Star Fox Adventures Review: Out of the Ship and into Adventure
Back in July, I posted a review of Star Fox: Zero and in that review I made it clear that I was never really a huge fan of the Star Fox series, especially since at its core the series mostly involved being confined inside a ship. Call it bias on my part but Star Fox Adventures appealed to me more because it removed those elements and took Star Fox into something new, an adventure. Originally released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, Star Fox Adventures has a complicated history that began when Rareware wanted to make a new title for the Nintendo 64 called Dinosaur Planet. However, Nintendo front man Shigeru Miyamoto, wanted Rare to make their game a launch title for the GameCube instead and he also wanted it to include Star Fox characters. Thus, Star Fox Adventures was born and with it a new line of Star Fox games to follow like Star Fox Assault and Star Fox Command; however, Star Fox Adventures will always stand out among the others because it dares to take the chance of bringing the Star Fox series into the realm of change and innovation much like what Zelda II did for The Legend of Zelda franchise.
The story of Adventures begins a couple of years after Star Fox 64 with a character named Krystal who becomes trapped in an ancient palace after fighting it out with an evil lizard warlord named General Scales. We then cut to the Star Fox team fighting boredom when General Pepper (the Star Fox team’s main client) informs Fox and his gang of a new job that involves the restoration of a world known as Dinosaur Planet. The team accepts and Fox is selected to lead the mission, from that point forward he acquires Krystal’s magical staff and befriends a dinosaur prince named Tricky who helps him along his journey. For the most part, the plot is pretty standard with Fox questing in an unknown world meeting new people and trying to save it from total destruction by the so obviously evil General Scales.
Gameplay in Star Fox Adventures is similar to that of the 3D Legend of Zelda titles which instantly attracted me to it. Adventures hosts a lot of intricate environments that require you to solve puzzles and navigate obstacles in order to obtain items and upgrades. The more and more I overcame these obstacles the more I dripped with anticipation, waiting for the next series of challenges that the game would send in my direction. In my opinion, there are some aspects of its gameplay that exceeds that of Zelda; for example, you can access the inventory instantly with a flick of the C-Stick without interrupting the game and you have access to three different inventory bars, one for general items, one for staff upgrades, and one for commands assigned to Tricky.
Items and upgrades from the first two inventory bars can be assigned to the Y button as a shortcut, making item use even faster. Even though this was convenient, I did not like the fact that you cannot use the additional face buttons on the GameCube controller to assign additional items like in the 3D Zelda games. Furthermore, Adventures is not completely devoid of the spaceship action of older Star Fox games as there are moments when Fox will use his Arwing to reach new destinations, shooting down enemy vessels with smart bombs and dashing through rings.
As I mentioned earlier, a character named Tricky joins Fox in his quest to restore Dinosaur Planet and commanding him is not as exasperating as you might think. He will always stay close to you and he has no health bar so do not even worry about him dying. I also previously mentioned an inventory slot specifically designated for Tricky and within this bar are a series of different commands that Fox can assign to him. One includes commanding Tricky to dig up an area to find secrets, another is to call him when he falls behind, and another is used to make him wait on pressure pads to open doors and gates. These abilities are only a modicum of what Tricky can really do because as Fox continues on his journey he will acquire new commands for Tricky ranging from the serious to the downright silly.
Silly is an understatement when describing this game, although it is a game that has its suspenseful moments it is packed with plenty of hilarious moments that are common in Rareware games. To give you a sample of this silliness, every time you acquire a new item Fox makes a ridiculous facial expression and raises his arms in triumph while a humorous fanfare plays. The whole segment is intended to let you know that you acquired an item of importance, but Fox’s animation looks so hilarious that the whole thing comes off as awkward; it is also a delightful spoof of the way Link holds his arms up in accomplishment when acquiring new items in The Legend of Zelda.
Adventures does have two big flaws and those two flaws are its camera and its combat system. The only way you can control the camera is by tapping the L trigger and moving the analog stick in the desired direction, at first this is not that big of a problem, but as you continue to progress to harder areas that require you to dodge quickly moving the camera this way becomes very annoying and tedious. The combat is also something to be desired because you just tap the A button to execute combos, it requires no skill and it has no depth. What is worse is the targeting system, once you are engaged with an enemy Fox will automatically lock on to a target and stay locked onto them until they are defeated, this prevents you from locking on to other foes and renders you incapable of escaping from targeting mode so you can approach opponents in different ways.
In light of these problems, Star Fox Adventures is a decent game overall that holds true to its title by delivering to people who are not into the flying part of Star Fox a nice alternative. It has the standard mechanics of any adventure game and amplifies them to a level that works so well that you will not even mind its similarities to games like Zelda. Adventures has its own identity, it knows what it wants to be, an adventure game with puzzles, exploration, and items. I highly recommend checking out Adventures, but unfortunately the only way to play it is on the original Nintendo GameCube, so dust off those old GameCubes everybody and pop in some Star Fox Adventures. If you do not have a GameCube and can’t muster up the money to purchase one then you can play Adventures on the Wii, just bear in mind it will only work on the early Wii models that are backwards compatible with GameCube games and make sure you have a GameCube controller and a GameCube memory card on hand.