Game Description: At the far edge of the Lylat system, a lush planet is in turmoil. Once a primordial paradise, Dinosaur Planet has been torn apart by an evil dinosaur named General Scales. This monster has caused sections of the planet to be ripped up and flung into low orbit, and his legions of mutated dinosaurs are running wild. It's been 8 years since the best pilot in the Lylat System, Fox McCloud, defeated Andross, and Fox's team has since disbanded. So when word of Dinosaur Planet's plight reaches General Pepper, it's Fox alone who must shoulder the burden.
Hello Star Fox Adventures, a.k.a Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet, a.k.a. Dinosaur Planet. We've been expecting you for quite some time. What has it been, two, maybe three years since you first showed yourself on the Nintendo 64? How many delays has it been since moving over to the GameCube? Three, perhaps four? You've grown up rather nice over the years. Quite a glossy shine you have on your graphics and polished gameplay to boot. It seems you've picked up a nice little license on the way to the publishing house. Was that your idea, or did Nintendo feel it was the best course of action for your last hurrah working exclusively for the company?
The above passage forms a consensus of how I approached Rare's final Nintendo-exclusive project. Many gamers watched the once original adventure title grow into a Nintendo license and crystalize in a beautiful package of videogaming joy. It has been a long haul to the finish line for Star Fox Adventures, and I'm glad to see it made it. Perhaps I'm not the only one to echo this sentiment now that I've got the game in my hands and am finishing up the adventure, but the most notable thing about this game is the fact that it represents the end of an era for Nintendo.
Maybe this is the nostalgic gamer welling up inside of me, but it's a little sad that Rare is leaving Nintendo's side after such a long and beautiful relationship. Who could forget the first drops of magic the developer worked on the Super Nintendo back in 1994 with Donkey Kong Country? What part of GoldenEye 007 for the N64 wasn't immersive the first time you played through it? Banjo-Kazooie (one of my favorite 3D platform games of all time) was an all-around good title, with a sequel that couldn't be ignored. Then there was Conker's Bad Fur Day, where Rare showed that its humorous side could make us gag in disgust.
Now comes Rare's first and final GameCube exclusive title, Star Fox Adventures...
Remember when I said the most notable thing about the game was that it represented the end of an era for Nintendo? That fact precludes the actual game itself, which is sort of a shame.
I would be lying if I said Star Fox Adventureswasn't a great adventure game and didn't sit on par with other titles in Rare's history of game developing. The game is good and it's worthy of being called one of the better games the GameCube has to offer. The problem is it really doesn't stand out in any way, shape or fashion. It plays like most recent Nintendo 64 Zelda titles, with nary an improvement or drawback in the mechanics. It looks like a Star Fox game...in a few instances. And, it has the standard cookie-cutter story, character types and motifs of any Saturday morning cartoon.
The story, thanks to the ideas of several Nintendo execs, takes place in the Star Foxuniverse, which assumes that a variety of woodland creatures proportioned in the same manner as human beings have developed the ability of interplanetary travel and warfare. The game begins about 10 years after Fox McCloud and his team of co-pilots defeated a mad-scientist ape, Andross, who for the record resembles a heavier-set version of Dr. Saiss from Planet Of The Apes. Peace has overtaken most of the galaxy since Andross' defeat, which leaves the Star Fox team bored and looking for work as rogue defenders for the weak. The team receives a distress signal from the uncleverly and obviously named Dinosaur Planet, where Fox eventually begins into an adventure involving traveling to temples and collecting crystals to restore order. He also does this with the aid of a adolescent triceratops named Prince Tricky...stranger things have happened.
Nintendo adventure game veterans should have no trouble jumping right into Star Fox Adventures. The game explores familiar territory, with hardly a twist on anything. Star Fox doesn't shake the tree that has firmly rooted a successful adventure title since the days of the original The Legend Of Zelda. The game paces itself exactly as players would expect. Fox travels to some forest or temple or other area of epic nature, learns of some crystal or spellstone or some artifact that must be collected to proceed with the story and follows a series of puzzles to reach that goal.
Star Fox pulls this off with finesse, however we're talking about a franchise that has shafted its roots and latched on to another form of gameplay. Granted, placing Fox McCloud and friends in the Dinosaur Planet scenario is interesting, it all feel just a little out of place at times. Nintendo's franchise feels a little tacked on, considering the game focuses on ancient magic, spirits and dinosaurs. Gamers have come to recognize Star Fox as being about fast-paced space shooters. The title is misleading, considering Nintendo dropped any mention of Dinosaur Planet from it, leaving it at just Star Fox Adventures.
Had things between Rare and Nintendo progressed differently, it might have been interesting to see the Star Fox team in a series of related titles with the "Adventures" moniker. An episode on Dinosaur Planet would have seemed more like a change of pace to the regular flow of the series involving space, blaster guns and starfighters. With Star Fox Adventures as it stands now, it sometimes seems apparent that Rare didn't originally intend for the game to be a Nintendo license.
Although once you actually play through the game, you might consider Nintendo played a smart hand in choosing their course of action. With the conformity to adventure titles Star Fox Adventures exhibits, the game might have been lost and forgotten in the annals of videogaming history with new and unknown characters. If the game had been released as originally intended, it probably would not have become the franchising giant clamoring for people's attention. It isn't the first time Nintendo has pushed a license onto Rare with positive results. Especially with character-driven platform titles, Nintendo-rooted mascots always get better recognition than the Rare-born ones. That is not to say that Rare's mascots aren't equally marketable, in fact I expect their characters to really blossom now that they are with Microsoft. But when it comes down to sheer pointing-finger recognition, people are always going to recognize Donkey Kong before Mumbo-Jumbo. And if you don't recognize where that last name came from, might point is proven.
It's nice to see Rare gave the GameCube its best for the last Nintendo project. Star Fox Adventures represents everything Rare has done well with Nintendo for about the past eight years. Even though pairing Fox McCloud with talking dinosaurs seems like an odd mixture, I think it shows that Nintendo is starting to get a little more creatively risky with its licenses. Considering that thus far, the company has turned Star Fox into a Zelda-type adventure title, turned Metroid into something resembling a first-person-shooter, and turn The Legend Of Zelda into a something resembling a Disney animated film, you get the feeling that Nintendo doesn't always have to stick with tradition.
As Caleb points out, the game that eventually came to be known as Star Fox Adventures went through a rather lengthy, convoluted and dramatic development period. When a game treads an incredibly rocky path to retail like this one did, the end product is usually a cobbled patchwork being put on shelves to recoup costs, i.e.- not a very good game. Quite the opposite in this case. In fact, I can honestly say that I was surprised at the level of quality and polish that Star Fox Adventures possesses. I picked up the controller not expecting much more than an uncreative ripoff of the Zelda franchise, but I enjoyed every minute of play and was quite satisfied after seeing the credits roll. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I'm more than a little dismayed that there may not be a sequel.
Truth be told, Star Fox Adventures shares more than a few common elements with its obvious inspiration, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. But unlike Caleb, I wouldn't agree that the final product didn't stand out. After all, its a little silly to reinvent the wheel for every single game. After all, we don't think anything of PC developers borrowing each others technology or engines, especially in the populous First-Person Shooter genre. Since many consider Ocarinas basic play design and control scheme to be the premier model for the action-adventure genre, it seems logical that Rare would continue in their tradition of taking formulae Nintendo creates and adding their own spin. If you can get past the fact that it shares many structural similarities with Zelda, there's a lot to like about Star Fox Adventures.
Basically, the game plays like a dream. The various worlds are easy to navigate and have plenty of objectives and puzzles to keep players busy. There are even short Arwing levels when traveling between areas in space as a nod to the previous games. While I thought there were a few too many dungeons and a small handful of contrived puzzles overall, the majority of the disc was very entertaining and had a naturally smooth progression from objective to objective. There was never a shortage of variety, either. I kept waiting to hit a dull or tedious level, but it never happened. That's not something I can say about many games.
In fact, some may say that the game is too easy, but I admired the logic and ease Rare displayed by removing unnecessary busywork and giving ample direction to those who want it. I cant really see this as negative. Am I supposed to enjoy being stuck and wandering around for hours in search of an item or goal? Star Fox Adventures eliminates all possible buzzkills by putting required pickups such as Fireflies for your lantern or Bomb Spores for blasting where you'll actually use them. If for some reason you show up to an objective lacking a key item, you don't need to waste time by trekking back to the shop to get it. That's a godsend in my opinion. Also, the hints readily available from your slimy pal Slippy were a nice touch as well. You don't need to talk to him, but if you get stuck hes got good tips just a commlink away.
Technically, the game has amazing graphics and the famous "Fur" effect that's been touted for months is really pretty nifty. However, far more impressive than Fox's pelt were the surprisingly emotive facial expressions. Including very convincing portrayals of surprise, fear, and anger, the characters are also capable of subtler and more difficult cues such as sarcasm and impatience. I was quite impressed.
Finally, while Caleb may have felt that Fox McCloud was out of place on the surface of Dinosaur Planet instead of shooting bogeys in its atmosphere, I looked at the disc as a chance to flesh out the Star Fox universe. The two previous games were great, but they basically had little character depth or development. I liked getting to know the characters in a way we haven't been able to before, and after playing as Fox McCloud both in and out of the cockpit, I have a much greater appreciation for him as a personality. (He strikes me as a bit like Han Solo, actually) The plot may be a bit on the hokey side and doesn't really come together until the end, but it gives the impression of being just one episode in a long string of interstellar adventures. Its pretty rare that gamers get a worthwhile space opera to sink their teeth into, but Star Fox Adventures has the potential to become one provided that the series finds a way to survive in the wake of the highly publicized Rare-Nintendo split.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Blood, Mild Violence
Go ahead and give Star Fox Adventures to the kids, parents. There is nothing in this game that isn't on the Cartoon Network. Since this title is so similar to Zelda titles, if you feel okay about letting your child play one you can feel okay about the other one. Star Fox shows no blood-letting, no foul language and only mild martial arts-style violence.
Star Fox fans should treasure this title as both a great adventure game and a rare gem. You probably always thought it would be cool to see what Fox and his buddies did besides fly those Arwings and this game focuses exactly on that aspect. It does a little better job of developing the Star Fox characters, since the gameplay isn't as fast-paced and action oriented.
Die hard fans of Star Fox and the way previous Star Fox titles played shouldn't ignore this title. However, you should be forewarned that the Star Fox name is misleading. This game emphasizes on-foot adventuring rather than in-space blasting. In fact the main area in which the game lacks comes from the traditional Star Fox levels, which appear sporadically as an excuse to get to some points in the story. Most of the shooting levels last either under a minute or just over a minute. Getting your kicks with classic Star Fox gameplay with have to way until Namco's traditional Star Fox title is released in the near future.
Fans of adventure games have to try Star Fox Adventures at least once. It may not stand out as one of the more unique titles you've ever played, but the game does everything about adventure gaming well. Controls are responsive, using items is quick and easy and even the camera system doesn't present much problem in viewing the action.
I'd only stress Star Fox Adventures as a rental if you plan on giving it a test run. The game is pretty long, longer than what most gamers have with allotted game rental time. It's definitely a game worth purchasing, especially for GameCube owners.