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The early Star Fox titles are pretty great games in my opinion. The first is technologically impressive for the hardware its designed for and also a fun time. Despite not being officially released until 2017, Star Fox 2 features some very cool changes and is also impressive for the hardware it was initially designed for. In my opinion, Star Fox 64 is the best. It borrows a lot from the first game and even some elements from Star Fox 2, and delivers some of the most fun rail shooting gameplay in video game history. All three games restrict the characters to crafts of some kind and the next game lets players control Fox directly and on the ground. Developed by Rare and published by Nintendo, Star Fox Adventures was released for GameCube in September, 2002. My research tells me it was originally developed as Dinosaur Planet, a game unrelated to Star Fox, but Nintendo convinced Rare to redesign it as part of the Star Fox franchise.
The story opens with a fox named Krystal receiving a distress call from Krozoa Palace and she discovers it was attacked by General Scales and the SharpClaw army. She is tasked with collecting and returning all the Krozoa Spirits to the palace but she is imprisoned before she can do so. Meanwhile, General Pepper asks the Star Fox team to investigate Dinosaur Planet which is breaking apart. The EarthWalker tribe on the planet tasks Fox with retrieving the Spellstones stolen by General Scales and returning them to the Force Point Temples to restore the planet to its original unity. Fox also sets out to retrieve the Krozoa Spirits and return them to Krozoa Palace and free Krystal.
The story is alright at best but the writing and dialogue are awful and none of the characters are very interesting. It does lean into science fiction fantasy territory which is kind of cool but it doesn’t feel very much like Star Fox. As mentioned earlier, I had read it was originally designed as a game unrelated to Star Fox and that’s basically how it feels. Like a different game with Star Fox elements thrown in and they sometimes feel out of place.
I’m going to be perfectly blunt. Star Fox Adventures sucks. I disliked it more and more the more I progressed. I’ve heard it described as a Zelda clone and I guess that’s mostly accurate but it’s not a very good one in my opinion. I can’t say anything about the game is broken or doesn’t work but the gameplay is mostly mundane. It’s just boring. Some minigames are frustrating, the action is dull, and a lot of the Star Fox stuff feels tacked on. The biggest being the Arwing sequences. When you have to fly to a location, you get it to do it in the Arwing and these sequences should feel familiar to veterans of the previous games. The objective is to fly through a set amount of gold rings to lower the force field so you can land. You can shoot down enemies and collect pickups in typical Star Fox fashion. It also feels a little out of place. Like the developer’s way of saying “hey, remember Star Fox?”.
Dinosaur Planet features many locations and ThornTail Hollow is like the hub area. This is a landing point which is near a store and WarpStone. You talk to NPCs that tell you where to go and what to do and then you have to figure out how to get there and do what needs to be done. The formula goes like this; travel to a location, complete the objectives, retrieve a Spellstone, bring it to one of the Force Point temples, go to another location and complete a test to obtain a Krozoa Spirit, and then bring it to Krozoa Palace. You can unlock some shortcuts but there is a lot of backtracking and it can be tiresome. Why the developers didn’t utilize the WarpStone more often is beyond me. It will warp you to only a few locations. It would have been cool if you could unlock warp points at all the locations you visit, maybe after you complete what constitutes a dungeon. Warp points at areas you’ll have to come back to multiple times would have been greatly appreciated.
I will say Star Fox Adventures is an accessible game. I didn’t find it all that difficult but I found several puzzles to be tedious. There are parts where you’ll be required to get a barrel to a specific location, navigating it around obstacles so it doesn’t explode and I never found this to be particularly enjoyable. Some of the tests to collect Krozoa Spirits are terrible, too. What makes them worse is you need to navigate a series of obstacles to get to the test location and it’s not that these obstacles are challenging to overcome but if you fail the test, you have to overcome them again for some reason. One test in particular requires you to make sure a red bar remains in a green bar and it’s horrible trial and error. Absolutely horrible.
The only weapon Fox gets to use is a staff and he can acquire upgrades for it, all of which are needed to access specific areas. To progress. There’s a lot of resources and items to collect and the controls for accessing and navigating around your inventory can be cumbersome and the combat is just dull. You mash a button to attack with the staff and hold another to block. Some staff upgrades double as attacks that require aiming like the projectiles and ice projection. When engaging most enemies, he will lock onto them automatically and you can press a button to unleash the projectiles or ice but aiming manually requires Fox to be stationary and by default, the aiming is way too sensitive. Most enemies are SharpClaw foes and there’s not a lot of variety to them. The most annoying foes are any that fly. They’ll end up above Fox’s head and you can’t really aim your melee attacks in that direction so they’re just a pain in the ass. Furthermore, enemies seem to respawn way too quickly.
Early in the story, Fox befriends a little dinosaur named tricky and he acts as a companion or sidekick for most of the game. You can command him follow you, stay put, and breath fire and you will need him to complete certain tasks and puzzles. Tricky does have an energy meter and if it’s depleted, he won’t follow commands. Replenishing his energy will require you to feed him GrubTubs which look like mushrooms. Luckily, they can be found everywhere and are one of multiple resources you need for various things. Many are easily found in the environments and some can also be bought at the store. The store also sells some items needed to progress and maps for many of the locations you visit.
One thing I found annoying is that it’s often not clear where you need to go. You can reach out to Peppy to see the world map and Slippy who will offer tips. You will be backtracking a lot. For example, you acquire a Spellstone and then have to go back to ThornTail Hollow and make your way to one of the Force Point Temples. The game consists of a lot of linear paths that lead to more open areas where you have to solve puzzles and/or interact with NPCs. Outside of the boring combat and the few tedious puzzles and minigames, nothing ever felt impossible. I struggled more with figuring out exactly what I needed to do rather than actually doing it. The game does feature some set pieces and some of the more enjoyable ones are rail shooter sequences. Like when you get to ride dinosaurs and shoot things.
When it comes to the presentation, I think Star Fox Adventures does look pretty good. The presentation is colorful, the character models are detailed and well animated, and some of the visual effects look pretty good. There is a good amount of visual variety, each major location looks and feels distinct. As for the audio, the sound work is good and the soundtrack is okay with plenty of fitting tunes along with some classic Star Fox tunes interspersed throughout. On the technical side, the game ran fine and I encountered no major issues.
I was interested in Star Fox Adventures because I was curious about the Zelda style adventure aspect. I was looking forward to playing it and now that I’ve finally beat it, I never want to play it again. In my opinion, this is the worst Star Fox game in the series up to this point. It’s not fun. That’s my problem with it. The game definitely has issues but nothing I couldn’t get past and I can’t say anything is actually broken or doesn’t work right. It’s just that the game isn’t fun to play. It took me almost a month to beat it because I couldn’t bring myself to play it for any significant stretch of time. I would play for an hour or so and get so bored, I had to stop. Some days I just didn’t play it at all because I wasn’t in the mood and dreaded coming back. There was a point when I considered giving up but then I discovered I was just past the halfway point so I decided to push through. Ultimately, I find it extremely boring, the action dull, and the adventure as a whole to be very unexciting.
I would not recommend Star Fox Adventures. I don’t even mind the fact that it doesn’t feel like a Star Fox game or that the Star Fox elements seem tacked on. It’s just not fun. It’s boring and dull and almost everything it does has been done better in other games. Apparently, the game received good reviews at the time of release. Well I guess I don’t get it because I didn’t have a particularly good time with it.