Starfox Adventures GameCube Review

There was great excitement amongst the Nintendo community when it was announced that Rare’s long-in-development RPG Dinosaur Planet was to be converted to Gamecube, with the popular Starfox characters bundled in in place of the original heroes. At that time, if someone had told me that it would be Rare’s last game on a Nintendo console, I would have laughed.

Of course, we all now know that the famous developers who have provided Nintendo’s consoles with so many quality games over the years, including Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, have now been purchased by Microsoft, and will, from now on, be developing exclusively for X-Box.

So, is Rare’s final Nintendo game the epic we all expected it to be? Does it match past glories like Banjo-Kazooie? Are they going out with a bang? The answer to all these questions is a simple no.

This game suffers from obvious gameplay flaws. Firstly, what type of a game is this? It is, supposedly classed as an action RPG, like the legendary Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Only the thing is, the ‘RPG’ part of the game is very weak, with only simple puzzles to solve, which seem to repeat themselves over and over. These consist of using the same abilities to carry out the same tasks, for ultimately the same reward each time. When you earn a new attack or ability, you can bet that during the next hour of play will you’ll be doing nothing but use it.

Then there’s the ‘action’ part of the genre title I have mentioned. Sadly, there’s not an awful lot of that either. Combat is done by simply targeting an enemy (which is done automatically), and bashing away at the A button to make Fox bash away with his staff until your foe dies. There are a few combos you can do to make fighting more interesting, but they have little effect, and they seem pointless. The other annoying thing is that when there are a group of evil creatures attacking you, as soon as you target one, the others will simply stand back and watch as you beat the living daylights out of their friends with a stick. And there must be…lets see…5 main types of enemy in the game, plus the odd boss (which are unimaginative and easy, I might add). Smaller enemies regenerate after a matter of seconds, meaning that clearing an area in order to explore in peace is a waste of time. Just another flaw in Starfox Adventures’ gameplay mechanics.

At times, the game thinks it’s a platformer, and you’re forced to negotiate moving platforms and make perfect jumps using the auto-jump feature (just one of the many things ripped off from Zelda’s N64 outings). The problem with this is that it has been implemented extremely poorly. The idea is that when you run off a ledge, Fox will jump, and when you walk off a ledge slowly, he will hold on to the edge of it, but you can never predict what’s going to happen. The abysmal camera makes these platforming sections even more tedious. The only control over it you have is the R button, which positions the camera directly behind fox. A C-stick camera movement system like the one in Super Mario Sunshine would be perfect.

Whatever type of game it is, it’s an easy game, which won’t last long even for the most casual gamer, and after you’ve completed the adventure, there’s not a lot else for you to do. In fact, there’s nothing. You won’t even feel like playing through the adventure again.

Well, if this is an RPG, it should have a deep, involving story, with surprising twists around every corner, right? Well, sadly not. It’s a laughable, confusing mish-mash of ideas which involves collecting Krazoa Spirits and Spell Stones in order to save Dinosaur Planet, which probably suffered when Fox and co were shoe-horned in. There are a few side quests too, but these are short, and, well, rubbish really. ‘Light the beacons or we are all doomed’. Eh?

You can’t even avoid things like this, as the game is entirely linear. Yes, I said THE GAME IS ENTIRELY LINEAR! In this day and age, this is just unforgivable. After playing the beautifully structured Super Mario Sunshine, I was appalled at the lack of structure in Starfox Adventures and the fact that I have no choice over what I do in order to complete the game. You’re constantly being told ‘go there, do that’.

That’s a real shame, because one thing Starfox Adventures does right is its environments. The game takes place in a huge world, and each individual place you visit is truly breathtaking. A good example of this is Cape Claw, a huge coastal area that seems to go on for miles, and feels far bigger than any of the worlds in the latest Mario game. Like I said though, you don’t have the freedom to explore the world and do what you want.

I’ve spent a long time talking about how bad this game is, and written only a paragraph on one of its good points, so you’d be forgiven, at this point, for thinking that Fox’s first taste of gaming on the Gamecube can be classed in the same category as the likes of Carmageddon 64. That isn’t the case.

From a technical perspective, this is one of the best games in existence. Rare have always been able to get the best out of systems, as Donkey Kong 64 and Perfect Dark showed. Starfox Adventures, though, really is something else when it comes to graphical splendour. The developers have really outdone themselves, and it’s hard to believe that this is their first game for the console. The lighting effects are just incredible, and the shiny marble floor in the Krazoa Temple is one of the best effects I’ve seen in a game. The visuals in Starfox Adventures can be described accurately in one word: beautiful.

The sounds aren’t too bad either. The music is of the catchy, annoying style that sticks in your head for days, but it’s technically very impressive. Again, Rare have put a lot of effort into this aspect of the game (it’s a shame they didn’t put any effort into gameplay…), and it’s paid off. The music always seems to suit the location you’re in. If you’re in a tropical environment, such as Thorntail Hollow, the main hub area, the music fits it, as foes fit the place you’re in, for example, a cold, icy world. The effects are all realistic enough, and like the music, fit in perfectly. Sadly, the voice acting doesn’t do the same. All the Starfox characters sound noticeably different to what they did in the N64’s Lylat Wars (Star Fox64 outside of Europe), which had extremely impressive speech for its time. And for those of you wondering what Slippy Toad sounds like, I can tell you that he sounds much worse than he did last time around, and that’s saying a lot…

Overall, this isn’t bad, it’s just…average, or at least for Rare. I’ve pointed out many of the gameplay flaws, and while they’re there, you could still have a lot of fun guiding Fox through the adventure. Some people evidently have, as I’ve spoken to people who think this is one of the best games on the Gamecube. At the end of the day, it’s up to you. Perhaps a rental would be a good idea, as you might love it, but then again, you might hate it, and it’s not really worth risking 40 quid on it.

7 out of 10