|Title||:||Star Fox Adventures|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
It's common for a familiar video game character to explore unfamiliar gameplay styles. Super Mario Bros. 2, for example, was an original title that, for familiarity's sake, was retrofitted with existing characters to make it into a Mario game. Though innovative, most gamers considered this atypical title weaker than traditional games in the series.
Star Fox Adventures, Nintendo's latest GameCube offering, is similar in origin, having originally been designed by Rare as a Nintendo 64 game called Dinosaur Planet. This name is still the setting for space mercenary Fox McCloud's latest expedition. Instead of the usual fast-paced, harrowing shooting action, Fox exits his ship and travels the planet afoot to save the reptilian residents from the vile General Scales in a Zelda-like adventure.
Our foxy friend is equipped with a Swiss army staff, with which he can pummel his foes in rather mindless combat. Locking onto a dinosaur and pounding the attack button is often all that's required. There is little variety in the execution of this task, and no other weapons, either. Where is Fox's blaster, so prominent a weapon in Super Smash Bros. Melee? Is there at least some scientific mumbo-jumbo that could explain why it wouldn't work on Dinosaur Planet?
Beyond battle, the staff can perform multiple feats, growing in capability throughout Fox's adventure. Fox himself must also be willing to adapt as he finds himself astride various dinosaurs, and back in the pit of his own Arwing vessel, piloting to new regions of Dinosaur Planet. The cold-blooded craft lack the nimbleness of Fox, but the space levels are fun, fast-paced reminders of his earlier missions.
Any 3D platformer isn't all action, though. Gamers must solve almost Resident Evil-like puzzles to progress. Occasionally these obstacles give no clues regarding what to do next, leaving players to consult a strategy guide or wander aimlessly — or nearly so. Fox's adventure is extremely linear, with little room for deviation or exploration. He'll often tread the same ground, maybe collecting the assortment of roots, nuts, spores, and spirits demanded of him. A young triceratops named Prince Tricky acts as Fox's sidekick, acting on command to turn the smallest cracks into passable tunnels, uncovering buried treasure, and melting ice with his fiery breath.
Despite the rigors of Fox's trials, however, his journey is through a world that begs further investigation. Dinosaur Planet is rich in life and color, down to the individual hairs on Fox's furry face. The graphics employ some neat blurring effect that keeps the appropriate parts of the screen in and out of focus.
The voice acting is a bit on the immature side, with seasoned space veteran Fox McCloud sounding like a brash young man. The characters he'll encounter range from British mammoths to Scottish golems — an eclectic and inexplicable diversity. The presence of an imaginary yet flowing dinosaur language is a wonderfully fantastical touch, however. The instruction booklet even gives instructions on how to translate between English and Dinosaur.
Despite its flaws, Star Fox Adventures is still a fun 3D game, with more thought and less action than the recent Super Mario Sunshine. It lays a strong groundwork for future games in the genre, without covering much new ground on its own. Some gamers were disappointed that the pending Zelda game on GameCube will not be as dark and mature as they originally anticipated. Star Fox Adventures could've filled that gap, but with juvenile sidekicks and (admittedly funny) jokes aplenty, it's far from it.
However adventurous McCloud feels on foot, I think we'll all breathe a sigh of relief when he's back in the cockpit of his Arwing.
This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 07-Oct-02