Title :Star Fox 64
Platforms :Nintendo 64
Publisher :Nintendo of America
Game Rating :9.1
Review by :Ken Gagne

One of the best methods of cementing a new system's popularity is by introducing sequels to long-established classics. Nintendo does this quite successfully with Star Fox 64, for the Nintendo 64. 

This game is more a remake of the Super Nintendo original than a sequel, since the plot is identical: the exiled mad scientist Andross has returned to threaten his home world of Corneria and the rest of the Lylat system. Most of the stage names remain unchanged, and even a few of the boss enemies are the same. It is for the most part, though, an entirely new challenge. 

Star Fox 64 puts players in the cockpit of the Arwing fighter as Fox McCloud. This will be the main method of travel throughout twelve stages; two stages use the Landmaster tank, and one other goes deep under the sea in a submarine. Fortunately, all three vehicles operate almost identically. The Arwing usually moves along a tunnel-like path, although occasionally free-range mode will be equipped, giving gamers the ability to fly in any direction at any speed. 

Despite there being fifteen stages, only seven will be encountered during any given gaming session. The route to the next area is determined by the level of success in the present one, leading players through a variety of difficulty settings. 

Three modes of play are available; aside from the normal one-player mode, there is a training stage, as well as a competitive battle mode for two to four players. As with any game, the more players, the better; the action can really heat up during some dogfights, presuming all players are similarly skilled. 

The graphics in Star Fox are exceptional. The game takes place in a variety of worlds, from asteroid belts to sun surfaces to desert planets and more. Most everything is polygonal, but so smooth and texture-mapped that it's hard to notice. The Arwing can be flown from two views, but the screen spins with the ship from inside the cockpit, making control from this perspective cumbersome, almost to the point of uselessness. 

The music is a notch above decent for an action title, although not worthy of spending $9.99 on the soundtrack CD, available separately. Space stages take on a quiet, echoing feel, waiting for the enemy to appear for the tone to quicken. But, where Star Fox really shines is the sound department. Over twenty different characters have their own digitized voices with which to interact during battle. From the cries of a fallen wingmate to the taunts of a new foe, it adds a level of personality unaccustomed to a shooter-type game, making it more fun to be flying the not-so- friendly skies. 

Star Fox has much replay value, since the exact stages experienced vary from game to game, and even the same stage can be played differently each time. Once a grasp of the basic controls is learned, though, it's not hard to blast through the enemy lines. Very few players will perform a perfect-scoring game, but many will defeat Andross in a day or two. 

If you're ready to rumble, then plug in the new Rumble Pak, which comes with every copy of Star Fox 64. As the Arwing takes hits or explosions rock the screen — and there are plenty of both — the Rumble Pak will vibrate the controller to provide force feedback in varying degrees. The accessory makes the controller a bit heavier, and the strongest jolts are not too strong. Overall, the Pak is a fun little gimmick that adds a bit to the play experience, but not much. 

Star Fox 64 is an action enthusiast's dream come true. While some players will fly their way through it somewhat quickly, most will find it a welcome addition to their game library.

This article is copyright (c) 1997, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 07-Jul-97