While we all waited and waited for this supposed launch title that began its development on the N64, Rare was busy turning a huge 64bit game into a mascot powerhouse adventure of epic proportions. Too bad this will be the final game from Rare on the Cube, because they obviously figured out how to squeeze a lot out of Nintendo’s now one-year old little wonder we call the Gamecube. Although the game originally had nothing to do with the Lylat star system or Fox McCloud and was supposed to be called “Dinosaur Planet”, The Star Fox license has gotten some good use and seen some new light in this highly polished and very entertaining game.
Zelda fans will enjoy the game’s ‘very’ Zelda-like feel and controls, Fox fans will still get to do some flying but the flying levels are not the highlight of the game. As the title suggests this is an adventure and a rather lengthy one at that. The game includes roughly 20 hours of play if you rush through, but if you are an adventurer and care to explore and unlock the hidden secrets of the dinosaur planet it should roughly take you about 40 hours the first time through. The story starts you out as an indigo fox named Krystal who has answered a distress call from the planet, she goes to check it out and bumps into General Scales, a rather mean dino that looks like a human/Trex crossbreed. After a brief stint as Krystal the game switches to the Star Fox team on the Great Fox, where General Pepper chimes in and tells them that they need to go fix the Dinosaur Planet because it is falling apart and it could have an adverse effect on the entire Lylat star system. Well generally everyone’s favorite furry mercenary is up for the job and Slippy and Peppy are all ready to help. Not to give too much more away you encounter quite a variety of dinosaurs who need you help as you traverse the planet and you notice that pieces of the planet are floating out in orbit and that is where flying that Arwing comes in handy.
Graphically this game is one of the best looking adventures on any system. The cubes excellent texture engine is put to good use and the advanced graphics card allows for very cool fur effects on Fox, Krystal, the Long Horn tribe (Mammoths), etc. The lighting is done very well too which adds the subtle yet very pleasing depth to the look of the game. Very good draw distances and lots of cool effects while fighting like some bullet time finishes to combos and cool particle effects that accompany explosions and the like.
In the sound department the music fits well and sounds good, the pro logic II system is a fine software alternative to hardware 5.1 and the sounds are crisp and clean. The voice acting is very well done, when was the last time you heard that one about an adventure game? Some of the sound effects are stock and you might have heard them before but they get the job done. All in all the sound is more than adequate and heightens the gameplay experience.
As I said before the game mirrors the N64 incarnation of Zelda for its gameplay. With one notable exception, Fox auto-locks onto the closest enemy. There is no jump button, jumping is an automatic action. Anyone who has played either Zelda offering for N64 will no doubt feel right at home with the simple yet effective controls. If you haven’t played Zelda for N64, where have you been? There are some neat extra things that I hope make it into the new Zelda that Fox improves on. The C-Stick activates a menu in real time allowing you to assign actions and items to the Y button on the fly without pausing and scrolling through menus. The X button executes and rolling dodge maneuver which is effective in avoiding a lot of enemy attacks and using it in combination with the L and R triggers you roll side to side and you can hold the L trigger to side-step. The L trigger centers you camera over Fox’s shoulder and it should be noted that the camera is superb in this game. The distance is just right and the flow is smooth. The silky smooth gameplay hardly ever falters, there are some spots where it dips down a little bit but this is rare and in no way effects the game.
The game is an adventure so there is a lot of fetching this to fix that to get this to open this kind of stuff going on. The puzzles are kind of a mixed bag of mind bending and utterly simplistic. There is hardly ever a time where you might get stuck not knowing where to go. The world map flashes the location you should be going to and there are maps for all the key areas for sale in the Thorn Tail Shop. Finding the money to buy stuff or finding health when you need it is hardly ever a problem. You might think this makes the game easy, but in fact it serves as a nice balance just to keep it from being frustrating. The combat is simplistic yet effective and just requires god timing, holding different directions on the control stick while striking will cause different streams of attacks and Fox will seem to be fighting like Kilik from Soul Caliber. With a little practice the Sharp Claw will all be no match for you and you staff. One other thing that helps you out is Slippy. If ever you are stuck you can ask Slippy and usually tells you exactly what you should be doing. The game is made in such a way that it is accessible for all ages and all skill levels. Kids from 8 to 80 will enjoy their adventure with Fox McCloud.
In the long run the game is worth buying as you will no doubt want to play it again after you beat it. I can truly see no reason not to own this great game. Is nothing new but that is not always a bad thing. Join Fox in his adventure to save the Dinosaur Planet and you will find that it is a beautiful game with a lot to offer and there are a few little surprises hiding in wait for you to discover.