Unfortunately, the development cycle of the game itself is more thrilling than the actual plot.

User Rating: 5.8 | Star Fox Adventures GC
RARE. A company some would say was infatuated with being Nintendo. Known for delaying their titles, sometimes for years, as they polished and tweaked a game to perfection. And then along comes a game called Dinosaur Planet - an unwitting little Nintendo 64 game. Up until then, RARE had been a master of the 3D platformer - with Banjo-Kazooie under it's belt. It was time to expand to other genres; rather than taking it's cue from Super Mario 64, Dinosaur Planet borrowed far more from The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. It was about a wolf boy, named Sabre, and a feline girl, named Krystal. Together, with their only ties to one another being the wizard Randorn (Sabre's father), they would discover the secrets of Dinosaur Planet, before General Scales acquires the Krazoa Spirits to unlock the ultimate weapon in which to conquer the universe. As for what happened next, there are many different accounts on what exactly happened to Dinosaur Planet. It all started with an off-the-cuff comment Shigeru Miyamoto made during E3: He commented that Sabre, the Hero of Dinosaur Planet, resembled Fox McCloud, of Starfox Fame, and chided that maybe Dinosaur Planet should be a Starfox Game.

In one version of the story, Nintendo, looking for an easy way to get another Starfox game out the door, practically forced RARE to adapt Dinosaur Planet into Starfox Adventures. With the adaptation came very strict rules and guidelines they had to follow, which, frankly, ruined their plot. In the end, they had to do so much patchwork, very little of Dinosaur Planet was left. The other version of the story tells it from a different side: It's known that Chris and Tim Stamper, owners of RARE, idolize Shigeru Miyamoto; in Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo earned his name as a tribute to Miyamoto - who plays the Banjo in real-life. After Miyamoto's suggestion, the Stamper Brothers took it to heart: and quickly made a deal to convert Dinosaur Planet into a Starfox game. However, not all the development team agreed with this choice - and many arguments broke out over what should be changed, what shouldn't be changed, so on and so forth. By the end of the game, it was hardly recognizable as Dinosaur Planet anymore.

Whichever story you believe, one thing is for certain: the development cycle for Dinosaur Planet, now Starfox Adventures, was a treacherous and dangerous one. It, then, should come as no surprise that Starfox Adventures turned out the way it did: Less than stellar.

The game's basic plot is that somewhere, on a planet on the edge of the Lylat System, a distress call is sent out. Krystal, who is searching for her parents, tracks the distress signal and finds General Scales, a fearsome ruler who governs the Dinosaur Planet with fear. Unfortunately for Krystal, she falls prey to a trap. But all is not lost - another ship has followed the distress signal; the ever familiar Great Fox, and on it, Fox McCloud, and his team. Looking for some cash, Fox approaches Dinosaur Planet to learn it has been split into chunks - and must be re-united or face destruction. To be re-united, Fox must collect the Spellstones that General Scales has stolen. In addition, Fox must release the trapped Krazoa Spirits to free Krystal from her trap.

Adventures begins strong. When traveling to different detached parts of Dinosaur Planet, Fox hops in his trusty Arwing and must complete a traditional Starfox rail-shooter stage. To reach your destination, you have to fly through a certain number of golden rings. The further you get in the game, the more gold rings you must fly through for it to be "safe for you to land". These stages certainly aren't horrible, but they don't exactly feel like they're part of the main game. They all practically look the same, visually, play the same, contain the same enemies... and generally just aren't interesting as a result. You spend more time hunting out the next ring than you really do shooting stuff. Once you land, you're presented with a slightly more Zelda-like adventure, with Fox and his sidekick, Prince Tricky, roaming around collecting Spellstones and Krazoa Spirits, while solving puzzles, completing minigames, and smash lots and lots of crates and jars.

Unfortunately the game quickly degrades. The further you go, the less exciting the gameplay becomes, the less polished everything starts to feel, and the more plot holes begin to turn up. The game just starts to come apart at the seams, climaxing in one of the biggest cop-out boss fights in videogaming history. Just as you wrap things up, it rips you away from what should be the true ending just so you can do a bit of Starfox again. It feels completely out of place, and entirely tacked on, and I know for a fact it's pissed more than a fair share of fans off. It's just too jarring to really be warranted.

Visually, Starfox Adventures impresses. Typical RARE, they manage to squeeze a considerable amount of juice out of the Gamecube, not only implementing fur-shading for the first time, but using it to insane effect: Every patch of grass you see in Starfox Adventures is, infact, fur shading. All of it. When I stopped and looked and noticed that fact, it was mind-boggling. Other effects include depth of field blurring, motion blur, copious amounts of reflection and environment mapping - there's even a boss fight that includes normal mapping and self-shadowing, like something out of Doom 3. It's all used to a pretty incredible degree, although the game still is rough around the edges (I particularly don't like the water shader).

In terms of sound, Starfox Adventures is rather average. A few songs are quite catchy, but a large portion of the soundtrack is uninteresting. Dave Wise (who also composed the soundtracks for the Donkey Kong Country series) simply isn't at his best here - it's all pretty uninspired. Sound effects are... standard N64-era RARE; mostly stock sound effects we've heard in TV shows and movies, mixed with lots of cartoony bips and bops. Ambient sound effects are nice, though. The whistling wind, the rain, or the grunt of a dinosaur in the distance all sound as good as can be expected. Voice-acting is... passable. This isn't Metal Gear Solid, but I've also heard games with worse voice acting. Some actors sound pretty good, like Fox, others, like Krystal, fit their characters - but in terms of emotion and range, they can't do much. Still others, like the Warpstone, are overly comedic for a game that's not quite as light-hearted as other RARE titles.

Starfox Adventures (or should I say Dinosaur Planet?) could've been a great game. For a company so known for polishing their titles to an incredible degree, RARE dropped the ball one way or the other; the game just falls so flat, and is such a mixed up mess of concepts and ideas from two completely separate games that neither of them really work out enough to be as fun as they should have been. Just as you begin to settle into the style of one game, it throws you back into the opposite style of gameplay. And if that doesn't happen, the ever increasing amount of plotholes and unexplained occurrences as you progress through the game should be enough to leave you scratching your head quite often. Is it worth purchasing? I'm not sure. The game has a strong beginning, and has some very clever puzzles and minigames here and there. But the last couple hours of gameplay or so feel really disjointed and somewhat routine. Given how old the game is and it's stigma of not being a terribly good game, you should be able to pick it up on the cheap, if you're really determined to satisfy your curiosity. Otherwise, give it a couple of rentals to see if it's your thing.
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