Friday, 18 April 2014

[GameCube Game Review] StarFox Adventures

Reviewed for GameCube/Wii by Alyxx Thorne

Star Fox Adventures was one of the first titles for the Nintendo GameCube and the sequel to Star Fox 64 aka Lylat Wars on the Nintendo 64, itself the sequel to the groundbreaking Super FX shooter Star Fox aka Starwing on the SNES. Although originally planned as an original IP by Rare, called Dinosaur Planet, Shigeru Miyamoto came in during development and realized that there was potential here to make it a Star Fox game since the hero had a resemblence to Nintendo's furry space pilot. Rare immediately redesigned the assets to make the game an official Star Fox game and thus Star Fox Adventures was born. It is sort of the odd ball in the franchise, not really fitting in with the rest of the games that well and thus while it has a cult fanbase, there are a lot of fans who don't consider it a true Star Fox game due to its nature, it is an action/adventure game more in the vein of Legend of Zelda rather than a rail shooter after all, and due to the fact it wasn't developed as a Star Fox game from the get-go. So where do I stand on this odd game? Let's find out.

Eight years after the events of Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars, with the evil Andross defeated and peace brought back to the galaxy, the Star Fox team find themselves rather bored and without much to do. Falco left the team without a trace, Slippy has become an inventor and Peppy has retired from active duty to concentrate on being a navigator and advisor. But it isn't long before they receive a message from General Pepper. It seems that the once tranquil Dinosaur Planet has fallen under distress as General Scales has amassed an army and caused pieces of the planet to float into space, separating the tribes from each other and keeping the Krazoa spirits locked in their shrines, unable to bring the pieces of the planet back together. His minions have also taken the four spell stones, also needed to bring the planet back together. It doesn't help that Krystal, the lone survivor of her doomed planet Cerinia, gets caught when attempting to save the planet and it is up to Fox McCloud and his team to save the planet with the help of Krystal's magic staff.

The transitions between planet regions gives a nice throwback to the previous StarFox games.
The story is pretty simple and remains largely a big fetch quest for different items. I don't mind this though as it gives a context for the gameplay and what you need to do in the game. I just wish there was a bit more to it than that, though for a Nintendo game I guess it's to be expected. The setting is pretty unique for the game too and you get to spend the entire game exploring Dinosaur Planet and all its different environments. The game plays mostly as an action/adventure game in the vein of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, though there are some minigames and events during the game that offer different styles of gameplay. For instance, when you travel between parts of the planet with your Arwing you get to do a railshooter sequence reminiscent of Star Fox 64 and there are also other similar sequences during the game though I won't spoil them for you. Fox can use the magic staff to attack enemies, shoot magic missiles, open doors and a variety of other functions, and you also get aid by Tricky, a young dinosaur who serves as your partner during most of the game. While he can get a bit annoying during the game, especially with his constant lines, for the most part I enjoyed solving puzzles with him and he gives the game a lot of personality.

The combat is pretty intuitive and feels pretty satisfying.
The levels themselves did tend to get a bit confusing though. I often got stuck not knowing how to progress or what to do and had to do some substantial exploration and often the solutions were not very obvious at all, at least not to me. For me it did get in the way of my enjoyment of the game but it did feel very rewarding to finally progress after being stuck on a level for a long time. Usually your goal throughout the game remains largely the same, gathering spell stones and Krazoa spirits, and solving puzzles and mastering challenges that come in your way. The challenges and puzzles are pretty varied though and I never once felt like the game became too repetitive or boring as a new challenge or puzzle would come along and spice it up. Some of the events near the end especially had me on my seat, such as the infamous Test of Fear or the railshooter segments which were some of my favourite parts of the game.

Fox' face is beautifully animated during cutscenes.
The graphics are really good for an early GameCube title. I especially liked the lighting effects and depth of field effect during combat and cutscenes. The variety in levels also means the game has a lot of different settings and moods to offer and each level felt very unique and memorable. I also liked that the game would subtly change from day to night as you were playing and small details like NPC's falling asleep during the night were very nice to notice. In fact the game is chocked full of small details you might not pick up on at first but notice as you play and I loved them. The only bad thing I have to say is that some of the NPC animations were a bit lacking and stiff. I even encountered times when the NPC's wouldn't even animate at all which felt a bit lazy. The animation on Fox is amazing though, especially his facial expressions and like Link in Windwaker he is extremely emotive and this is easily one of the main reasons I love playing the game since he is a very appealing character to play as. Krystal remains largely unplayable though for most of the game which is a shame as I would love to see a game where you could play Krystal and Fox co-op. Idea for StarFox Adventures 2 here, Nintendo...

The music is extremely good. Ranging from beautiful chants and sweeping orchestral scores to a badass 80's rock theme during the ending credits, the score is varied and very high quality for the game and never gets boring. It did remind me a lot of Disney scores now and then which is never a bad thing. The voice acting was largely enjoyable, especially Krystal and Fox had very pleasant voices, though Peppy sounds like he's been a chainsmoker all his life, Slippy's voice makes me wanna put him out of his misery as usual and some of the NPC's voices were a bit grating (the Shopkeeper... good god...) but overall the cast was very enjoyable. The sound effects do their job pretty well, some of them very obviously stock sound effects, though that didn't bother me much.

Fans of this game will cringe at this screenshot...
All in all, StarFox Adventures is an absolutely fun and solid action/adventure game and highly underrated. Don't pass it up just because it plays differently from other StarFox games as it had me really excited and on the edge of my seat a few times, which I did not expect at all. While some of it might seem a bit unpolished and lacking, overall this game is definitely one of Rare's finest and a worthy addition to the StarFox franchise.

STORY: 7/10
SOUND: 7/10


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