blow in the wind. Wow. Simply amazing graphics. The graphics are improved even more during the cut-scenes, which is quite an accomplishment. Awesome graphics, without a doubt.

Story: 9/10
The story is very original, and basically stays true to what Rare had in mind originally, only some things had to be changed to incorporate the Star Fox theme. The story takes place several years after that of Star Fox 64, as Krystal, a fox from somewhere on the other side of the Lylat System, is searching for answers about her past and comes across a “garbled distress signal” coming from Dinosaur Planet, a planet in a remote part of the System. “Being of kind nature” she answers the call and goes down to investigate. She finds out that a lizard named General Scales is attempting to enslave the dinosaurs on the planet. He has stolen the four Spellstones and released the six Krazoa Spirits that hold the planet together, causing it to break apart. Krystal, after retrieving one spirit, is captured and imprisoned in a crystal at the Krazoa Palace. Meanwhile, the Star Fox team is traveling near Dinosaur Planet, in desperate need of money, and is called by General Pepper to repair the planet, promising them a hefty bonus. Naturally, the team takes the mission, and the story unfolds from there as Fox goes down to do all the dirty work while Slippy and Peppy sit up in the Great Fox mothership and do all the behind-the-scenes work. Although the concept of a broken planet is kind of trite, the story unfolds very well and there are many unexpected twists that keep it interesting.

Sound/Music: 8/10
The music is well-done, but I don’t think it is quite as good as some people say it is. Sure, the Cape Claw music is good, and ThornTail Hollow music is OK, but everything else is very nondescript. All the music is fairly similar: tribal/safari beats with bongos, tribal-style chanting, and woodwind instruments. Really I don’t have much to say here except that you will hear some good music now and then, but nothing really exceptional.
The sound, however, is a keystone of the game; not necessarily the sound effects, but the voice acting. There is a TON of voice acting in this game, probably more than almost any other game on the market. Some of it is actually very good. Fox has some very good voice acting in many places, and Prince Tricky, contrary to my initial perceptions, has some good acting as well. This is one reason why I kind of liked having Fox in this game. It attributed to Fox a personality, although often confusing (at one moment he will have sympathy for the dinosaurs and the next complain that he does not get paid enough to do this), something he was completely devoid of in the other two Star Fox games. Krystal, when she does talk, is also pretty good, whether she is speaking Dinosaur Language or English. I found the LightFoot tribe to be hilarious at times, but they may be annoying to some people. Some of the acting, however, is not good at all. I didn’t like Peppy’s acting, nor General Pepper, and some of the ThornTails and SnowHorns don’t act well at all. Slippy somehow has lost whatever hormones he had left from SF64 and is now extremely annoying. Personally I tried not to take his advice because I didn’t want to listen to him talk. However, I don’t know how they did it, but Nintendo found a way to make someone more annoying than Slippy. The ThornTail shopkeeper has THE MOST ANNOYING screechy witchlike voice I have ever heard. Yes, it’s really, really bad. Shop at your own risk.
Rare did do a good job at creating cultural diversity in its voice acting, too. The Warp Stone is Scottish (hilarious), the LightFoots are Mexican (also hilarious), Krystal’s CloudRunner has a Southern accent, and pretty much everyone else is British (except for the Star Fox team). It’s just so strange that I just had to point it out. A good portion of the acting is good, and almost everything that isn’t is funny.

Gameplay: 8/10
I would have given it a 9 if it were more original, but nevertheless the gameplay is good overall. The game is almost completely Zelda-esque, with almost the same combat system, puzzle format, find-and-retrieve-X-amount-of-Y-and-bring-it-to-Z-to-win premise, etc. There are a few changes to make it seem a little fresh, however, but nothing can “mask” the fact that this game has a “link” to Zelda (pun intended that time). Your objective is to travel between Dinosaur Planet (which consists of several areas with its central location being ThornTail Hollow) and its “satellites” (broken chunks of planet), collecting the four SpellStones and six Krazoa Spirits, bringing them to the Force Point and Krazoa Place, respectively. Doing this will bring the planet back together and free Krystal from her prison. The Spellstones are all (if I remember correctly) guarded by bosses, which provide some of the most entertaining and puzzling boss battles I’ve ever played. The Krazoa Spirits, however, are found in Krazoa Shrines, and you must pass a certain test to earn the Spirits. The action starts off slowly (not including the Prologue in which you control Krystal), then picks up significantly towards the end.
To accompany you there is Prince Tricky, whom you will acquire early in the game. Tricky will do certain tasks, such as dig up things in certain areas, melt ice, etc, just as long as you feed him Blue GrubTubs when he so wishes.
Fox, upon landing, is upset that he was not allowed to bring his blaster (why not, anyways?) and is told by General Pepper to find another weapon. He in fact finds the staff that Krystal dropped early in the Prologue. This versatile weapon can be upgraded as the game progresses to perform certain tasks, such as shoot fire, etc. However, the basic combat system that uses the staff is fairly interesting at first but gets stale by the end. Unlike in Zelda, for instance, in which you must methodically defeat your enemies with individual strikes and blocks, Star Fox Adventures rather uses a combo system. You simply rapidly tap the A-button and hold in a direction and Fox will perform a certain combo move. This would be fine if there was more freedom in attacking and if there were more than four combos, but this is unfortunately not the case. The above is the case. This makes battling a snap, usually, since most of the SharpClaws you’ll come across are COMPLETELY battle-inept, and simply block until striking every once in a while. Another new but rather undesirable combat element is the auto-lock. Unlike in Zelda, in which you press the Z-button to lock on to enemies and press it again to lock on to another enemy, this game automatically locks on to an enemy as long as you have your staff drawn. This may save the hassle of pressing a button to lock on every time an enemy is defeated, but this poses problems. For example, in the Krazoa Test of Combat, you are forced to fight several small SharpClaws and only a couple bigger, shielded SharpClaws. I became very frustrated when the auto-lock insisted on locking on to the shielded SharpClaws as the smaller, less-defended Sharp-Claws proceeded to swing at will. This problem is rare, however, so you won’t need to worry about it much.
The game also bears a striking resemblance to Zelda in other ways as well. For one, it uses the “heart-life system,” only now with little Star Fox logos instead of hearts. Each “heart” (as I will call it because “logo” just doesn’t sound right) is divided into four parts. One thing that automatically gives away the idea that this game is easier combat-wise is the fact that you can only get up to seven hearts max (starting with three and getting a new one for each Spellstone you find). To replenish this, you have items that fill up one or half a heart. You also have BafomDads (like fairies in Zelda), which can revive you when you die. This is a serious drawback challenge-wise, however, because eventually you can buy a BafomDad holder from the annoying shopkeeper that allows you to hold up to TEN BAFOMDADS, and let me tell you, three would have been plenty. BafomDads aren’t exactly that rare either. Sure, they are a little hard to find, but as long as you are even remotely a decent player you will not die very often (I think I died maybe four times the whole game), mostly due to the very low amounts of big battles you will be in. Personally, I had my holder completely full of BafomDads from the halfway point on. Come on, Rare. You could at least challenge us a little!
Don’t expect much of traditional Star Fox, however. There are Arwing missions, but they were obviously thrown together quickly and are used only when you’re moving between planets and satellites. These missions are not exactly satisfying to any real Star Fox fan, though, as they are fairly easy and consist basically of nothing more than flying through a specified number of gold rings to reach the destination. These missions are not the bread and butter of the game, though, so you shouldn’t focus on them.
But we must not forget: how great would a so-called Zelda knock-off be without great puzzles? Not good, obviously, so this game is PACKED with them, and many of them are hard—very hard. The biggest problem with some of the puzzles is, however, the game gives you little clue as to where to start and where to go when you’re done. You’ll find yourself trapped in a room, forced to solve a puzzle with no idea where to start. The game also seems to be quite fond of barrel-transporting puzzles, which will undoubtedly cause you to pull your hair out in tufts. Although the puzzles are vague, you will get a good feeling when you complete them. Just be ready for some very challenging puzzles.
Overall, the game is basically modeled directly on Zelda, but I certainly have no complaints about that. It’s not new or fresh, but it’s good nonetheless.

Challenge: Average
This aspect can be broken up into two parts: combat and puzzles. The combat aspect is extremely easy, and you will almost never die except by falling in frozen lakes or getting caught in lava pools, and you will probably have so many of the aforementioned BafomDads anyways that you will have nothing to worry about. The puzzles, however, are very challenging and make you think a lot. 90 percent of this game is half mental (haha).

Lasting Appeal/Replay Value: 9/10, 5/10
You will be playing this game for a very long time. It might actually be safe to say that this game is longer than Ocarina of Time. The game is a good 20 or so hours long, even for the good players, mostly because the puzzles are so darn tough. Even when you get bored with the combat aspect, the challenging puzzles and somewhat intriguing storyline will keep you playing.
As for replay value, this game has little. There are cheat tokens to earn, which unlock things like a sound test and a dinosaur language subtitle option, but there are few cheat tokens, and not much else will make you play again. There simply aren’t enough secrets.

Good Points:
-Exceptional and very detailed graphics
-Lots of voice acting, much of which is quite good, and cut-scenes
-Pretty good music
-Fairly fresh storyline
-A very long quest
-Well-thought-out puzzles are challenging
-Scottish Warp Stones!
-Mexican LightFoots!
-Boss battles are fun

Bad Points:
-Almost a direct rip-off of Zelda (but who cares?)
-Not really a Star Fox game (but who cares?)
-Combat is far too easy
-Auto-lock system is flawed
-Puzzles may be too hard for some people
-Arwing missions are dull
-Some of the voice acting is not very good
-Slippy (and his annoying voice) still exists
-Shabunga (the shopkeeper) also exists
-Puzzles are too vague and may be too hard for some people
-Not enough boss battles

The Bottom Line:
I only wish that people would see through all the problems that this game caused and realize that it is a good game. We may never get to see Perfect Dark Zero on GameCube, but Rare left a good legacy, and although SFA is not exactly the gem of the bunch, it is certainly worth your time. I didn’t buy it; I rented it, but it took the entire eight days I had it. Don’t rent if you won’t have 20+ hours to spend playing it; either pass it up or buy it. That is my humble opinion, and I really thank you for reading what is quite possibly the longest review on right now (except for maybe some of those Action 52 reviews).

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/11/04

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