Review by darthjulian

Reviewed: 02/09/07

The glorious highpoint of the Star Fox saga

The original "Star Fox" game for the Super Nintendo was quite a peculiar title for the 16-Bit machine. On one hand, it featured revolutionary graphics and some decent gameplay, but on the other hand, the game also suffered from the unfortunate fact that a lot of gamers back then were not exactly keen on the blocky polygonal graphics, no matter how innovative they were or how far they pushed the technical capabilities of the SNES. While the game did not generate a huge fanbase the way other Nintendo franchises did, it at least became a popular title for the system eventually, and successful enough to justify a sequel for Nintendo´s next console, the Nintendo 64. And apart from the fact that the developers at Nintendo did yet another awesome job, this game also represents the birth of Star Fox as a mainstay series within Nintendo´s vast game portfolio, and it´s easy to see why.

But let´s start with the gameplay first, the real meat of every single game out there. Basically, "Star Fox 64" plays almost exactly like its predecessor, which means that we are being treated with a typical space-based Shoot´em Up - at least at first sight. All the commands and actions from the original are still intact here. The first vehicle you will encounter is still the good, old Arwing, an X-Wing-like one-man spacecraft that offers two ways to attack your many enemies. First of all, there are the typical laserbeams you can shoot at your enemies, and by collecting certain items, you can upgrade your lasercanon up to two times. When you´re concentrating on one enemy only, you can also charge your lasercanon and aim for said enemy, and he will be exposed to some serious damage. Apart from the lasercanon, there are also bombs you can throw at your opponents. They are far more powerful than the regular lasercanon as they are able to take out all current enemies onscreen. The downside to this might be the fact that there´s only a limited number of bombs available, but you can get new ones at certain points inside the levels or simply by calling for support from your team´s mothership "Great Fox" when given the chance. The Arwing can also execute quite some interesting moves, like a sommersault or a simple roll, with which you can even deflect enemy laserblasts for a few seconds. However, the Arwing is not your sole vehicle in the entire game. In one level, for example, you have to use a submarine in order to get through a beautifully designed ocean, and there also is the tank which you can use in two stages at least. No matter what vehicle you´re currently playing with, the controls always remain exact and pitch-perfect, as we´re used to from Nintendo, and getting into the gameplay mechanics is no big deal at all, even for beginners. But for now, let´s come to another crucial aspect, namely the level design. In general, the game is divided into several missions that all take place on different planets, making up the levels of the game. Depending on what planet you´re currently on, you´re either flying on a straight path like in the majority of shoot´em ups, or you are allowed to fly around freely in a limited area. What really is outstanding about the level design is the sheer variety of locations you´ll visit. No matter whether it´s a flight through an asteroid field or a journey through the depths of the ocean, each level offers a new theme, making sure that you won´t get bored that easily. Another positive aspect is the fact that you can make your way through the game on several different routes, leading to two different ending sequences. The route you take will be determined by certain tasks you have to accomplished in a level, like protecting a building from the enemy´s mothership. Depending on whether or not you fail to accomplish this task (sometimes, it´s a littler trickier to find out what to do in order to take a different route), the route to the next level will be determined. As for the difficulty level, the game always remains fair without being too easy, so even beginners have a chance to beat the game. For experts, there´s always the chance to make the game a bit more difficult by trying to achieve a medal for each level, which requires you to kill as many enemies (and trust me, there are hundreds of them in each level) as possible. All in all, though, the gameplay is simply perfect for a 3D shoot´em up and another testament to the abilities of the team around Nintendo mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto.

So the gameplay already is superb, but what really gained this game so much attention in 1997 definitely were the amazing graphics. The spaceship models have been designed with quite an impressive amount of detail and care, and of course, they are lightyears ahead of what the world had previously seen in "Star Fox" in form of crude polygonal objects. Naturally, there are tons of special effects to be found throughout the game, with explosions being the most recurring ones, and they do indeed look great, which is made even more impressive by the fact that they appear quite frequently without slowing down the game at all.

What makes the audio in "Star Fox 64" so special is the inclusion of full English voice acting, which is rarely seen in a Nintendo 64 game for that matter. Not only that, the voices also sound crystal clear and allow you to understand everything properly. In addition to the (admittedly quite corny) English dialogue, you also have the option to switch the voice acting to the Lylat language, which sounds completely weird and outlandish, but strangely intriguing as well. The other sound effects are nicely done as well, as is the musical score that features some really catchy and sometimes even dramatic tunes. For a Nintendo 64 game, however, the audio here is excellent.

It might get old to say that about a Nintendo game, but "Star Fox 64" represents another masterpiece in Nintendo´s long and glorious history of grandiose games. It outclasses its predecessor in every way imaginable and still remains the best title in the Star Fox franchise, with only "Star Fox Adventures" coming close to this one. It´s another proof for Nintendo being experts in nearly every single genre, no matter whether it´s Jump & Runs, Action/Adventures or Shoot´em Ups like this one. A game no Nintendo fan should miss!

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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