US Release: September 2002
Before I begin this review of Rare's only ever GameCube
release (before the company was sold to Microsoft for a
staggering $350 million), it's important to realise that it
is, by no means, the GC's best. That's not to say that it's
a poor game (in fact, it didn't deserve the average scores
it received upon its release), but it's certainly a grade
below the superb titles that Rare was churning out,
during its N64 heyday.
Looking back now, some seven years later, it's clear to
see that it was the direction that Rare took with its
swansong title that garnered most of its criticism. After
setting the SNES and N64 alight with blisteringly fast
blasters (more so in N64's Lylat Wars), fans of the pistol-
wieldingFox were less than happy to discover he was
appearing in a seemingly Zelda-ish adventure clone. Yes,
there were a some small Arwing sections (and how fun
were they?!), but the main 'meat and potatoes' of StarFox
Adventures' gameplay saw the bushy-tailed one,
traversing around some truly stunning locations, while
trying to restore peace to Dinosaur Planet.
The environments are beautifully realised and filled with
impressive attention to detail.
As already mentioned, StarFox Adventures owes a heavy
debt to Miyamoto's Legend of Zelda series; Fox's
adventures share many similarities with the likes of
Ocarina of Time, and the later Twilight Princess. This, of
course, is no bad thing, and while StarFox Adventures
doesn't quite match the high standards set by both titles,
it has plenty of great elements that all combine together
to create an utterly compelling adventure.
Indeed, from the moment StarFox Adventure starts, you
know you're about to witness something special.
Beginning with a breif sequence that allows you to control
Krystal, as she and her pterodactyl companion
desperately try to escape a huge battleship, the
adventure starts in earnest, with Fox being told of
Dinosaur Planet's plight - it's currently in the process of
breaking up - and recovering Krystal's dropped staff that
she relinquishes when she's imprisoned.
Even if all that sounds as far removed from the StarFox
franchise as Wolf and Slippy getting ice cream with each
other, it won't matter as soon as Fox touches down in
Thorntail Hollow and his adventure begins. StarFox
Adventures was praised upon its release for its gorgeous
visuals, and eight years later, it's still a thing of beauty.
Putting many Wii titles to shame, it still manages to take
the breath away. Thorntail Hollow is a truly beautiful
location, filled with exotic plants, huge dinosaurs, and
spectacular water effects. You'll constantly be amazed at
the seemingly living, breathing world that Rare has
created. Like Ocarina of Time, the world of Dinosaur
Planet seques between day and night, but the effect here
is far more subtle, offering realism that even Miyamoto
wasn't able to evoke. I should also meantion the random
weather and lighting effects, the stunning, Pixar-like
rendering of Fox's fur, the way that plants swayed lazily
in the breeze, and the intricately textured buildings that
Rare created an amazing, organic world that has so much
to see and discover, that you'll never want to leave. This
graphical splendour is bolstered by an utterly superb
soundtrack, that changes between subtle and relaxing, to
bombastically over-the-top, depending on what's
happening on-screen. Voice acting throughout is of an
extremely high standard, while the soundtrack matches
the majesty found in Lylat Wars, and is almost as good as
anything found in Zelda's cannon.
Dah Dah Da Daaahhh! The beautifully rendered Fox.
That's worth 20 Rupees!
It's something of a pity then, that StarFox Adventures'
gameplay doesn't quite match the dizzying heights of its
aesthetics. Take the collecting you're required to do, for
example. Rare was often criticised on its needless
collecting of valueless items, that we experienced on the
N64. And, of course, StarFox Adventures is no exception,
although it's not quite as tedious as Rare's N64 efforts. If
there's any bone I have to pick with this game, it's the
inconsistencyof its puzzles. Some of the puzzles are
incredibly fiendish in design, while others wouldn't look
out of place in Doom. Then there's the bizarre difficulty of
them, which appears to have been decided by plucking a
toughness factor out of a hat. The further the game
progresses, the more the puzzles seem randomly
slap-dashed together, and it's a real shame to see the
gameplay slowly run out of steam as it reaches its
wonderfully operatic finale.
Luckily, while the puzzles with often have you gnashing
your teeth in frustration, the combat system is far better,
and it allows the brave Fox to take on multiple opponents
without feeling hopelessly outnumbered or outclassed.
Combat is always intuitive, with Fox being able to nimbly
avoid enemies with the simple press of the X button,
while hammering the A button enables you to pull off
some impressive combos. Combat is always fun and
fluent, and it never gets dull. But even the excellent
combat isn't StarFox Adventures' best feature, no, that
award goes to it's use of the C stick. Any item that Fox
picks up on his travels, automatically gets transported to
his inventory, which can be accessed by neatly
manipulating the C stick. Simply highlight the item you
want, press the A button, and Fox equips it. It's brilliantly
simple, and is one of many neat touches you will find in
Combat is simple. As soon as an enemy comes into view,
Fox will immediately lock on to it, ready to pummel.
Sometimes handy, sometimes not.
Overall, StarFox Adventures is a breakthrough game, and
is one of the GameCube's best. Of course, it may not have
been the game that many die-hard StarFox fans were
waiting for, but the amount of disappointment was
greatly surpassed by the amount of enjoyment that this
game provides. I highly recommend picking up this title
immediately, if you haven't already played it.