Star Fox Adventures Review

For those who are wondering, it’s not a complete cop-out to re-post reviews here on my blog. There’s a surprising amount of reformatting and editing; it almost takes longer than a new blog post. Of course, the difference there is that I have to think a little harder when I make a new blog post. I thought I was biased for the Star Fox series. I reread both my Star Fox Assault review and my Star Fox Adventures review, and since I gave both of them lower than a 9.0 (Star Fox Assault lower than a 7.5), I reminded myself that I am, in fact, not completely biased for the series. The only game in the series I didn’t play was Star Fox Command, which I heard was too much of a departure from the series anyways.

In any case, here is my Star Fox Adventures review:

“These graphics are some of the best I’ve seen in a video game, even years later.”

Star Fox Adventures was in development for quite some time and it was finally released in late September of 2002 only for Nintendo Gamecube. Was the joint development including Rareware really pushing for a great game? The full review is here!

Sound: 8.9

Most of the sound effects in this game are very well done. Since we all like to hear new sound effects, I’d have to say Rareware did a great job in this game. As with previous games, there are effects to just about everything. From the thumping of the hard ground to the clanking of metal floors, many of the unique sound effects come from Fox just walking around. Fox’s staff creates sound effects that are very basic sounds that we’ve all likely heard in another game or a movie, however. As for the rest, it’s a job done well.

In 2002, not many games had much voice dialogue. Star Fox Adventures’ story is built around the spoken dialogue. It’s actually nice to hear the British accented voices implemented in most characters. (This is due to Rareware being based in the UK.) The voices are also accompanied by the characters’ mouths actually moving in this game, which will be talked about more in the Graphics section. While some of it is a bit over-dramatic, it mostly works, and it’s a great touch. Dare I say that I would call it next-generation, in a way. I’ve seen plenty of GCN games that lack in this department, so it’s much appreciated.

The best aspect is the music. The mixture of the music is so amazing, I had to up the score for Sound. They all sound orchestrated in a sense, and they all fit the mood. In most cases, you’ll hear different music for different areas, so basically the variety is big. There are exactly 100 different songs in the game that you can hear by unlocking the Jukebox mode (some songs heard there are exclusive to the Jukebox mode and not even in the actual game, for whatever reason). Koji Kondo also helped in bringing back some old tracks for Rareware (including the Star Fox theme) which are now newly composed, and also very well done. I could just sit down and listen to the ThornTail Hollow theme (Day or Night version) for half an hour. It’s that good.

Control: 7.5

The control for Star Fox Adventures goes to two areas: flying and walking. Most of the control is found by walking because that’s basically most of the game, so I’ll start with flying. I’ll be the first to say that the Arwing levels would be more fun if it wasn’t for the bad control scheme. First off, it goes a little too fast for a Star Fox game. After playing Star Fox 64 in the Nintendo Wii, I realized that Star Fox games work fine with a faster speed (as in a consistent framerate), but the levels are so short that the speed doesn’t help. It’s so hard to aim at the enemies, and they almost feel thrown in last minute. Secondly, the setup isn’t too well done. Y is boost and X is brake, and it seems simple, but try braking and shooting at the same time. They could have used L and R, but they assigned the barrel roll for those buttons; not that it matters because there’s hardly any enemies to hit you anyway. The barrel roll is only useful for the final air battle. Ironically, Nintendo adapted the Y and X buttons for the Virtual Console remake of the original Star Fox 64, and they work fine there, somehow.¬†Another reason to blame the bad controls in Arwing levels is because of the purpose of the game. Since there’s a mix of flying and walking, they decided that the play control in Arwing levels needn’t be perfect. The developers obviously thought not many would care about the Arwing levels anyway since they are so easy. These levels feel more tacked on than part of the core gameplay, anyway.

The play control on land isn’t all that great either. A is assigned to everything-even using your staff as a weapon. The Zelda series has the right idea of using B as a weapon button. B is only used as Cancel. Also the only button assigned to as a ‘quick access’ is Y. You’ll use L as a camera control, which can also be a problem sometimes. The good thing is that enemies nearby will automatically be ‘locked-on’ by your camera so you can fight without holding down anything. The C Stick is used as getting things out of your inventory and using Tricky’s moves. The good thing is that it’s easier to get to the items because you just use the C Stick. That means you can do something while retrieving an item or a move by your staff/for Tricky. The bad thing is when you want to use something fast, you won’t be able to pause the game and wait, so if there’s an enemy and you’re trying to do something with the C Stick, it can be hard to control both.

Graphics: 9.9

Amazing! Just amazing. First off is the artwork. Rareware has great ideas for making everything seem different. Lighting effects are astounding, and reflect well against Fox. Shadows seem very realistic and move fluidly with Fox. Character designs are great and very high-polygon. Added effects like mist and fog can be seen as well as beams of light in different areas. The Arwing level graphics are also just as good as the land graphics.

Fox’s character model design is where the quality of the graphics show. Fox being fur-rendered also shows what GCN was capable of. His fur moves so well with his actions that if you run, you’ll see the effect of his fur going backwards and vice versa. The only ‘complaint’ is that his fur isn’t very thick so it’s hard to notice that effect at first. Light reflections against him are also neat to see. When you play as Fox in this game, you really get a sense of realism; that’s what I’m looking for in a great game and this has it!

When I edited this review in late 2007, I dropped the score for the graphics by one point, making it 9.9 from the previous perfect score of 10.0. Having played this game several times through since its release, I just can’t forgive that some of the cutscenes, while gorgeous, don’t push the graphics to the level of perfection. Mainly, I am referring to some of the animations that they did, which don’t look quite as polished as they should have been. So while I will no longer call the graphics perfect, I would still call them above excellent, and still some of the best I’ve seen, even years later.

Replay: 8.0

Let’s start with some of the ‘extras’ to the core gameplay. like the Arwing levels. Despite the not so good controls there, these levels can actually become somewhat fun, and of course it’s fun to try to beat your own score. You can also try and see how fast you can complete both of the LightFoot tests, as another example. I don’t think any multiplayer modes would have helped because the Arwing levels are short and the minor thrill of those levels wouldn’t change with more human players, I wouldn’t think. The same goes with the main part of the game. Since most adventure games don’t have multiplayer modes, this didn’t need one either.

As for how long the game lasts, the first time around is about 20 hours. I was surprised by myself to beat it in only 19 hours. Once you beat the game completely, the only thing the game will let you do is play the final boss battle, so you might as well erase it and try beating the game again faster. Also there are eight cheat tokens that you’ll want to find and since four of them contain messages that you can only read once, you may want to play the game again just to get those four tokens and read the mysterious messages again. There are also many more secrets such as the LightFoot Village. After completing the two tests and exiting the village, you can try to go back inside by figuring out the puzzle to open the gate and you’ll find even more stuff in there. Of course once you know how to do this stuff, the game can get repetitive and you’ll find that the only real reason you’d want to play this again is just for having fun, but I don’t want to make that sound negative. This game is fun enough that you may want to play this game several times through. Like Zelda and Mario games, that’s what makes adventure games worth buying.

Design: 8.6

Star Fox Adventures follows along the line of the Zelda series in how the game’s design was developed. This is because the producer of the Zelda games (Shigeru Miyamoto) was also a producer for Star Fox Adventures. For Wind Waker fans, this game is a step down in terms of design quality. Rareware had the right idea about the amount of places to visit, but there really are no definite dungeons. Gathering the four SpellStones in their four locations are sort of like dungeons, but much smaller and easier. The Force Point Temples are similar, but you revisit each temple once again, instead of visiting an entirely new temple, so that doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to innovation. It almost feels like the game is comprised of several mini-dungeons. They are nicely made, but because of the difficulty and the somewhat weird feel to them, players may be turned off. And throwing in the Arwing levels doesn’t help. They are poorly made compared to Star Fox 64 and are definitely paced incorrectly considering the series.

This game was made mainly for the adventure portion, as it was originally an N64 game titled “Dinosaur Planet”. So, if you get past the bad Arwing levels, you’ll find an engaging game with a lot of tasks and goals. The Arwing levels were mainly added to give players a little something extra, and the whole purpose on the original game design wasn’t to create a Star Fox game (per se), but rather take on a new type of gaming that Shigeru Miyamoto has done with the Zelda series. Throughout the years of this game having been released, I frequently hear complaints that it wasn’t a true Star Fox game. That wasn’t the purpose of the game. Heck, the game is called “Star Fox Adventures“.¬†It makes me think the real reason for the Arwing levels is to say that it has some element of the series in this otherwise completely adventure-filled game. Rareware made the game to be adventure and Zelda-like. This game doesn’t compare to Zelda in that area, either. That’s not to say this isn’t worth playing. It’s a solid adventure game, much better than your average third-party release.

Final Score: 8.6

Final Words

Despite some of the downs, many adventurers will enjoy this game, and they’ll get past the fact that this isn’t really an addition to the rail-shooter genre or the franchise as much as it is a full-fledged adventure. Nintendo themselves still acknowledges this as part of the Star Fox series, as Krystal (introduced in this game) plays a major role in Star Fox: Assault, and is as much a part of the franchise as the other characters nowadays. Though many say this game is short, it really isn’t. Metroid Prime only took me about five hours longer to beat it 100% than this game the first time around. It may seem short because it’s not an extremely difficult game to play through, say on a rental. The plot is fairly well thought out although you’ll want to play this twice to understand some parts of it (There’s no option to replay cutscenes). Rareware did a great job sprucing mostly everything up before the release, perhaps except for the Arwing levels, which were, again, thrown in, in my opinion. All in all, this is a great game, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to try something new in the adventure genre.