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CONSOLE: GameCube DEVELOPER: Rare PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): September 23, 2002 GENRE: Action-Adventure
// review by SoyBomb

Aim yourself at the nearest asteroid and start the thrusters.

Now, I have to go back to work on other reviews of great games. And I worked on them until pretty late last night. But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not have enjoyable relations with that game, Star Fox Adventures. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time — never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people.

Thank you.

Star Fox Adventures was released in North America on September 23, 2002. On September 24, 2002, Microsoft acquired Rare, the game's developer, in its entirety, practically severing their long-standing relationship between Nintendo and relegating them to putting out a few Game Boy Advance games before calling it quits altogether. So Star Fox Adventures was more or less Rare's final swan song with Nintendo. But instead of letting that swan fly with grace and dignity, they took it out back and, while flailing a rusty hatchet, hacked at it with wild, inaccurate, insoucient cuts, each one causing more pain and messy blood spatter than the last. Then, brandishing an old manure shovel, they scooped up any remaining iotas of distinguishable flesh and plopped them on an unpolished silver platter. This uncooked travesty of a meal was then set in front of hundreds of thousands of GameCube owners, yet they still dove in, expecting a tasty meal. Instead, it tasted like refried gruel on a hot summer day.

So where do I begin? Let's start with the title itself: Star Fox Adventures. When you see the name "Star Fox" in the title of a game, you automatically expect a shooter. The original Star Fox was like that all the way back in 1993, as was its sequel, Star Fox 64. So, naturally, you'd think Star Fox Adventures would be a shooter as well. But beyond the on-rails shooting areas you undertake transferring between areas (and the final boss — spoiler alert, of course), the meat and potatoes of the game is Fox McCloud being a pedestrian.

That doesn't mean that a game with "Star Fox" in the title can't be good, but you've already caused a crowd of brows to furrow once they get past the introductory sequence and quickly discover that the vast majority of this game is going to take place on foot. This would be like making the next Call of Duty game a wartime financial record maintenance simulator. Heads would roll! (Literally, I imagine.)

But wait! Maybe this game will be like the Legend of Zelda! And that's great! Who doesn't love the Zelda series? They're great, and Link doesn't fly everywhere in a spaceship! Neither does Samus Aran in the Metroid series: she lands and explores in-depth whatever planet is the flavour of the week in her bounty-hunting excursions. So why can't Fox McCloud do this? He's certainly a capable furry, ready to take on reptiles at a moment's notice with a staff of justi—hang on a second! A staff?! You have this intergalactic traveller who has survived the likes of explosive space battle, and you're just going to equip him with a long stick? That seems like a load of hooey to me. This is so far removed from Star Fox that it really should be its own game.

As it once was.


I could just KILL that travel agent!

The question still lingers: how did Star Fox Adventures become so far removed from the formula that made the series great? The answer lies in an impressive historical tour. Let's take it now! Back in late 1997, Rare began working on a new IP called "Dinosaur Planet" for the Nintendo 64. Though development was continuous and evolving, it was eventually agreed upon that Dinosaur Planet would revolve around an open-world concept starring Sabre, a strange wolf warrior with a sword and a green tunic (where did they get this idea?), and Krystal, a spear-donning blue furry cat-like creature. When Nintendo — more specifically, legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto — got a peek of Dinosaur Planet, he noted just how close Star Fox and Sabre were and advised that it become a Star Fox game. Despite a bit of internal strife, especially over having to rewrite parts of the game, it was a smooth and respectful transition. Star Fox Adventures was also moved to the upcoming GameCube to give it more attention. Only at the end of the game do you actually see a legitimate tie to the rest of the series, but I imagine that was a last-minute tack-on.

But I cannot discredit a game solely because it's not like its predecessors. That would make me dislike a number of major games. Final Fantasy XIII isn't like the games before it. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is quite a departure. And dear goodness if Kid Icarus: Uprising isn't a left turn in the right lane. Still, Star Fox Adventures is very far off the mark of being great for more reasons than simply being different.

Let's talk a bit more about the fighting. And there is indeed fighting that takes place, usually against SharpClaw army men yearning for their own doom. Basically, Fox hits them with a staff. Yeah, that's pretty much it. What, something's not going down easily? Maybe a few more whacks with the STAFF will cause some Sarah McLachlan's Patented Sweet Surrender. But this is no ordinary staff, no, otherwise it would be called just a stick or a branch. Along the way, it can be powered up to shoot fire and icy blasts, as well as launch Fox upward to reach higher plateaus. Biggest problem with that: you can't just do it anywhere; it requires a launch pad, which appears in very convenient, explorer-friendly places.

Oh yeah, and he can't jump unless he's at the edge of a platform or cliff. Kinda reminds me of Zelda again.

Fox needed a love interest, so enter Krystal, a female fox who becomes, er, "krystalized"...

Now what's an exciting adventure game without a spunky sidekick? Enter Tricky, a small stegosaurus pup that likes to hum irritatingly at random intervals when he's not being used to dig, sit on a raised button, or blow fire on an obstacle to burn it down. Isn't he the greatest? ...no, he's a bit of a pest, and he often gets into more trouble than you really need. Sometimes you command him, and he just doesn't listen, opting to say "dum-da-dum" or gawk at the foliage. What's worse is that he won't help you out solely from the goodness of his heart; no, you have to feed him mushrooms before he acts. Each action uses one mushroom, and collecting them can be a bother because they sure love to hop around or

The game tells me to check my map for more information, and it becomes a useless endeavour. I'd be more prepared by brandishing a plastic spoon in a gun fight. The maps are of little interest, though not as lacking in practicality as asking Slippy Toad for sage advice. He's supposed to serve your general guide through this slog of uncertain terrain, but I think he's just pulling responses out of his frog hole. If you've been gone from the game for any amount of time more than five minutes and can't remember where to go next, don't ask the daft toad — take a trip to GameFAQs instead where you'll receive sound guidance. GameFAQs: The Refreshmaker.

Also, be sure never to blink during the short mid-action, or you may miss the one and only clue on how to progress. Ultimately, I consistently felt lost and poorly guided in this game, and that's one of my biggest gripes with Star Fox Adventures. For an adventure game heavily mired in puzzle-solving, it's quite taxing. Maybe Rare really wanted us to all buy a BradyGames strategy guide. (As of this writing, I can get a copy for as low as 50 cents now. Super.)

Some of the gameplay is just tedious as well. Having to make significant treks by foot to get where you need to go is a chore. (And don't even get me started on sometimes having to pass some poisonous mushrooms that are unavoidable and will injure Fox without fail.) Really, the only exciting method of travel is via the Arwing. But what flying sections ARE featured (used to get to other parts of the planet) involve just flying through a set number of rings to open a portal while trying not to take too much damage from meteors, rock formations in space (what?), and the occasional enemy ship. It's quite similar to the Gummi Ship from Kingdom Hearts and equally pointless. Tedious still is that the game feels stretched out more than it ought to be. Halfway through the game, I forgot what the point of my quest even was, simply because I was performing rote tasks without any immersion in my already obtuse tasks. I didn't feel as though I cared anymore after a while. "I have to carry even MORE explosive barrels a long distance to blast open yet another wall. How rewarding."

It's a shame that this game suffers so much from its gameplay because its presentation is quite beautiful. Star Fox Adventures is a rather gorgeous game on the GameCube. And yes, you'll definitely notice the sheer elegance of Fox's fur. Rare really pushed the GameCube to get the most out of it visually. Meanwhile, the music is a peculiar blend of rainforest sounds, organic instrumentation, and occasional vocal chants and groaneries, which is fitting as they usually coincided with my own groans and grunts while playing. It serves more to complement your journey rather than overwhelm it. Unfortunately, the theme of ThornTail Hollow will be forever glued inside your head. "Oh-way-oh..." Oh, that chant... OMGBBQROFLCOPTERBBL...

I don't know what to say about that voice acting, though. I suppose it's passable, given how cartoony these characters are. Then again, with some of it not even in a language anyone can understand — save for a few out-of-place English terms — I can't even determine whether those parts are being read acceptably. And don't make me listen to Tricky again. Don't make me do it! I can't do it! He's a pre-teen triceratops with a penchant for trying to sound rad! It doesn't work!

Is Star Fox Adventures the worst game I've ever played? Certainly not. But it's so damn cryptic for a game that shouldn't be, and it really drops a vile smelly dinosaur poop on everything the franchise stood for up to that point. I honestly can't recommend it unless you're a sucker for punishment and enjoy the adrenaline rush of being frustrated. Things have improved somewhat for the Star Fox franchise with subsequent outings (although Star Fox Zero seems to have polarized the Internet), so let's just consider this a speed bump on the Star Fox highway.


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