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Star Fox 64

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Reviewed by Peter Morris Pardon the length of this please, but I just had to jabber about this game because it's SO good!! Ha! At last, Star Fox 64, the game that I'd been watching since I first heard rumors of it. Star Fox, the game that changed gaming. I can still remember the commercials now: 'Why go to the next level, when you can leap light years beyond?' I never bought an original copy of Star Fox, and I never beat the third leg (the really hard one) until I bought it for $9 used at a Blockbuster Video way back in early 1995. Ahhh, those were the days... Anyway, I first off have to clarify that I'm an absolute shooter freak. Ever since the days of River Raid and Asteroids I've loved making things go boom (too bad I never had a Genesis, huh?), and for some reason, at the ripe old age of 21, this appetite for destruction is as strong as ever. So does Star Fox 64 satisfy the need? You betcha! I'll be trying to construct this a little like the Turok review for consistency, but that was a long time ago, so bear with me. I'll be concentrating on the same aspects (gameplay, control, graphics, and sound) in order of importance. First let me say that I picked the game up last Tuesday (it's now Monday, July 7th), and played it everyday after work and a little on the weekend (hey, the Allman brothers were here Friday, I had to stop for that!!). So far I've managed to knock the game pretty much senseless, obtaining medals on six of the 15 worlds (including Venom) and beating it on both difficulties (woo, hard is HARD). Do not be fooled into thinking this game is too easy. It has an attitude, but more on that later. The gameplay in Star Fox, like most Nintendo games, is fairly straight forward. You fly, you shoot, you dodge, things blow up. This just happens to be my cup of tea, though. And you don't JUST fly and shoot. Like the others have noted, you barrel roll (like the original) which also repels certain attacks, and new to the 64 you can do loops and I guess what you'd call an Immelmann. Or something. In addition you have the two laser powerups and the nova bomb and the homing laser, which I think is cool because it allows you to whack multiple targets with a single blast (for added points). The neat thing that I found out after beating the game and returning to the training mode was that you can home in on something then hit it with a nova bomb. Definitely a plus in my book. I really like the real-time rendered cinemas. They bring life to the characters and sorta blend the game into a semi-movie experience. Like all cinema sequences, they get old, which is good that you can skip through them. Overall though it is my opinion that they add significant value to the game. I don't think it would make as much sense without them. What's cool is that they're different depending on what you succeed in doing on the level. For instance, your team isn't quite so jubilant if that mothership annihilates the base you so vigilantly defended. Perhaps the best aspect of this game is the varied mission environments. It's not just 'go here and bust something up'. On Corneria, you're fighting for the planet's survival (I love being someone's 'only hope'). In the asteroids, you're just sort of on your way to the next path, but you end up getting ambushed (duh). On Titania, you must use the Landmaster to rescue the annoying amphibian, Slippy. Slippy is my least favorite character, but he happens to be one of the most useful since he shows the bosses shield gauge. On some of these buggers you just can't tell if you're causing damage without it. Of course on Aquas is the infamous submarine level, which I've heard nothing but whining about. I liked it, personally, because a) it's challenging and b) yes, it IS dark in there. But you get unlimited nova bombs (in the form of torpedos which just happened to light the darkness). Your mission there is to stop a giant clam. Apparently Andross was planning on using this bad boy to threaten coastal cities on Corneria. What's cool is how when it closes it sends a gushing shockwave out that rocks your world. The Rumble Pak! Yes, how could I forget about it? I have to admit, I was extremely skeptical about this little gadget. After all, why not just crank up the bass? Well, like everyone else, I have grown to love it. It's not heavy at all like I thought it would be, and I expect some rumblage from the thing whenever something happens. I mean, I just expect it to vibrate. This game would not be as fun without it, that's for sure. If they weren't so expensive I'd get more. Oh yeah, four-player. I almost forgot! I stomped my roommate AND his brother (both of whom can slap me silly in Mario Kart and Wave Race) the two times we played three player mode over Corneria, and I really haven't done much research on this aspect of the game. But I had fun kicking both their tails, as I'm sure they have fun pelting me with shells and bananas. Overall the gameplay is superb. It may be easy for experienced gamers to beat, but I'm having a very hard time earning medals in this game. Sometimes I think they ask the impossible. The multiple paths are great. Hey, don't want to go to Solar? Don't. Go the other way. This one feature alone makes the game great. It does seem to be too easy. But man, if you screw up in the final stages on the hard path and lose hyper lasers, it gets real hard, real fast. And if you lose a wingman before entering Venom (from Area 6) you really ARE in trouble. Without those hyper lasers, the Star Wolf team will eat you alive (they spin to block your shots). Also there's just that random 'attitude' factor in the game. It is hard to play the same way twice. You just end up blowing stuff up in a different order every time, oh, especially in the all-range parts. That's why it's hard to get medals. Ok, so are you used to the analog pad yet? I hope so. Man, if only the analog stick was available in the original game, it would have been sooo much easier. Perhaps that's what contributes to this game's apparent ease. The Arwing is quick and responsive, and very easy and intuitive to control. Killing stuff with it is an acquired skill, and if you never played the original Star Fox, you will have to learn. The controls of the Landmaster and Blue-marine, by comparison, feel bulkier and heavier. But what do you expect? We're talking about a tank and a submarine. I really like the Landmaster. I think Nintendo could have done a whole game just with this vehicle alone. (Have you hit the switches for the train yet? Can you rock its world? I love the Forever Train level. You blow up SO much stuff. I think there's one spot for a breath of air while you pass under a bridge). Anyway, the controls are in the instruction manual. Read it before you play. And I would suggest doing the training mode. You might learn something you otherwise wouldn't. Overall control is excellent. Way above par. It is so easy to maneuver the Arwing that I think many players will be surprised to find themselves ace pilots. It was a bit hard at first to get used to the setup of the controls, though. I kept boosting when I wanted to slow down, and I kept launching bombs when I wanted to boost. Oh well, you live you adjust. If you don't become an expert dodger of all things flying at you, you are either a terrible gamer or were just not meant to play 3-D shooters. Believe me, the control is there. Ah, everybody's favorite: graphics. From start to finish this game does NOT disappoint. Almost all textures and models are smooth and clean, and just hold together sooo well. Some of the backgrounds are just gorgeous, and really help to set the tone of the game. There is some pop up in the space-based levels, but what do you expect? You can see forever in space. Nintendo had to start somewhere. The only exception is the unforgivable pop-in of two large asteroids in meteo. It's just glaringly ugly. Other than that, I have no complaints. Now allow me to expound on the good parts. Explosions in this game are incredible. They are so well done that you absolutely WANT to blow something up, just to see what it looks like. Haha!!! This is what shooters are all about. What's great is on Corneria when things hit the water. Whoa! You just have to see it to know what I mean. And those little water trails coming from the Arwing! Splendid!! There's so much cool stuff in this game, I'm not really sure where to start. The waves on Solar and Zoness aren't as good as Wave Race, but who cares? They're there. Solar flares, splashes, everything! These are two of my favorite levels. The Area 6 boss is just enormous, and it gets right up in your face. Plus it has this laser weapon that... wow. You just have to see it. Try to roll so that it points directly at the screen. You get magic rainbow colors everywhere!! It rules!! Then, when it dies, it really dies!! The explosions of the Area 6 boss and the Solar boss are the best in the game, hands down. Nintendo really should have done something more with the rest of the boss characters. Not that these explosions are bad, they just look, well... generic. Another thing is the HUGE amount of enemies present in some levels. In Area 6 and on Venom you just get swamped with enemies, with no noticeable MSD (massive slow-down, a term which will probably die out soon, since it was left over from the days of 16-bit shooters and their inevitable flicker-feasts and slowdowns). It is truly an amazing thing to behold. The other amazing thing about the graphics is the animations of some of the boss characters. It just rules. That annoying Johnny 5 in the Sky robot is one example, the other being Andross. Whoa. Just play the game, you'll see what I mean. Overall graphics are the best so far for the system, in my opinion. The clarity and variety of textures (well, save a couple, which I won't go into, since they're technically cinemas) is incredible and refreshing. Each level has a distinct look of it's own, and creates a distinct atmosphere for each. While some have complained about the music in Star Fox, I don't find it that bad. True, it isn't as good as the original, and that's annoying, but I do find it appropriate and anyway I turn down the music in the options screen anyway. To me, music is a background thing. Besides, the clarity and excellence of the sounds and voices more than make up for the music. The explosions are crisp and rumbly, and many of the sounds have been borrowed from the original Star Fox. Let me say that Slippy, like Toad, (huh, I wonder if that's a coincidence..) is cute in the annoying sense, and is forever getting on my nerves. But doggonnit if I can't shoot him down because I need him for the shield gauge (and to earn the medals). But the rest have really cool voices, in my opinion. I especially like Peppy's slight drawl and Falco's sarcastic remarks. Leon has that cool, snobby sort of sinister voice that really makes you want to waste him quickly. Overall I loved the sound, and it is my opinion that it rocks. True, the music is gloriously bland, but who cares? It isn't terrible, and I think it's on par if not a little better than anything else the N64 has to offer right now. Well, that about wraps it up, except for The Little Things. The Little Things are those slight design touches that we master gamers come to expect but are still surprised to see from those master creators. Number one would have to be planetary system as viewed from the map screen. Not only can you rotate it and zoom in on it and all that, but if you sit and watch it carefully, you'll notice that not ONLY are the planets all rotating around their individual axes, but they're also revolving around the sun. Now who thinks about stuff like that? (Seriously, I wonder if it was Miyamoto himself or one of the other thousand creative people that worked on this game). Now, not everybody might have noticed this, but I did, I guess because I love sci-fi, but there is a nod in the game to ID4 (well, actually that's kind of obvious), Star Wars (the asteroids. Tell me that opening cinema of the Great Fox entering the field wasn't ripped straight from The Empire Strikes Back), Star Trek (that Johnny 5 in the Sky kinda reminds me of Vyger: where IS that darned creator, anyway?) and Buck Rodgers (the TV show. All those fighters in Area 6 look strangely familiar). There may be more bows to great sci-fi adventures, but those are the ones that stand out the most. Other small touches include the laser marks in the ground, the rotation of the Bolse defense station, the interaction of the 'roids (they spin, they bounce, they puree... Arwings, that is), the spinning of slighted enemies (you know, when you don't get a direct hit), oh, and the WARP, OH, and the best: when you finish the game, it saves not only your score, but how many extra ships you finished with, on how many levels each of your wingmen was present, and on which levels you earned medals. Ha. Then the game presents General Pepper with a bill for services rendered!! I love it!! Anyway, the game rocks, no two ways about it. If you hate it, fine. But don't come telling me there's something better out there, because I've looked and I've played, but I didn't find it. Remember, my ranking is the percentage of next-generation games that I think Star-Fox excels over, in it's class. See the Turok review for an explanation of the annoyance factor. In conclusion, if you're a shooter freak like me, get this game. Otherwise, get this game, because at the very least you get the rumble pak, and plus blowing HAS to be some sort of stress reliever.

Gameplay: 96% Controls: 100% Graphics: 97% Sounds: 97% Music: 89% Annoyance factor (fogging, pop-in, Slippy, and the fact that you can't lay waste to EVERY single enemy in the entire game): 0.02. Average: 95.8% Overall: 93.9%

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