Rareware’s first and last title to hit the Nintendo Gamecube has been released. Originally called Dinosaur Planet on the Nintendo 64, this game was given a massive facelift and the Star Fox license back during the 2000 E3 after a few suggestions from Shigeru Miyamoto himself. One has to ask though – Does the game still seem like a N64 game? Is it too much like Zelda? Or was the acquiring of the Star Fox license and the yanking of Fox McCloud out of the Arwing a bad thing for what used to be an original title from Rareware? Read on to find out.
You have not properly seen the visual power of the Gamecube until you have seen this game in Progressive Scan mode. To say that it is gorgeous is putting it bluntly. You’ll watch picture perfect water lap at your feet, see little fish going about their daily lives, as well as see a reflection of your surroundings. Fire effects are amazing as well, heat waves surrounding the torches or lava pools, making you feel like you are there. In certain areas, large vistas assault your senses, forcing you to break out your binoculars just so you can see what is on the other side.
Rareware has also used what they call ‘fur rendering’, which in a nutshell puts realistic looking fur on the anthromorphic creatures that are running around. This fur waves in the wind during close-ups, astounding you with the detail. This fur also burns rather easily unfortunately, the entire body lighting up before you can stop, drop, and roll.
Also worth noting is the amazing animation work the Rareware team put into the game. Fox looks and acts like a real person, with expressions that range from shock and confusion to ones of boredom and amazement. He’ll wave his arms around as he stares in disbelief at the latest plot point, and he’ll look ticked off as he learns of his next quest to save the planet.
The rest of the crew looks very good as well, considering the short amount of time you’ll actually see them close up. Peppy looks like the geezer of a hare that he actually is, and Slippy looks like the annoying frog that he’s always been. Krystal on the other hand is what your average ‘princess who needs to be rescued’ looks like – wearing very little and looking quite good at doing so. One has to wonder if everyone on the planet she comes from wears as little as she does.
Anyway, as of right now, these are the best looking graphics on the Gamecube hands down. All of this can be done at an almost constant 60fps and no loading time. The only time you know that you’ve entered a new area is a small hiccup of the graphics engine, nothing more.
There are some slight negatives however. If you search around hard enough, you’ll find a few low-resolution textures, a throwback to the N64 title Rareware was working on. Also the ‘fur rendering’ is only active all the time on Fox and a small area around him. If you look closely, you’ll see the grass and fur of creatures around you fade in and out as you move around. The average gamer won’t notice this at all however as you’ll be too busy being stunned at how good the game looks.
I do have to complain about one thing though – the animations for both Krystal and Fox are exactly the same. They both have the same animation for running, for picking up items, and for collecting the all-powerful Krazoa spirits. For Krystal these make some sense as a she is a young female, but as for Fox doing them, they just look plain goofy.
As stated above, Star Fox Adventures supports Dolby Pro Logic II. It isn’t as noticeable as other titles, but it is used well. You’ll be able to hear the trees rustle all around you as the enemies groan from all sides. The music also tends to blend in nicely into the rear speakers, making the soundtrack come from all sides and emphasizing the action from up front.
To Rareware’s credit, once again they come up with a bunch of catchy tunes that you’ll be humming for some time. Even though some of these songs originated from the N64 game, they have been upgraded to a point, so you don’t realize that you’re listening to music designed on a system a gaming generation ago. For the most part, the music sounds like it comes from a prehistoric culture, heavy on the drums and wind instruments. It only sounds futuristic when the game concentrates on the Star Fox technology, and sounds like something that fits very well with their world.
Rareware continues to use the same high quality voice actors that they’ve used in their previous titles – friends, family members, and coworkers. For the most part they continue to do a wonderful job, each voice giving realism to the characters displayed onscreen. The voice of Fox McCloud himself is excellent, portraying someone who is only here for the money, not for the whole ‘save the planet’ shebang that he has to go through. Of course, his disposition changes quickly once he takes a good look at the captive Krystal… On that note, Krystal is voiced very well also, but only in the beginning. Even though she doesn’t speak our native language when the game opens, she speaks with the proper inclination and timing like she is saying real words in the English language. It falls apart a bit once you hear her speak English later on however.
Unfortunately quite a few of the voices sound a tad too ‘British’ for their own good. The accent sticks out in a few places, and even in one instance Fox McCloud reverts to it even though he speaks normally the rest of the time. I know they don’t use any ‘professional’ speakers, but after hearing the talent that Rareware has from titles like Conker’s Bad Fur Day, I was disappointed in spots after hearing the same British or Scottish accent repeatedly.Not too much to say here short of the fact that every button on the Gamecube controller is used, and used well. Fox is very light on his feet and this is reflected in how well he’s controlled. There’s a bit of confusion as you start the game, but one quickly gets used to it.
Let me put it bluntly – Star Fox Adventures is a N64 Zelda clone. It does its best to imitate the title, but in the end it does not hold up to the same expectations. Unfortunately it comes from multiple reasons as well.
First off, the Star Fox license feels completely tacked on. Star Fox has always been about technology, and using that technology (and teamwork) to defeat overwhelming forces. In this game however, you are dropped onto a planet where technology means nothing and where magic rules over all. Heck, even Fox complains about this as he wonders why he couldn’t bring his blaster on the planet with him. Of course, he does find this all-powerful magical staff that does far more than his blaster could ever do within 30 seconds of landing, but that is another story. Fox seems so out of place on this planet, but he doesn’t mind it much at all. One wonders what game this would of turned out to be if Shigeru Miyamoto hadn’t suggested to the Rareware crew to use the Star Fox license.
Other problems include the level design themselves. I feel sorry for whoever actually works inside some of these ‘dungeons’. Sure, some places like the Krazoa Palace were never meant to have people running around inside of them, but some of the other levels seem to be meant to have others inside of them at all times. Case in point – one dungeon has this nice sequence where you are supposed to run up a spiraling incline, avoiding barrels being spit out from a barrel dispenser from above. Once you get up there, and climb a few ladders, you flip a switch, then you are forced to go all the way back down to pick up an explosive barrel, doing the same dodging just so you can get that barrel back up to where you were. Ultimately some of the runarounds you have to do to solve some of these quests borderline on the absurd and make the levels themselves feel unrealistic.
As for the item collecting, unlike previous Rareware titles where you were forced to collect more items than you could carry even if you had eight backpacks strapped on, the items you collect in Star Fox Adventures are a tad more limited. Each area in the first half of the game requires you to stock up on a new item, or to fetch a small amount (normally 6) of some item before you can advance. I never had a complaint doing this, as the item collecting only took a matter of minutes at most to finish.
Now onto the good news. This is a rather fast paced Zelda clone. Running to and from happens quickly due to Fox’s fast paced run, and you are no more than two or three ‘zones’ from one end of the planet to the other. Combat passes quickly, with most enemies only requiring a quick beating before disappearing into the void. Quite a few of your objectives are time based as well, continuing with the theme.
Another positive is that this game is just plain enjoyable to play. The entire game is rather lighthearted, with Fox never really caring very much about the world around him. He’s just there for the pay. Once he finds Krystal however, that changes quickly, but until then he makes quite a few comments about how he isn’t getting rewarded enough doing all the work the dinosaurs have set for him. It gets funny at times watching as Fox complains about his latest job. Also you have the option of just messing around instead of saving the world. Your companion, a small triceratops by the name of Prince Tricky, is truly a child. You’ll be able to buy a ball early on in the game, and if you get bored, he’ll shout out from behind you, “Let’s play!” Pulling out the ball and tossing it around will get him to chase after it like a little dog, bringing it back to you and tossing it to the ground so you can throw it again.
Rareware also believes in having the player do other things than the running around part, so there will be times where you’ll get off your feet for a few minutes. The Arwing levels play a big part in that, allowing you to get into some classic Star Fox action. These levels are very well done, and while they involve nothing more than shooting and flying through gold rings to open up the next level, they are a great diversion. You’ll also get on a hoverbike type vehicle for two racing sequences, both which move by at a nice high rate of speed. Also included are a few ‘on rail’ shooters, where you can’t do anything but shoot at the targets coming your way. Not only does this abuse your trigger finger, but it’s once again a nice break from all the running around you do.
Finally, one last negative. Nintendo must of forced Rareware to end the game the way they did. If you are a fan of the series, you already know that Nintendo and Namco are working together to make a true sequel to the Star Fox series. In other words – you’ll spend the entire game back in the cockpit. Due to continuity issues certain things had to happen, or else things wouldn’t make sense as far as the Star Fox series went. Well, as I guessed, those things that had to happen did, bringing the ending down to something that a generic Hollywood movie would produce. It isn’t a bad ending by any means, just expected. I also think that there should have been a boss battle before the final boss battle, but that’s just a personal opinion of mine.
Ultimately the positives outweigh the negatives to a point. If you love the Zelda games, you’ll be entertained by this game.
Star Fox Adventures is a well-done clone of the Nintendo 64 Zelda series, and it deserves merits just because it is. You’ll get about 15-20 hours tops the first time through, but with no bonuses afterward for finishing the game. There are ‘cheats’ you can find, but these unlock nothing more than mundane things like a music test and a credits viewer. And unless you’re one of those people who want to oggle at the graphics, there’s little reason to replay this game.