Review by LastStand
Fox is back, Peppy’s gotten older, Falco’s still got an attitude, and Slippy’s lost all his hormones
Star Fox redefined the flight simulator genre. When released on the SNES, Star Fox, polygons and all, allowed players to fly through various planets in the Lylat System, shooting up enemies until they reached the boss. No game of such caliber had come out from 1993 to 1997, the time between the original Star Fox and Star Fox 64, and players were very anxious for this game’s release. So anxious, in fact, that it sold more copies in its first day than any other game in history (I’m not sure if that record still stands today). The game did not exactly match the hype in magnitude, but nevertheless it is still a great game.
The graphics of this game are very exceptional in some departments, but a digression in others. The actual units and ships are awesome. The textures on the arwings and bosses are sweet. You can point out practically every nut and bolt that his holding the metal plates onto the ships. Astounding realism is apparent in the units.
Less impressive, however, is the environment. The grounds are not textured and are pixelized, and the horizon is just a mess of pixels. In fact, I see little improvement on the backgrounds over the original Star Fox. The units, however, are very exceptional.
I really can’t say much about the music here. The music, in fact, is so quiet that you can barely hear it. When you do hear it, though, it is not impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed the music from the original Star Fox, and I wonder why they did not just redo some of the old tunes and stick them in this game instead of the crap that they put in here. The only somewhat impressive sound comes from the voice acting. In fact there is more voice acting in this game than practically any other N64 game. There is only one thing I really, really dislike about the voice acting: Slippy. Slippy, all in all, has one of the most annoying voices of any other character in any other game I’ve played. As an analogy, take this: take any singer from any boy band from the late ‘90s (you know who I mean), suck out all the hormones, pump him full of helium, stick him in the cockpit of an arwing, tell him to start whining about everything, then stick a dying cat in the back. That’s pretty much it. Yes, it’s that bad, especially on Titania, when every time you accidentally shoot his ship at the boss, he whines “What do you think you’re doing, Fox?” in that annoying voice of his, over and over and over every single time you do it. Thank God Peppy buts in and tells Slippy to shut up (why doesn’t he do that more often?).
Here is the scene at Nintendo HQ: the Star Fox 64 development team was frantically trying to come up with a story for their new game. With the deadline fast approaching, one of them rummaged through a nearby file and came across the old Star Fox storyline from 1993. He plopped it in front of the development head and said, “Forget coming up with a new one. This works fine.” Yeah, that’s it, at least in essence. The old Star Fox storyline is used again, with a few twists in the middle of the game: General Pepper exiles the maniacal scientist Andross to Venom, where Andross seeks revenge and attacks Corneria. Pepper calls upon the services of the Star Fox Team, who prepare a strike against Venom. Yeah, it’s nothing new. It’s actually the exact same thing as before.
Nintendo has basically taken the old Star Fox idea and revamped it. This is nothing to complain about, though, since it is done with few flaws. The idea is to move from the beginning of the level to the end in a straight line, almost as if you’re in a tunnel, until you reach the boss, at which time you must destroy the boss to move on to the next level. However, some things have changed. For one, there is the all-range mode, which is used against some bosses and as the base idea for some levels, such as Fortuna. In this mode, you are given a perimeter within which you can free fly. This allows for dogfights, which become very exciting when you are fighting the Star Wolf Team. This is more often than not used against bosses, but it is used in some levels throughout the entire level. Another new aspect of gameplay is the scoring system. Unlike the old percentage system from the original Star Fox, there is now a point system. Every unit you kill, you get a point. If you kill more than one unit at once with your charged laser, which has homing capabilities, you get bonus points. For example, two kills at once is worth +1 bonus, which equals total out to 3 points: 2 kills and the bonus point. You get bonus points also for killing certain enemies alone. Bosses are also worth up to +10 bonus, depending on how fast you kill them. Some enemies, such as finding the secret path to destroying the train on Macbeth or the revived Star Wolf Team, is worth a whopping +50 bonus points. What is the worth of all these points, you ask? Other than being worth a high score, if you get a specified number of kills in a level, you earn a medal, which can earn you special bonuses, such as other vehicles in Multiplayer and the Expert mode.
A welcome change is the idea of saving your allies. Of course you could save your allies in the original Star Fox, but they were very easy to save in that game and if they lost all their energy, they died for good. In this game, they are attacked much more often and are often tricky to save. If their energy gets depleted, however, they do not die, but rather retreat to the Great Fox (the team’s mothership) for repairs. They are unavailable for the rest of that level and the next. This poses a problem often because your allies are sometimes critical for finding alternate endings to the level, which, in essence, can COMPLETELY change the course of gameplay.
This is another good thing about SF64. Unlike the original SF, in which you picked a route and followed it linearly to Venom, SF64 allows for nonlinear gameplay. If you find an alternate exit to the level, you can go to a different area than if you took the normal route. Usually, however, the more alternate routes you take, the harder the path. This is most helpful, however, in earning a high score.
Multiplayer can be fun, but there is a severe lack of options. You get to play one of three levels: Corneria, Katina (only in Time Trial), and Sector Z (Not in Time Trial). Corneria and Katina are the only ones I ever play because Sector Z is so black that you can hardly even see your opponents. There are only three modes too: Point Match (whoever gets X amount of kills first), Battle Royal (an absolute waste as it is only Point Match to 1 point), and Time Trial (who can kill the most enemies first, but your score is reset every time you’re killed so there is a lot of killing going on). An even worse problem is the small screens, even in 2-player. The game uses the bottom two screens in 2 player mode for cameras, making you still use the top two tiny screens. Dogfights are still fun, though, and four-player multiplayer becomes a blast once you have unlocked the Landmaster and Runner.
Overall, despite its flaws, gameplay is good ol’ classic Star Fox in a nonlinear fashion. Fun.
Challenge: Below Average
This is where SF64 really begins to lack. The single-player experience is extremely easy on normal mode and is not really that hard on expert mode. The biggest problem that Nintendo created was the high number of extra lives you can earn. I swear I have not gotten a single game over since my first couple tries.
Replay Value: 8/10
You’ll be playing single-player for a while just to get the medals and unlock everything. I tried forever to get a high score that I could submit into a Nintendo Power Arena (I got something like 100th place, and I thought my score was unbeatable [try getting 436 kills in Area 6]). Single-player is too easy, however, and multiplayer doesn’t offer much until you unlock the Landmaster and Runner and only if you have 4 players.
-Classic Star Fox gameplay on the N64
-New all-range mode allows for dogfights
-Single player is pretty fun
-You will want to get every medal and the elusive high score
-It comes with the Rumble Pak
Crash and Burn:
-Single-player is a little too short and easy
-Multiplayer lacks options until Landmaster and Runner are unlocked
-Slippy exists, it’s worth saying again
The Bottom Line:
The game is good, but it is too short and easy to be called “legendary.” The original is better, but this game certainly is good enough to own if you have three friends to play it with. Otherwise, unless you really want to unlock everything and want a really impressive high score to show off, give it a rental.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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