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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Action / Adventure

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Rareware

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

September 24, 2002

 

 

- Zelda meets Starfox

- Great graphics

- Excellent inventory system

- Easy control

- Some trademark Rare quirkiness

- Worth the long wait

 

 

- Linear

- Respawning enemies can grow tiresome

- The last Rare game for GameCube

 

 

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Starfox Adventures

Score: 8.9 / 10

 

Upon buying Starfox Adventures (SA), I recommend taking out the manual to wipe away your tears.  September 24, 2002 marked the date of SA’s arrival on store shelves.  It also marked the day that Rareware was gobbled up by Microsoft (or let go by Nintendo – whatever).  GameCube owners: weep now, weep often – SA is the first and last game by Rare for GameCube.  Thankfully, it’s pretty darn good and loads of fun to play.

 

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If you have any experience with the last two Legend of Zelda games (Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask) you should have no problem jumping right into SA.  The gameplay mechanics are very similar (but not identical) to those found in the last two Zelda games.  There’s no jump button, items and commands can be assigned to the Y button for easy access, and there are wide-open areas to explore and characters to interact with.  However, there is a huge improvement over how items are equipped.  In Zelda, you had to pause the game and assign functions to the various C-buttons.  In SA, all that can be done on the fly.  The C-stick opens a three-section menu (inventory, sidekick commands, staff modes) that allows functions to be assigned with just a few motions of the stick.  So if you’re dodging enemy fire you can issue commands to Tricky – your dinosaur sidekick – without pausing the action (and losing your groove).  Its execution is flawless and it doesn’t take long to learn.  (When Fox takes to the heavens in his trusty Arwing – in all-too short transition stages – the control remains easy and responsive.)

 

As far as plot goes, it boils down to “save Dinosaur Planet.”  That’s the most basic description as there are many different dramas that unfold, mostly revolving around the dreaded General Scales seeking ultimate power.  Fox’s goal is to collect the four spellstones and save the day (with some help from his friends), vanquishing various bad guys and putting things right.

 

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Characters along the way are fairly numerous and thanks to modern technology almost all of them talk with the trademarked Rare quirkiness last seen in Conker’s Bad Fur Day, including a WarpStone that sounds a lot like Fat Bastard (from the Austin Powers movies).  Most of it’s light and fun, belying the action, which is often tense even though Fox will only ever tackle one opponent at a time.  (Any enemies not engaged wait their turn to take a shot at Fox.)

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Staff-to-head combat is almost too rampant.  Enemies respawn fairly quickly and some sections are crawling with bad guys. (Actually, this aspect has been present in most of Rare’s platformer games.)  To be fair, most enemies can simply be avoided and the boss sequences are excellent.  The first boss battle is particularly good – Fox gets to fight a big bug’s insides – but the showdown with RedEye King (a huge T-Rex) and the air-based face-off with Drakor are extreme highlights.  All the action doesn’t mean there are any fewer puzzles to overcome or hidden nuggets to find.  Puzzle design has been implemented very well with the basics present (like blasting open a wall or furious button mashing to overcome a challenge) and more difficult puzzles (like putting the planet back together).

 

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Rare has never been a company to pull punches in the presentation department and SA is no exception.  SA is gorgeous!  There isn’t a single area I can point to and say, “This could have used more work.”  The big, the small – everything gets the same attention to detail whatever the environment or time of day.  Even Fox’s furry hide is rendered in a believable way.  I may be starting a debate but SA is more colorful than Super Mario Sunshine.  And better acted.

 

Mario Sunshine’s biggest flaw was lack of voice.  So much information can be conveyed through a voice – the intonation, rhythm, pitch – that when a main character doesn’t say more than a handful of phrases, it’s hard to become attached to that character.  It’s like the difference between silent movies and talkies. (Imagine Donald Sutherland or Christopher Plummer in a silent role.  They’d be able to do the acting part no problem but much of the impact on the viewer would be lost without their voices.  I know, deaf people deal with this in everyday life, but I’m just trying to make a point.)  The acting in SA is generally good and the music… let’s hope Nintendo releases a CD.

 

Where Mario Sunshine outdoes SA is the branching nature of the adventure.  SA funnels you from one place to the next and even when you get completely lost, contacting a crewmember usually points you in the right direction.  It’s not as open-ended as Zelda either, but that doesn’t make SA any less of a good game.

 

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Starfox Adventures has it all: fun, adventure, good-looking graphics, awesome sound, quirkiness, challenge, and an innovative inventory system.  It’s not as open as it could be and the constantly respawning bad guys are likely to grate on some nerves, but that’s not enough to bring it down.  It’s the end of an era, so what better way to cap it off?  Rent or buy – a definite must play.

 

- Omni

(October 9, 2002)

 

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