Star Fox Command Import Hands-On

Fox McCloud and friends have hit the DS in Japan with an unusual new mission. We grab a copy to see how the team's first portable game has turned out.

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After a strong start on the Super NES way back when, the Star Fox shooter series has seen more than its share of twists and turns. With an aborted first sequel; a middling, platform-hopping third-person action adventure; and an ostensible return to form on the GameCube that just slightly missed the mark, Fox McCloud and friends haven't had the best of times since their revolutionary debut. So we were cautiously excited to get our hands on Star Fox Command for the Nintendo DS--the series' first installment on a handheld platform--to see what direction Nintendo and new developer Q-Games have taken Star Fox in this time.

The short answer is that they took it in a direction we didn't expect. The characters are the same: Fox is again joined by his longtime compatriots, such as Falco and Slippy Toad, and the Star Wolf team is again on the scene to cause trouble. We're sure that diabolical ape Andross is out there causing trouble, too. Given all those familiar faces, we were honestly expecting (and even hoping for) a traditional Star Fox game, with linear third-person shooting levels featuring waves of enemies and enormous, multipart bosses.

When you fire up a new game in Command, you'll see Fox and crew gabbing in that weird animalspeak they've had since the first game, and you'll even glimpse familiar interstellar locations like their home planet of Corneria. But once the gameplay starts, you'll find quite a different experience from past Star Fox games, indeed. Command is more like a strategy game, since each mission consists of you moving around your arwing fighters on an overhead map to intercept enemies and pick up strategic power-ups. The ultimate objective in each mission is to protect your mother ship. If one of the incoming enemy ships bypasses your defenses and reaches it, kaboom--it's game over.

Somebody at Q-Games tripped and got strategy all in our Star Fox.

These strategy sections proceed in turns, with you using the stylus to draw a flight path in front of each of your own units. Whenever you see an enemy coming in, you'll want to intercept it immediately, which will initiate an action stage. If you're successful, the enemy unit is eliminated, but if you fail, it'll get to push that much closer to your ship. Sometimes you'll find power-ups on this overhead map that add more time to the clock, and if you find a missile power-up, you'll be able to tap the mother ship on subsequent turns to have it automatically take out one of the approaching enemy squadrons. These strategy sections are a little unwieldy, especially since some of the missions hide enemies behind clouds and the whole proceeding is rife with Japanese text, but you can figure out what you're doing after a couple of attempts.

The actual flight missions feel like Star Fox, however brief they may be. Once you get into a mission, you'll be tasked with taking out a preset number of a particular enemy, and then you can fly around picking up health and time-extend power-ups as you try to kill the right baddies and move on to the next strategy turn. While you fire with the L button or D pad, the controls use the stylus exclusively for movement; you move it over the touch screen like a mouse, which affords responsive analog flight controls. You can do a barrel roll by drawing a circle on the screen, as well as accelerate with a double-tap, and traditional Star Fox moves like the loop-the-loop and quick direction reverse are accomplished by hitting icons on the touch screen.

You'll start out playing only as Fox, but as you progress through the missions, you'll run into more familiar characters. For instance, Slippy appears out of the blue during the second mission to help save your mother ship from apparent doom, and so you'll have both Slippy and Fox to move around during the strategy portion of this mission. Slippy's arwing has a different cannon and handling than Fox's, and we imagine any other playable characters you gain throughout the game will sport similarly unique abilities. We haven't gotten too far in the game yet, since the Japanese text is quite thick, but we're interested to see if the objectives in the action stages will get more involved as the game wears on.

The stylus control seems to work well enough for the game's brief action sequences.

There is multiplayer in Star Fox Command, though maybe not as much as you'd expect. Oddly enough, there's no cart-to-cart play that we could find; you can, however, use download play to engage in a very simple dogfight multiplayer game with other local DS players. Most of the game's multiplayer can be found on the Internet, where you can engage in a four-player battle royale to improve your online ranking or simply do a free battle against friends on your list. There's not much difference between this multiplayer and the single-player combat--you can pick up health boosts and basic weapon upgrades, as well as an item that makes you temporarily invisible on your opponents' radar screens. You can hold down the fire button to lock onto another player and then fire a homing shot at them, although we found it more effective to just shoot at them as fast as possible with our regular guns. (Admittedly, it's not too hard to maintain precise aiming, given the relatively exacting nature of the analog stylus control.)

We'll admit it: We really wanted to see an old-school Star Fox game on the DS in the fashion of the original Super NES game and its excellent Nintendo 64 follow-up, though you can't blame Nintendo for trying out new ideas. We're not completely sold on Command's radical tactical departure from the series' roots; we wanted to see a greater variety of environments and enemies, since the levels and combat in the action sequences have been quite simplistic so far. But as mentioned, the game isn't overly import-friendly (since it's entirely in Japanese), and we're hopeful that we're just missing something and the gameplay will get more satisfying later in the game. Command is due out in the States at the end of this month, so we won't have long to wait for the final answer on that.

Discussion

135 comments
kindredmachine
kindredmachine

I'm so dissapointed. Why do they keep messing up StarFox?!!!!! How hard is it to make a version like the original? It's what people keep asking for so why are they ignoring everyone? Pretty soon they're release StarFoxopoly with Wifi play... STOP!!!!!!!!!!!

linkdude543
linkdude543

it does have stylus control for the flight and it will be awesome

linkdude543
linkdude543

all u winers be quiet this game will be great just becasuse its more of a strategy game dont mean itll be bad...and the stylus control sounds awesome it comes out three days after my bday so im gonna get it

Kbs64
Kbs64

I was hoping that it this would be the the oldskool Star Fox. If it isn't... Then I just might go to ebay and buy the original Star Fox for the Super Nintendo instead. I do like strategy games so this might be worth a rent but other than that... well I just don't know, I-JUST-DON'T-KNOW!!!

L1qu1dSword
L1qu1dSword

this is crap. i wanted a REAL starfox game.

sinceps1
sinceps1

lol, the cheap online might not justify buying it but maybe a used copy? hm....

Firosen
Firosen

Sounds like there's more strategy sequences than actual Star Fox game play. Unnh... Innovation's cool and all, but this sounds pretty weak sauce.

EmptySki
EmptySki

I know that it wasnt going to be like the n64 or nes versions but this game kinda looks intresting. I mean its something new. But i rather play an action version. I guess i'll wait for the review.

tjharwin
tjharwin

SWEEEEEEEET, I'm so getting it. I dont wana import like I did with MPH though...So it better not be a 2 month wait!!!!! >:-|

Bazook
Bazook

If anybody reads a nintendo mag they'll see this game getting really good marks on this game

Darkwave22
Darkwave22

For god sakes go to the board and listen to the people who played it and they say it's good. Most of you sound like little kids who didn't get what they wanted and keep on crying about it and the people around you go crazy because they can't stand it anymore. Then kick you out of the car while still moving so you hit the pavement to help you think straight and think about what you said and change it.

Mr_Apple_Soup
Mr_Apple_Soup

"Somebody at Q-Games tripped and got strategy all in our Star Fox." I gotta go with gamespot on this. What happened to the old Star Fox games on SNES and N64? Nintendo is ruining this great series with terrible games. We don't need a new Star Fox. We all liked the old one.

Drewman419
Drewman419

I am a little worried about this game Starfox and Tactics dont mix well for me.

Gamingcucumber
Gamingcucumber

Bah..I was looking forward to this game so much. Finally, I though a worthy follow up to Laylatwars, but NO!! Sometimes I really don't know wth Nintendo is thinking with. Starfox Assault : Mediocre Starfox Adventures: Great game but far too short Starfox Commander : Wtf?

soadnick947
soadnick947

Want to see the review, but it might be not half bad. I'm gonna hold my breath on this one.

MarioDS01
MarioDS01

I hate the idea that this Star Fox game is a stragety game. I wanted it to be purely a action shooter game.

Gamepro2421
Gamepro2421

LAME LAME LAAAME! what is wrong with you guys?!?! come on now. Does everyone forget how incredible the SNES version was? even with the character's jibberish language. And then the N64 version blew everyone away, introducting the rumble pack out of the box for the first time. First you discrace the Star Fox name TWICEEEE on the Game Cube and now you're going to try to do it for the 3rd time...and on a 2nd platform?!!??! CURSE YOU!!!! Starfox is NOT a RTS so don't try and try to force it into one.

jrs354
jrs354

am going to get it

Corvidae
Corvidae

Sounds like another failure of a Star Fox game. That video looks terrible.

Global_Nexus
Global_Nexus

Sounds quite interesting. I'm looking forward to it.

GigaKaiser
GigaKaiser

This is the only Star Fox game I've been interested in, ever.

knife_prty
knife_prty

Wow! I wasted so much time anticipating this game and now it's going to flop! Excellent!

xtrememorph
xtrememorph

i like it way on N64, strategy sounds too tough for my head.. boring...

CaptainCrazy
CaptainCrazy

I would have been just happy with a straight port of the N64 game for a discount price.

ZERO-UNIT
ZERO-UNIT

it's fairly decent i think, but yah i was really hoping for StarFox, and not StarFox2 + Starfox64

bobreturns
bobreturns

im not to bothered about this game

Rockman_X9
Rockman_X9

I play it already, is a good game. A little difficult to play with the stylus, but is not something impossible to do once you get use to it!!! I haven´t play it so much, only until I got Slippy. Is a good game believe me, but I would love to see a starfox game like the one of N64, or a remake using the touch screen (like Super Mario DS). Let´s just hope that it gets better later in the game, because the first missions are a little boring and simplistic.

Darkwave22
Darkwave22

Stop whinning for the love of god. It is going to be a good game watch the gameplay videos and then think really hard.

ghangiskhan1
ghangiskhan1

Something has happened to Nintendo. They used to be awesome game makers but now the only game I'm exited for from them is The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Vinie
Vinie

Star Fox Command = Star Fox 2 (the SNES game that got canceled) but with better graphics and a few minor tweaks (no walker mode or extra characters). Star Fox 2 sucked and i'm glad Nintendo never released it. Too bad they went back and remade it for the DS :(

the_moo
the_moo

...Star Fox 2...anyone? yeah this game was unreleased but it was practically finished and ready for release in Japan but it has a copyright for 1995 on the title, making it seem very outdated compared to n64/ps/saturn which were all very close to release then. in any case, command is very much like star fox 2, except it had a single map that usually took around an hour to beat (much like the other 2 normal flying star fox games), depending on the difficulty you played. you got into "action sequences" where the time it took you caused other units on the map to move, you fought bosses and enemy units mostly in "all-range mode" type levels and you had to direct your arwing (with a partner) around an "overworld map". also, star wolf made their debut... the point i'm trying to make is that nintendo (and the star fox franchise) have been planning this strategy move for over 10 years now, probably just waiting for the right hardware and acceptance to warrant a successful release; this game will be gold no matter how much you complain about the "break from tradition"! if you wanna try it out, search for the rom on google (it will be a beta rom) and then look up wikipedia to get the site for the translation patch to add to it. the one emulator that it works best on is Snes9x, find it at www.snes9x.com

KadeStorm
KadeStorm

...you people! Whinning your pants off! Have you tried this game? Well, have you? I know I have - I don't see the big fuss. You have the same action and quality, and the strategy element inbetween makes for a more realistic experience, along with needed strategic breaks. Imagine having the chance to attack independant squads of enemies rather than having them appear out of the blue; this isn't just a butchered up game, so save your judgements for -after- the release. The controls are good, and the strategy element's actually another positive. Try it, you might just like it!

kindredmachine
kindredmachine

NINTENDO - STOP MESSING UP THE STAR FOX SERIES!!!!! I'm 26 years old now and I still think one of the best games ever made was the ORIGINAL star fox in SNES... Why can't they just make another GOOD game like the original. Man, it makes me mad.

j03yAsunder
j03yAsunder

I'm really hoping this game is good, I'm kinda questioning the strategy type gameplay though. But I'm gonna give it a chance, the DS is meant for new innovations so something new is what we should expect really. I was skeptical with Soul Caliber III's chronicle's of the Sword mode and I loved it actually more than the arcade mode itself. Thats cuz I'm not big on strategy games, I don't really like em at all to tell you the truth. But this has to be good alot is riding on this game from what it seems.

FunkWeasel
FunkWeasel

Nintendo is ruining the Star Fox series. They should stop selling it out to third party developers. Star Fox has always been Nintendo's stepchild, in terms of how they treat the liscence. They never listen to what the fans want so they always produce mediocre titles like the last two. Star Fox is not a title you can expand into different genres with and expect good results. They're treating it like the mario series so pretty soon we'll be seeing Star Fox Kart, of Star Fox Golf. It's sad how they're ruining such a beloved series.