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Star Fox Adventures (GameCube) Review

Review for Star Fox Adventures on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

'Licensed to Nintendo. Game by Rare.' The magic words that were sure to excite a twinge of anticipation in any halfway-educated Nintendo gamer of the 1990s. Though this sweet union has recently been shattered by a large green X, its last product has been hyped as much as any other by Nintendophiles these three years it has had in development. In fact, many consider Starfox to be one of the reasons to have bought a Gamecube in the first place. Quite a burden to bear, then, and quite phenomenal amounts of expectation to live up to. Starfox ought to be brilliant - after all, it is Rare.

Starfox Adventures certainly looks brilliant. From start to finish the game's visuals are absolutely spectacular; the masters of the N64's technical abilities have once again extracted the very best from a Nintendo console. The animation on the dinosaurs, especially in the cut-scenes, is flawless, and Fox McCloud's face is covered in very believable fur. The lighting, too, is exceptionally advanced; fire dances on walls, shadows flicker and dim rooms can be lit by glowing fireflies that cast believable light and shadow. The grass on Dinosaur Planet is all rendered in separate blades and flowers move in the wind. The world rotates, Zelda-like, through a night-day cycle every ten minutes or so, changing the appearance of your surroundings - watching a sunset on Dinosaur Planet is quite breathtaking if you are in the right place.

Comparisons to Zelda are really very easy to make in this instance. Starfox has a perceptible trace of Ocarina of Time about it; you get the impression that Rare wanted to ease the appetites of those waiting for a hyper-realistic Zelda with Starfox Adventures, and it succeeds to a certain extent. The distinctly Zelda-esque visuals and orchestral sound combined create a comfortingly familiar atmosphere, even though Fox and dinosaurs replace Link and the slightly odd inhabitants of Hyrule. Unlike Zelda, however, there is a definite Western taste to this game. The mystery and slight ambiguity of Link, Zelda and the rest has been exchanged for starker characterisation. Fox himself has an American accent and matching kick-ass attitude and cut-scenes, British-accented speech included, are far more common than they ever were in Zelda games. The game's rather original and interesting story, too, plays a much more prominent role in Starfox Adventures, as it is the sole determinate of progress through the game. It feels more like a movie than a videogame at points, and looks the part, too.

Screenshot for Star Fox Adventures on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Sounds great, doesn't it? Hell, if it can be compared to Zelda, then it must be good. Starfox looks like excellent fun. It's when you actually start to play Starfox Adventures properly that doubts begin to arise. Looking like a movie is fine in a videogame, but Starfox Adventures seems determined to act like one too. The story leads you from one task to another, no questions asked, and never leaves anything properly open - you always know exactly what you have to do next. There are no towns or sub-quests. Fox has one mission and one mission only, which leads to a slightly limiting, linear, go-there-do-that system of play. Sadly this causes a real lack of variety in the gameplay and after a few hours you will be feeling a distinct sense of deja vu.

Screenshot for Star Fox Adventures on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Outside on the planet, when he's not busy switching things in what are the game's dungeons in all but name, Fox is usually helping unhappy dinosaurs in order to get to the next dungeon. Sadly, all this ever boils down to is wandering around in the immediate vicinity of the troubled dino until you find whatever he is looking for. It's a very primitive collect-and-deliver system, which involves a lot of tiresome backtracking and searching and does not really have a place in today's games. There is a horribly evident lack of imagination in Starfox Adventures - all you end up doing is playing through, systematically, letting the game lead you by the hand through the endless similar situations.

The actual mechanics of play don't do much to alleviate this rather dissatisfactory situation. Fox can run, walk, press A to interact with things and, er, that's really about it. His weapon is a magical staff, which can be upgraded to shoot energy bolts, create earthquakes, freeze things et cetera. It is also his sole defence against the nasty lizards of General Scales' army. The battle system uses the classic Z-Targeting system, but unfortunately involves not much more than hitting A repeatedly until everything is dead. Though it is possible to use the staff's other functions in battle via the Y-button, there really is no point - it wastes staff energy and it's just as easy to win by hitting A with your eyes closed. Inexplicably, multiple enemies refrain from attacking Fox all at once and wait patiently in line to be killed one-by one. Rare could at least have provided us with something interesting to look at while kicking lizard arse; Fox has exactly two battle combos, one achieved by pulling back on the control stick and one by pushing forward. It's yet another example of the quite spectacular lack of spark and variety that is so painfully evident in Starfox Adventures' every aspect.

Screenshot for Star Fox Adventures on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Thankfully, there is not a total lack of interesting action. Rare occasionally deigns to break things up with a fast-paced snowmobile chase or the fabulous classic Starfox Arwing action-space-shooter sections, which are a merciful break from the inescapable monotony of the rest of the game. There are a few good ideas, such as Fox's dinosaur friend Prince Tricky, who accompanies Fox around the planet and digs things up/burns things for him and is invaluable despite his annoying voice and occasional tendency to get kidnapped. Starfox is not entirely devoid of traditional Rare magic, and it is certainly not a disaster, but when you think of what such a supposedly talented developer could have done with a game as packed with potential as this one, it makes you wince.

Starfox Adventures is a charmer. Its graphical sparkle, story and occasional good ideas make us want to keep playing, even though the game is essentially a derivative and repetitive adventure game. The absence of proper imagination is quite inexplicable when you look at the rest or Rare's games; it's the same strange mix of brilliance and monotony that pervaded Banjo Tooie. Starfox should have been spectacular; it has turned out to fall rather short of that mark.

Screenshot for Star Fox Adventures on GameCube- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

To be brutally honest, it's either collecting things, hitting things or pushing things, with one or two intervening shooting or racing sections. Not impressive.

Graphics

Absolutely superb in every way - the best yet on the Cube and not a single loading screen throughout.

Sound

Excellent. The British voice-acting manages (just) to avoid being cringeworthy and the music is nicely atmospheric and appropriate almost all of the time.

Value

Starfox is 15-20 hours long (forget the 80-hour rumours that were doing the rounds last year), with little to no replay value, but if it was much longer it would have become unbearably repetetive.

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Average

About this score

You will either accept Starfox Adventures' linearity of feel utterly stifled by it; either way, this game fails to do anything really interesting. Starfox may be an aesthetic wonder, but real beauty lies within, and underneath its graphical sheen Starfox shows a disappointing lack of ingenuity or real sparkle. Let's hope that Rare does better on Xbox.

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13.10.2003

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Developer

Rare

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (10 Votes)

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i've been having problems getting in since monday. tonight seems to be really bad for some reason, took me about 10mins and several hundred refreshs to get in.

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We'll be back and running full steam soon enough! :Smilie

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