FREE E-mail
address!! Sign up here!!

Get a FREE iPad or MacBook Air!!!!!!!

Star Fox 64

Get the game at!

Review by J.M.Vargas "Star Wars" meets the gang from "Sesame Street"; that's the first thing that sprung to mind when I played Nintendo's blockbuster summer release "Star Fox 64", which I've been playing for quite a while trying to get all the medals and dig out all the secrets. A little background: I saw the "Star Wars" films for the first time ever earlier this year when they were re-released in theaters, and with the exception of "Return of the Jedi" (which had a few good moments) I thought they were dumb. The special effects were cheesy and lackluster (even by 1970's standards), the characters were shallow thin cardboards and there were moments that made me burst out laughing out loud (an AMPEX TV switcher controlling the Death Star's deadly rays...please!). "Star Wars" is, however, a pop-culture religion with countless devotees; TV shows ("BattleStar Gallactica"), cartoons ("Sailor Moon"...think about it!) and video games (the "Wing Commander" series, featuring George Lucas refugee-extraordinarily Mark Hamill) just can't stop ripping off the winning formula. Nintendo's designer-in-chief, Dr. Miyamoto, must be a big fan of the "Star Wars" series and the many sci-fi wannabe flicks that resemble that series ("Independence Day"). "Star fox 64" resembles the 16-bit "Star fox" game in play mechanics and basic concept (many reviews have called the game a souped-up remake of the original), but the 64-bit technology of the Nintendo 64 and some clever use of compression have turned this game into a cinematic experience that takes itself as seriously as David Letterman reading viewer mail. Make no mistake about it: this game is another "Star Wars" ripoff, but sanitized with that cute-until-you-puke character design that has become Nintendo's trademark. Add to that the magic touch of Dr. Miyamoto and his team, and you've got the best "Star Wars" game ever made without the characters and the settings of the movies. This game makes Lucas' "Shadows of the Empire" look like an incomplete Beta version. In a nutshell: the Lylat galaxy system is being threatened by an evil scientist/mutant freak called Andross, which just happens to be the gigantic head of an ape (think about a bad-ass cranky old ape like the one in "Donkey Kong Country"). His minions have taken over several planets and territories that, if not promptly freed, will become the launching platform for an intergalactic war. In desperation, General Pepper asks for the help of the only squadron of pilots talented enough (crazy?) to take on such monumental task: the Star fox team. These four ace pilots quickly jump into their state-of-the-art Airwings and set course for Corneria, the first out of fifteen potential conflicts that will lead to a face-to-face match against Andross, with the Lylat system's future at stake. Cliche' to the chore? Yes! Totally lacking in any emotional involvement whatsoever? You could say that. A fun romp through Nintendoland? Absolutely! A few flaws aside, mostly dealing with the game's length, difficulty and lack of save features, this is the glorious 64-bit rebirth of a classic 16-bit game many of us skipped in its original incarnation.


Consider the extreme amount of polygons being pushed around, the blistering 30 frames-per-second, and the lush and creative textures used to convey an intergallactic soap opera. Now consider the cartridge format limitations and you'll see that this is Nintendo's most ambitious title ever released from a graphical point of view. I can't think of any two levels looking the same, and when you consider the amazing special effects seen in most of them you can begin to appreciate the effort behind the product. The showdown with Andross and the Katina level (a shameless but enjoyable "ID4" ripoff) are my favorites, even though there are more impressive fireworks elsewhere (Titania, Zoness' Toxic Waste Area, etc.). With the exception of the Aquas level (a serious misfire), "Star Fox 64" shines bright and mighty over all console shooters currently available (although Working Design's debut PSX title, "Raystorm", comes awfully close). Part of the appeal comes in the form of the cinematic sequences, which use polygon sequences instead of the traditional FMV segment (which the N64 wasn't designed to handle). These scenes set up the conflicts about to take place, and although not as good as a rendered movie it adds to the cinematic aspect of the game. During multiplayer gaming, the screen will split into four screens (even for two-player sessions) which will be filled with either gaming data or a player's perspective. The scrolling is fast, smooth and slowdown-free; no "Mario Kart 64" or "GoldenEye" choppiness to be found here, although the blandness of the two multiplayer levels' background is quite obvious.


Out of this cartridge's 96 Megabits, 32 were employed for the game's music and numerous soundbytes. Sadly, whatever space was occupied by the musical score is wasted, since the music in the game is unremarkable, uninspiring and bland to the chore. Nintendo's musical maestro Koji Kondo must have poured his heart and soul into "Super Mario 64", because none of the catchiness and rhythm of his previous work can be heard in "Star fox 64". A darn shame, since a rousing score can go a long way toward making a game a more immersive experience. The sound effects are your typical space lasers, bombs, explosions, etc. Nothing terribly remarkable or original, but functional and adequate. The real star of the game, however, are the numerous soundbytes uttered by Fox McCloud and his gang: Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad and Falco Lombardi (not to mention lines by Andross, General Pepper, etc.). The four main characters develop a rappaport that can be incredibly amusing and effective against the enemy: Slippy will analyze the end-level bosses and inform you (Fox) of their weaknesses, Peppy will provide fatherly advice (and some useful pointers too), and Falco will basically taunt you with an in-your-face arrogance that serves no purpose other than being a comedic aside. If you assume that Falco is Han Solo and Fox is Luke Skywalker, the abusive dialogue ("Look at my ship, does it look OK to you?") becomes truly amusing. The voices are acted quite well, and have the quality of a well-made B movie in which characters are dead serious in their purpose despite the silliness of the whole thing; the British actor that voices Star Wolf (McCloud's nemesis) by himself blows away the entire vocal cast of Capcom's "Resident Evil". Slippy's voice is kinda childish, but it will appeal to Nintendo's target audience and give the tykes someone they can relate to; Peppy is cool and fatherly but can get a bit overbearing as the game progresses. Forget the music (mute it in the options screen); "Star fox 64" provides plenty of speech and personality for its characters, and raises the bar for future N64 releases ("GoldenEye" has already flunked by not providing witty Bond tongue-in-cheek one-liners).


Even people who can't stand shooters will like "Star fox 64" and it will mostly be because of the appealing characters. Those 700+ one-liners in the game really go a long way toward establishing the personalities of Falco, Peppy and Slippy; Fox McCloud is kinda square and bland, and his stiffness is a sharp contrast to his co-pilots' wackiness and the bosses' charisma (another element the game lifts from the big screen). Falco Lombardi is like a cross between Han Solo and Val Kilmer's character in "Top Gun": rude, arrogant, impatient, etc. This contrasts sharply with Slippy's infantile attitude ("Slippy's hit!") and Peppy's subdued commentary ("You're becoming more like your father"). Since the lines vary depending on where you go on a certain level, the way your squadron reacts can yield different dialogue (although there are limits to the number of secrets available). In Sector Y, if you follow Slippy into the destroyed remains he'll start chasing some bad guys: "Take that!", "Escaping, I don't think so."; when the bad guys organize and ambush Slippy he'll scream "Leave me alone!", at which point you must bail his sorry ass again. That is one of the many one-liners that will go down as classics, and this game packs plenty: "I saw my life flash before my eyes" is one of my favorites. Shooters usually have a short lifespan because of limited replay value, but with the hidden goodies and incentives to finish the game those who want to stick a rocket in the backside of Star Wolf and his gang will gladly take-off on a regular basis. Many criticize the game for lacking a save feature, but the game's is so short it would be foolish to play 35 minutes until the end only to save and attempt to get the last couple of obstacles in a few minutes. "Star fox 64" depends heavily on atmosphere and role playing for its success, and that need makes the lack of a save feature necessary. Besides, as your skills get better you'll be able to form a path of your liking toward Venom. I usually skip Aquas and head instead for Katina, since I have a blast emulating the best moments from Roland Emmerich's "Independence Day" which this level recretes right down to the destructive beam of light. You can only play through 7 or 8 levels at once, and since there are 15 levels in the game there are plenty of variables to experiment with (if you're good enough). The forced-scrolling perspective has ruined other shooters because they attempted to steal the original "Star fox" mechanism outright; Crystal Dynamics is particularly guilty of this with their first-generation shooters "Total Eclipse" (3DO/PSX) and "Solar Eclipse" (Saturn). "Star fox 64" adds to the virtually unchanged gameplay of the original the accuracy of analog control and several "All Range Mode" levels where you can freely fly wherever you want. Its so simple, yet challenging enough to momentarily forget your controls and screw up. Fun for the whole family except for a crucial flaw: the multiplayer levels suck, since you are only given a couple of levels in which you compete head-to-head by aiming for each other, for a high score, etc. It is OK, but my gaming partners and me still reach for "Mario Kart 64" and "GoldenEye" for multiplayer fun. "Star fox 64" is a hell of a one-player game with a dead-average multiplayer distraction attached as a bonus.


As good as "Star fox 64" is, one can only hope that a sequel will materialize and take the defense of the Lylat system to the next level. It should have considerably more levels (15 are fine, but we need about 6 or 7 more to be satisfied), better music (Koji Kondo can do better than this...who could be possibly be buying the CD?) and a menu of characters from which to choose with different attributes and weaknesses. Wouldn't you love to be Slippy in the game and seek the approval of your teammates? How about Falco seeking to prove that he doesn't need to be part of Fox McCloud's team to be the man? Imagine that the entire dialogue of the game changes depending on your character selection (sky-high replay value!); suggestions Nintendo should seriously think about for the next chapter of this venerable series. "Star fox 64" is the second-best single-player game ever released by Nintendo for their 64-bit machine ("Super Mario 64" is till tops). The challenge, the cinematic atmosphere and the visual/aural feast (music not included) makes up for the unpolished and tedious split-screen multiplayer option. The Katina level, the boss encounters and the appearance of secret characters like Bill the Dog and Kat (doo doo doo doo tu tu, tu tu...!) are worth the $60 admission price by itself (Rumble Pack inclusion seals the deal). Just don't forget that somewhere in California George Lucas is sitting on a pile of your dough he got by selling you (not me!) a "Star Wars" game that is nowhere near as fun as this one. Who loves capitalism? You do!

Want this game? Find it on!!

Tips and codes - Game Endings - Java Games - Reviews - Fun Stuff