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Platform

DS

 

Genre

Action / Strategy

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Nintendo

 

ESRB

E +10 (Everyone)

 

Released

September 2006

 

 

- Innovative concept

- Lots of storyline and multiple scenarios/endings

 

 

- Timed gameplay is annoying

- Strategy segments donít add much

- Mandatory touch screen controls

- Sparse multiplayer options

 

 

Review: Star Fox Assault (GC)

Review: WarioWare Touched! (DS)

Review: Metroid Prime Hunters (DS)

 

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Star Fox Command

Score: 6.5 / 10

 

For the longest time, itís seemed like someone deep within Nintendo has held a grudge against Star Fox. The questionable Star Fox Adventures and even more mediocre Star Fox Assault seemed to point to a company that had no idea what to do with their spaceship-piloting, furry-shooting extravaganza. Their latest entry, Star Fox Command, is another misguided attempt to keep the series from falling into obscurity, but at least it has its heart in the right place.

 

star fox command          star fox command

 

For starters, you will never leave your ship. This might not seem like a big deal, but after the last two games, this is a pretty major blessing. However, the bigger issue is that there are no on-rails levels Ė instead, the entire game consists of free roaming arena battles. All of these skirmishes are tied together with the threads of a strategy game. Itís an innovative idea, yes, but itís not always executed particularly well.

 

In each stage, youíre given a tactical map and control over up to four allied fighters. Your home base ship is on one side of the map. On the other side is the

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enemyís mother ship. In between, there are asteroids, enemy fighters, more enemy strongholds, power-ups, and occasionally missiles. Your job is to clear the level by defeating all of the bad guys, and making sure none of them reach your home base, which will end the stage immediately. You move your fighters around the map by mapping their 

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paths with the stylus, and hopefully into enemy conflicts. Some levels also contain fog, which obscures the bad guys and can be erased in limited quantities with the stylus. All of this needs to be accomplished in a set number of turns, or else youíll lose.

 

Each time you run into an enemy squadron, youíre shown a certain type of enemy and the number that needs to be killed before you win the battle. This is all well and good, but youíre constantly on the clock. In the beginning, most stages start you off with 150 seconds of combat time. Run out, and you lose your fighter, as well as your turn. Furthermore, the timer carries over in between fights, so eliminating enemies as quickly as possible becomes the biggest challenge. To be fair, the game is pretty generous with time extending power-ups, but the constant pressure Ė to not only kill enemies fast enough but also beat the board within a set number of turns Ė gets a bit aggravating.

 

The finicky controls donít help. You can only control the game with the touch screen Ė there are no other control options. All of the buttons are used to fire, while drawing on the screen will control the ship. Tapping the upper portion of the screen will boost Ė tapping the lower portion will brake. You can spin by scribbling on screen, and loop-de-loops are executed by pressing a button on the lower screen. Bombs are a bit different from the standard Star Fox game, as you can drop them anywhere on the battlefield by dragging them over the radar.  It definitely takes awhile to get used to this scheme, especially in trying to control your speed Ė why couldnít they have just used the directional pad? Ė but eventually it becomes second nature, and you can almost maneuver better than you ever could with the N64 analog controller. Unfortunately, the aiming controls still feel imprecise, and itís hard to hit smaller targets. Given that some foes take several hits before going down, it can often cause certain battles to drag on longer than they should. The missile chase segments are especially painful; you need to weave your way through red boxes all while trying to shoot at an object bounding around the screen, and itís way too easy to accidentally fall off course and lose it.

 

star fox command          star fox command

 

This becomes a problem, because while Star Fox Command isnít necessarily a difficult game, it is very easy to make a minor screw-up and lose the entire level. If you lose a missile and it was too close to your base, forget it, mission over. If youíre on your last turn and you suddenly run out of life, even if you have several extra ships remaining, youíll still lose the level. Some levels can take up to ten minutes, and starting them from scratch gets old pretty quickly.

 

Thereís not much variety in the gameplay either, but at least Star Fox Command tries to make up for it with its expansive story. Nintendo has crafted one of the most unintentionally hilarious storylines to show up in a video game in a long while. Iím not sure how many people out there are enamored with the antics of Fox, Krystal, Slippy and gang, but whoever they are, theyíll be very happy. There is all kinds of ridiculous drama Ė Fox kicks Krystal off the team because heís concerned for her safety, Krystal joins the nefarious Star Wolf team, Slippy gets a girlfriend, and thereís still a gigantic talking cat named Katt with a thing for Falco. Youíre forced down a linear path the first time you play the game, but upon subsequent plays, you can take different routes through the storyline. In total, there are well over fifty scenarios and a total of nine unique endings. Although each game maybe only has about six or seven stages before you see the finale, thatís still a lot of stuff to see and do.

 

There are both local and wi-fi multiplayer but the options are sadly sparse. You can set your shield strength and...thatís about it. You canít change ships, canít modify power-ups, canít even choose your own stage. It does allow up to six players on a single card, but itís so simplistic that it gets old fast. Some kind of cooperative play wouldíve been much appreciated.

 

For the most part, the graphics are pretty good. Most of the stages look pretty boring, but the framerate is almost always silk smooth, and it looks much better than the blurry N64 game. The music is comprised of the same synth orchestra that youíd probably expect, and all of the voices have returned to the weird blibber blabber of the SNES game. (You can actually record some of your own voice samples and run them through the voice functions of the main characters; itís certainly a very strange extra.)

 

Star Fox Command is an interesting experiment. As much as Iíd probably prefer a traditional game like Star Fox 64, Star Fox Command does bring something new to the table, even though the strategy section do more to annoy than challenge, and the gameplay gets old pretty quickly. But itís nice to see that Nintendo is at least vaguely on track with this series Ė maybe weíll get a traditional entry next, and maybe this time theyíll let us configure the controls.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(September 28, 2006)

 

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