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.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway