Players who purchase Star Fox Adventures looking for a space shooter are in for a shock, this is a platform title, and while there are a few outer-space sequences, the vast majority of the game is spent on terra firma. In fact, Fox McCloud himself doesn't even make an appearance until after you've completed an extensive opening sequence with another character. StarFox Adventures follows the famous space hero into the mysterious world of Dinosaur Planet, a strange place that is in crisis. A dictator named General Scales has taken over the world, splitting it apart and threatening the freedom and existence of all it inhabitants. In addition, his cronies have kidnapped the good-hearted Krystal who you play in the first level, and she needs to be rescued. Once the storyline is set-up, you play as Fox and have to blast through an asteroid field, then you land on the strange world of Dinosuar Planet. When he lands, he's defenseless amongst the massive dinosaurs and have to save their world from an evil dictator. Along the way you'll face legions of his minions. However, Fox isn't alone in his mission, and can call up his holographic communications device to talk with his three buddies, Slurpy, Peppy, and General Pepper. These three characters will give fox advice, save the game and manage his inventory for him.
As you'd expect from a Rare title, the mission takes place in huge colorfully-designed worlds, which lends itself to plenty of exploration. In addition to the inhabitants, each world has a variety of paths and hidden areas. There are loads of hidden secrets, items and power-ups throughout, and you spent a lot of time collecting these initially. There are several types of plants that can cut down in order to get health and power crystals. Beware however, not all the plants are friendly and some will spew out poisonous gas when you get too close. Fox will also come across several types of mushrooms, which he can feed to the other dinosaurs. Among the most important items Fox can collect are Scarab bugs, which Fox can use as currency when he finds them. Scarabs hide in a variety of places, though they seem to predominate under rocks. Fox can also collect red gems, which refill his energy bar. There are loads of other items as well, including spells, ability enhancers and more. In certain areas, Fox can also enter a store and buy additional items using the Scarabs and the store-owner will also allow him to gamble his accumulated Scarabs with games of chance and skill. There are other items, such as Bomb Seeds, which can blow holes and open up hidden areas, and several types of bags that let you carry more items.
As Fox lands on Dinosaur Planet, he has little in the way of weaponry and has to collect the tools he'll need to defeat enemies. The first thing he'll find is Krystal's Staff, which is quite effective, and also glows when Fox gets close to a hidden area, and can also be upgraded. He can also find another weapon, the blaster, which is a magically powered gun and several other types of weapons scattered around the world. During the mission, there are several types of enemies including the dreaded SharpClaws, who make for some imposing foes. Players also have to contend with bats, diving pterodactyls and other baddies throughout the mission. In addition, there are several massive bosses who guard the world and have to be beaten.
Luckily, Fox has other friends besides his holographic comrades. Each different area on the planet has its own dinosaur tribe, who will help you with advice and guide you on the way. In addition, the coolest feature of the game, is that you have a sidekick, the Queen's son Tricky who will follow you around. He's not just there for show and can be commanded to do a variety of tasks. For example, there are several areas in the game which are sunken, and you can call Tricky to do a little digging to find items hidden underneath. Tricky is also able to help you by standing on switches and other useful abilities. You can also improve his skills by feeding him and giving him exercise. This makes SFA more than the usual platform title and gives you a better sense of being on a living planet. While there are many areas in Dinosaur Planet, your main base is located in bucolic Thorntail Hollow, which is where you'll find the store and Queen Earthwalker. It's here where you get in your Arwing and fly to the other areas. You'll need the blue Fuel Cells to power your ship which can be collected in various areas throughout the game. Another way in which you can travel is by contacting the god WarpStone, who will transport you to another area automatically, just remember to give him a gift of rock candy beforehand.
This seems like a lot to remember, but SFA has some helpful ways to assist you on Fox' journey. An intuitive in-game interface allows you to call up easy to understand menus for inventory and commands which are multicolored and easy to navigate, these menus appear on-screen but vanish when not in use and don't get in the way of the action. Controlling Fox is likewise simple and intuitive, fighting techniques are simple to master, though some other actions, such as lifting rocks seem to be unnecessarily complex. Another problem comes in jumping, which follows the Zelda tradition of being automatic in some areas, while manually controlled in others. This can be quite annoying at points, causing you to miss landings too frequently. For the most part, the game controls are excellent, with the trademark Rare feel evident throughout.
Star Fox Adventures has some other problems which detract from what is otherwise and excellent game and hurt the overall experience. While the initial stages of any large adventure are typically a little flat as you collect the needed items, SFA seems to be particularly murky, making the initial few levels seem as though they're in slow-motion. There seems to be too much emphasis on collecting items and not enough action. This is mitigated to some degree by the mini-games which serve to break up the action. The levels are too big for their own good, and you can spend a lot of time wandering around aimlessly looking for the next task in vain. While there are onscreen pointers, it's not always evident where the objective lies. Another annoying thing comes in the store, which is structured like a mini-level - it takes far too long to traverse the store, and spending time looking for the right room to find the proper items becomes tedious in a hurry. While these kinds of adventure games have certain conventions that developers invariably follow, there has to be a better way than spending several hours wandering around looking for basic items before the 'real' quest begins.
However, it's not all bad news, and there are some really sharp elements in the game. As usual with Rare titles, the best part about Star Fox Adventures is its beautiful graphics and professional presentation. Gamers should appreciate the power of the GCN with this title's expansive level designs and attention to detail. Even though it has a youthful appearance, the designers have made the graphics crisp and beautiful. When you're walking through tunnels, fighting enemies or swimming Dinosaur Planet seems almost real with detailed textures, beautiful plants and colorful light sourcing throughout the game. One interesting aspect of the graphics comes in the transitions from day to night. In addition to looking cool, this actually affects gameplay because the dinosaurs sleep at night, meaning you can't communicate with them. The animation of the dinosaurs is excellent, though the realism of the models is undermined a little when they start talking. There's a lot of plot in the game, which unfolds in cut-scenes. These cinema sequences are nicely done and highly polished, and the widescreen borders are a nice touch. SFA has a decent and consistent design that does a good job in creating a convincing gameplay environment.
While it may be Rare's final Nintendo release, Gamecube owners shouldn't let that dissuade them, as this doesn't have the appearance of a rush job. There's a vast world to explore so SFA will take plenty of time to complete, though some areas will have you wandering around pointlessly for far too long. While it seems slow at the start, the action picks up quickly later on and makes for an immersive adventure. It's got a classic mixture of adventure, space action and puzzle elements. The plot offer both action and some cute comic sequences. Even though the adventure gets a bit tedious at points, the mini-games are nice diversions and offer a nice change of pace. Despite a few problem areas, Star Fox Adventures is a solid title that offers plenty of play value and is definitely worth your time.
As you can tell from our review, Star Fox Adventures is
a very large game, and there's a lot of ground to cover. Since the game's design
is open-ended and non-linear, most players will spend a lot of time figuring out
what to do next. While some players enjoy this kind of thing, others will be
annoyed by the design. An alternative to this is to resort to buying a Strategy
Guide to help you along. While several other publishers (including Nintendo
Power, naturally) have brought out guides, BradyGames has published a fairly
good one with a lower price, $9.99 versus the usual $14.99 for more elaborate
books. Brady's book is easy to follow, points out things even an observant
player might miss, and has some really impressive 3D maps which makes things
easier to understand. While it doesn't have the pull-out posters, trading cards
or extensive art section, BradyGames' StarFox guide gets the job done with
little distraction. Most importantly, there are several sections in the game
that would take hours to figure out without a walkthrough. Brady's guide is also
quite useful in helping to solve SFA's oblique puzzles, playing the game with no
help requires too much patience. While in most cases, gamers should make good
progress on their own, this excellent guide will definitely allow you to
progress further much faster.
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