Star Fox Adventures Review
It's a great action adventure game by any standard, filled with a surprising amount of variety and lots of impressive graphics.
Fox McCloud, Star Fox's furry hero, first appeared in an impressive 3D space shooter for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and later in another one for the Nintendo 64. But in the aptly named Star Fox Adventures, Fox spends most of his time on foot, exploring the colorful and vividly detailed world of Dinosaur Planet. Besides being a highly anticipated game that's been years in the making, Star Fox Adventures is also the last hurrah for longtime second-party developer Rare on Nintendo's systems. The England-based company has been responsible for a number of fine Nintendo games over the years, including GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, Killer Instinct, and even R.C. Pro-Am for the old 8-bit Nintendo system. Now that the company has officially severed ties with Nintendo and been bought up by Microsoft, Star Fox Adventures is a bookend for Rare's long-standing commitment to Nintendo. And while Star Fox Adventures won't go down in history as Rare's finest achievement, it's still a great action adventure game by any standard, filled with a surprising amount of variety and lots of impressive graphics.
Star Fox Adventures is a lighthearted game with a likable cast of characters who manage to be cute and pretty cool at the same time. Soon into the game, Fox and his crew, who form a spacefaring mercenary squad, receive orders to investigate a disturbance on Dinosaur Planet. The Star Fox team could seriously use the reward money being offered, so they set off for Dinosaur Planet posthaste. Things get complicated down there: Not only is Dinosaur Planet literally being ripped apart, but it's also being trampled by the armies of the evil General Scales, and its spiritual protectors have dispersed. There's even a damsel in distress. Fox will need to right all these wrongs, and in so doing he'll restore peace to the kindly dinosaur tribes of Dinosaur Planet. It all sounds very urgent, but like most action adventure games, this one will require some patience and couldn't really be called fast-paced. The game is filled with cinematic cutscenes that are never very lengthy but do a good job of keeping you focused on your objectives and on what's going on with the plot. The plot itself keeps the action moving along but never gets too thick, and it packs in a couple of decent twists for good measure.
As evidenced by the game's premise, one of the main strengths of Star Fox Adventures lies in the variety of things you'll get to do. This is definitive action adventure gameplay: You'll explore, fight, search, sneak, scrounge, run, jump, fly, shoot, swim, crawl, dig, ride, warp, and shop your way through Star Fox Adventures. Granted, the emphasis is on the exploring and the scrounging--much like in some of Rare's previous efforts, Star Fox Adventures often consists of your having to run about an area looking for all types of doodads, whatsits, widgets, and thingamajigs.
As if to spite you, there's this one little cutscene, accompanied by a triumphant little tune, of Fox looking really stoked as he discovers a new item, and it plays each time he does. Fox's cheerful expression will probably cause yours to turn sour after you've seen this same sequence for the hundredth time. Some of the game's numerous errand runs aren't even thinly veiled, as characters will flat-out deny you unless you go and fetch them a certain number of a certain type of object. For what it's worth, none of the game's fetch quests are obnoxiously long--it's just that they're plentiful and can get repetitive. But as you play Star Fox Adventures, you'll catch on that another surprise is always just around the next corner, so you'll willingly slog through the scavenger hunts just to see what happens next.
The controls of Star Fox Adventures work well and don't take much getting used to. You can make Fox run nice and fast using the left analog stick (though he's woefully slow at climbing up ladders), and the GameCube controller's C stick affords you with easy access to your inventory. Like in Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, there's no jump button in Star Fox Adventures (though Fox can execute a quick evasive roll). Fox will automatically jump when you'd expect him to, and he'll automatically grab ledges and pull himself up if he falls a bit short. At first this all seems pointless, since platform jumping sequences aren't much of a challenge if you don't need to time your leaps. But rest assured, you'll need to make some careful, well-timed motions to get through a few tough spots later in the game. As you move about, the camera angle stays locked at a fixed distance from Fox. You can press and hold the Z button to look around from a stationary first-person view, and you can press the left shoulder button to center the third-person camera behind him at any time. In practice, you'll be pressing the left shoulder button a lot, but you'll likely find that this system is a good compromise between having to control the camera manually and having an automatic camera that wouldn't allow for any flexibility.