Star Fox: Assault Review

Check out our video review:

Star Fox had a pretty good run up until Star Fox Adventures. The first three games are excellent. I’m including Star Fox 2 in that statement even though it wasn’t officially released until 2017. Star Fox 64 is easily my favorite and in my opinion, one of the best rail shooters ever made. I feel the series took a turn for the worse with Star Fox Adventures. From what I understand, it wasn’t originally going to be a Star Fox game but Nintendo convinced Rare to turn it into one. The tacked on Star Fox elements aren’t even the problem. The game simply sucks. It’s boring, dull, and not fun to play. At least I think so. It was followed up by Star Fox: Assault, another entry that lets players control Fox directly and on the ground. I admit that after my experience with Adventures, I was a little skeptical of Assault, but I’ve also heard some decent things about it over the years. Developed by Namco and published by Nintendo, Star Fox: Assault was released for GameCube in February, 2005. Despite my skepticism, I just couldn’t imagine it would be any worse than Adventures so I was looking forward to checking it out. Assault does have a significant multiplayer component with a lot of things to unlock for it but I didn’t get the chance to try it so this review will only focus on the single player.

Set after the events of Adventures, Krystal is now a member of the Star Fox team and Andross’s nephew, Andrew, has taken over his uncle’s empire. General Pepper hires Star Fox to assist in the attack on Andrew’s forces and during their battle with Andrew, they witness his flagship get destroyed by a robotic insectoid creature of the race known as Aparoids. They soon learn the Aparoids pose a serious threat and can infect and control both machines and life forms so they set out to destroy them. The plot is okay but some of the dialogue is awful. Clearly written and designed to be family friendly, some of it goes beyond comically hammy and into cringe. I also feel some of the voice actors sounded like they were phoning it in. Assault is actually a sequel to Adventures and several characters from the previous games do make an appearance here. You don’t necessarily need to play Adventures to understand what’s happening here but you might get more out of it.

The good news is that Assault is much more enjoyable than Adventures. The single player is short with only ten missions but it does come with replay value. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do the multiple routes thing like the first Star Fox and Star Fox 64. The campaign is just a linear path straight through. You simply go from one mission to another. There are multiple difficulty levels, medals to earn, and S-Flags to find and collect. There is a lot to unlock in the game, most of it is for multiplayer, but you can unlock some stuff for single player including the Survival mode and Bonus Game. Survival mode isn’t actually what I thought it was going to be. It has you attempting to get through the campaign without saving.

Assault does feature plenty of Arwing action but also includes Landmaster and on-foot gameplay. There is a scoring system and the Arwing sequences feel like typical Star Fox. You fly through areas, engage enemies, and can acquire pickups. You will be accompanied by AI teammates who, as expected, feel like they’re only present for immersion and story-related purposes because you will be doing all of the work and you will have to destroy the enemies pursuing them from time to time. Several missions have Fox running around on-foot and he often has the option to jump into a Landmaster and Arwing at any time.

When on-foot, you run around and shoot enemies and these missions typically have you destroying things. One complaint I have is with the controls. There are presets you can choose from but, during gameplay, I found the change from on-foot to Landmaster to Arwing to sometimes be off-putting. I got used to it but I did have to do some further control tweaking in the beginning. The Landmaster is easily the worst in my opinion because I found it very easy to strafe or slide instead of turn mainly because of how the controls are setup. This is also something I got used to but in general, I didn’t much care for controlling the Landmaster when compared to the other two ways of getting around. The Arwing is the most fun.

I don’t think Assault would work as well if it was a straight up third-person shooter mainly because the on-foot gameplay feels a little dated and suffers from some control issues. But it’s not terrible. Fox is always equipped with a blaster but there’s all kinds of weapons you can pick up and a barrier you can utilize for protection. When compared to other third-person action games out at the time this released, the on-foot stuff can feel a bit stale but I actually found the gunplay to be satisfying thanks to solid audiovisual feedback and some cool muzzle flashes and visual effects. Having the options to navigate around on-foot and in the different crafts is nice but I would argue the game really shines when you’re in the Arwing. I would say it’s the only time everything feels right. It’s not only what you probably expect from a Star Fox game but it also feels the best to play.

I will say that Assault isn’t all that challenging to get through. Unlocking everything is a different story but just getting through the campaign isn’t that difficult. At least on the Bronze and Silver difficulty levels and I accumulated quite a bit of lives before reaching the end of the campaign. It also doesn’t take very long to get through. Some of the later missions have tough sequences but when compared to some of the tougher missions in the previous games, and even the Expert mode of Star Fox 64 – Assault never gets quite that difficult in my opinion. It took a little bit for the game to actually click with me but once it did, I was pretty much breezing through missions. The controls were probably the biggest obstacle for me but only in the beginning when I was still getting the hang of things.

Assault features a mix of Star Fox’s typical brand of rail shooting gameplay, what you might call all-range sequences, and ground gameplay featuring on-foot and Landmaster action. Whenever the game has Fox on the ground, you typically have complete freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want and often times, the freedom to use any craft you want. These locations are not linear and for the most part, you can destroy your targets in any order you wish. You will get to visit some familiar locations and, overall, I would say the environmental variety is good. The worlds you navigate around aren’t that big and there’s a radar on the HUD that will show you where your targets are located and enemies are typically everywhere so there’s always plenty of shit to shoot and blow up.

Visually, I think Assault looks pretty good. The presentation is colorful, the environments are visually diverse, the character models look good, and I like the Arwing models. The visual effects look good and some of the worlds showcase beautiful skies and backdrops. If I have any complaints with the visual presentation it’s with the draw distance and/or pop-in. When on-foot, I frequently saw ships in the skies fade in and out of view which can actually be annoying when you’re trying to shoot down enemy ships pursuing one of your allies. As for the audio, the sound work is good and I think the soundtrack is pretty great with excellent orchestral sounding scores and memorable tunes. I would say the soundtrack, alone, kind of gives the game a somewhat cinematic feel not unlike Star Fox 64. On the technical side, it ran fine in my experience and I encountered no major issues.

While Star Fox: Assault is not my favorite title in the series, I did have fun with it. I honestly think the ground stuff kind of holds it back. Not that it’s horrible but the Arwing sequences are just so much better. The game is at its best when it feels like typical Star Fox. It is nice having different ways to get around and the game is definitely better than Adventures but I don’t think it reaches the same levels of enjoyment as Star Fox 64. The hammy dialogue isn’t as good or as memorable, the controls can be an issue at times, and the on-foot gameplay can feel stale. I also don’t care for how the Landmaster feels and controls. Basically, as it relates to the campaign, the traditional Star Fox stuff works fine and everything else is just kind of eh. On the plus side, Assault does come with a good amount of replay value, numerous things to unlock, and a significant multiplayer component so it should keep you occupied for a while.

I would recommend Star Fox: Assault to fans of the series. In my opinion, it’s not the best game in the franchise but it’s also not the worst, either. I certainly wouldn’t call it a bad game but it does kind of lean towards average. However, I also think it’s far superior to its predecessor, Star Fox Adventures. It comes with some cool new stuff but I think it’s the familiar stuff that’s the most enjoyable.

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