Chris Sell
29 Apr, 2005

Star Fox Assault Review

GCN Review | Do a barrel roll!
Star Fox: Assault begins 1 year after the events of Star Fox Adventures on Dinosaur planet. Fox's team of Falco, Slippy, and newest member Krystal are clearing up the last remaining forces of Andross' fallen empire, while the aging Peppy, whose job it is to relay important information to Fox about any forthcoming missions, now resides in the Great Fox along with Rob the robot. With Andross defeated it's not long before a new enemy threatens the Lylat System. Enter the Aparoids, an evil and mysterious enemy intent on spreading itself throughout the galaxy. With the Lylat system under threat, General Pepper once again enlists the services of the StarFox team to eliminate what dangers may await. It sure won't be easy though, as Fox has several enemies both old and new to stand in his way...

The game is split into three main parts - Story, Mission, and Survival. Story mode gives you the option to play through the single player campaign on three different difficulties, Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each level opens with a cutscene and your mission objectives for each level. Mission mode is best for obtaining medals. For each of the 10 levels and difficulty settings there are medals to be gained for reaching a set score listed for each level. Finally, there's the Survival mode which gives you the option of playing through all the levels in a row without saving, much like the past games.

If you're familiar with the past Star Fox games like Starwing and Lylat Wars, you should have some idea what to expect. For those who aren't, Star Fox: Assault is all about blowing stuff up. The levels themselves now intertwine the use of 3 different types of gameplay styles. You still have on-rails flight based missions, but other levels are free roaming and incorporate the use of the Landmaster tank aswell as going on-foot.

I learned to not worry by dropping the bomb.

I learned to not worry by dropping the bomb.
The Star Fox series is best known for its excellent on-rails shooter levels and Assault doesn't disappoint in this department. The arwing levels are straight-forward - stay alive and score as many points as possible. Extra points can be gained by performing combos, which are awarded when you kill multiple enemies with a single shot, be it a bomb or a lock on blast. As you progress through the levels you will be attacked by wave after wave of enemies with clusters of ships popping up around every corner in an attempt to bring you down. The controls for the arwing are easy to understand. The A button is to shoot your laser, while holding A produces lock-on fire. B is for bombs, and the R button does the infamous "barrel roll". The Y button is the boost, while L is the brakes. Control stick of course moves your arwing in different directions.

Using upgrades and powerups such as the Laser Beam and Bombs, you can increase the firepower of your arwing to help you to achieve higher combos, thus improving your score. Much like in Lylat Wars, your three wingmen will sometimes require your help - Slippy typically gets himself in trouble within seconds of the opening level. Helping your wingmen brings benefits, such as getting rings that restore health as well as the characters helping you later in the mission. Typically, each level also has and ending boss or final objective. The bosses are one of the biggest highlights of the game and are generally as good as anything else we've seen from the series so far. They're huge, they have a varied array of attacks and they'll more often than not transform multiple times before admitting defeat.

In addition to the 'on-rails' levels, Star Fox Assault tries to expand on the 'All-range' mode from Lylat Wars with some larger 'free roaming' levels. Instead of being on-rails, you can fly your arwing throughout the level, looking for targets to hit to complete objectives. Again, where this game excels are with its flight based Arwing levels, especially the dog fight sections with the returning 'Star Wolf' team. But these free roaming levels are more focused on the ground-based on-foot and Landmaster tank style of play. Here Fox has to search for a number of targets to destroy to complete the level. Using the Landmaster is slow, cumbersome and not fun. Its controls are somewhat awkward while its weaponry is slow and lacks the kind of satisfaction you would expect.

Thankfully you can get out of the Landmaster and take care of things on foot. There are several weapons Fox has at his disposal, ranging from the Machine Guns, Sniper rifles and even a Homing Rocket Launcher. While there is some credible discrepancy between the firepower of the weapons - the sniper rifle is all powerful, killing most enemies in a single hit, while Machine Gun or the Rocket Launcher is more for dealing with larger groups at once - it soon becomes apparent that the standard blaster is the most useful of them all, leaving little to no need for the other weapons. The blaster fires rapidly and can be charged up to three powerful settings to destroy the tougher enemies. A lot of the time the blaster is all you need, with the use of the machine gun just to get you through multiple enemies at once.

The on-foot gameplay is a mixed bag. Controlling Fox can take some getting used to considering you move and aim with the single stick and the camera is always at a behind-the-shoulder perspective, so you won't always be able to see an enemy creeping up behind you until you get hit. While this kind of control scheme worked fine in Resident Evil 4, the fast pace of Star Fox: Assault isn't so well suited to it. On the plus side, aiming feels accurate on the stick, while Fox is fast and you can quickly get yourself out of trouble when needed. The main problem of these 'free-roaming' missions is that most of them have you simply exploring the level and destroying targets, and it never gets any more interesting than that. In most of the on-foot levels Fox can jump in or out of a Landmaster tank or Arwing at will, with the transition from coming out of a tank or jumping into an arwing being seamless.

The whacky Falco is as angry as ever.

The whacky Falco is as angry as ever.
Graphically, Star Fox: Assault is solid, with the on-rails parts of the game looking particularly pleasing to the eye. But, the graphics and level design in general take a steady decline in between. The 60 frames per second beauty of the early space levels or the forest river stage for the on-rails sections are somewhat spoilt by the 30fps blandness of the free roaming missions. The character models are decent with Fox and the team arguably looking as good as they did in Star Fox Adventures, but the enemies are all rather samey and you'll regularly see the same set of enemies throughout each level.

The sound is equally hit and miss. The soundtrack itself is brilliant with beautiful remixes of past tunes throughout the game, but there simply isn't enough of it. For a game that is only ten missions long, surely isn't too much to ask for ten different musical tracks? But no, you'll soon hear the same tune you heard a few missions previous. The voice acting is just as you would expect, and yes you will want to shoot down your team mates just so they would shut-up, but we don't think Star Fox would be the same without Slippy screaming in your ear. Disappointingly, the game lacks any sort of surround sound support, but thankfully the the enemy sounds and sound effects are done well with explosions and weapon fire all up to the task.

As its own game, Star Fox: Assault is a solid title. It provides some simple shooting thrills, it's well presented and it has a surprisingly interesting story. If Starwing or Lylat Wars didn't exist then this would probably have received more praise. But unfortunately, they do. Credit to Namco for trying to do something a little more than a simple graphical update, but in this case we feel it would have been a much better idea to have kept Star Fox to its 'on-rails' roots. Lylat Wars is one of ou top 10 favourite games ever, and Star Fox: Assault reinforces why it is. With Lylat Wars, each wave of enemy, each set of obstacles felt intentionally placed for maximum score boosting potential. The missions themselves were much more epic, be it the Alien Mothership of Katana, the speeding train of Machbeth or the mass last ditch enemy assault of Area 6. The levels were only around five minutes long each, but they were the perfect length to replay through again for a better score. Star Fox Assault simply lacks any of that. Enemies feel somewhat random meaning less scope for combos, while the levels themselves are far longer and lack that kind of hook that had me playing Lylat Wars's missions over and over. While the medals and multiplayer unlockables add a reason to replay, there simply isn't the same attraction of replaying a fair few of the levels. If you're after some splitscreen fun, then Star Fox Assault is well worth a look, but for the single player we wouldn't recommend buying this for full price, especially if you're a fan of the previous games.
The Score
As its own game it's arguably a worthwhile purchase, but as a Star Fox game it falls well short of what it should have been. Recommended for split screen multiplayer, otherwise wait for a price drop.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Star Fox Assault Content

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25 Mar, 2005 Nintendo of Europe announce an end of April release date for the return of Fox McCloud and the team.
Star Fox Assault - Screenshot Update
13 Nov, 2004 New screenshots and artwork show off Fox’s wild side.
Star Fox to Assault Europe In April
25 Mar, 2005 Nintendo of Europe announce an end of April release date for the return of Fox McCloud and the team.
8 years ago
Yay! waiting for this multiplayer thing!
If Big Pete doesn't buy it then I probably won't bother playing it. Yet another game spoiled by a short lifespan...
8 years ago
Im a sucker for intresting shooters. I loved the Panzer Dragon games on Snes and Xbox. StarFox on N64 was a great game. Really 'unique' characters eg. the frog..

Nice review man, I think I might get this game icon_smile.gif
8 years ago
I'm probably gonna get it too.

The Arwing is the best spacecraft i've seen ever since the SNES days (A good 10-11 years ago now)

Times have changed, dunno which version looks best though...




EDIT: The great thing about the Store-Formerly-Known-As-Electronics-Boutique, is that they occasionally bend their 10 day return policy, allowing me to return Baten Kaitos (Which i'll buy again later) for Star Fox: Assault.

In all honesty, I need another Starfox game ><;
8 years ago
Star Fox Assault is good but, u can't beat the oringnal
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