30 Jan, 2003

Starfox Adventures Review

GCN Review | With Anti-Rareware sentiment running rampant among Nintendo Fanboys, many have decided to boycott their final Gamecube game. Is their decision justified?

As one of the last projects to be released on N64, Rare’s ‘Dinosaur Planet’ looked set to be another critically acclaimed success. Combining cutting-edge graphics and sound, a compelling storyline, and stylised characters, it became a hotly anticipated game. When it suddenly, and mysteriously got pulled from release lists, speculation arose resulting in the cancellation of the N64 version in favour of a future Gamecube release.

Development progressed steadily, and as the game neared the end of it’s four-year journey from conception to completion, Shigeru Miyamoto approached Rare about the possibility of replacing the game’s protagonist ‘Sabre’ with Fox McCloud. The final result is Starfox Adventures. Was it worth the wait?

Immediate comparisons with the Zelda franchise are inescapable. The game plays exactly like Link’s N64 adventures, right down to the auto-jump and assignable ‘hotkey’. The GUI is similar to Ocarina of Time’s, with the button layout in the top-right corner of the screen for quick reference. The gameplay may be formulaic and uninspired, but there’s enough fresh ideas thrown into the mix to make this game worth your while.

The game’s story surely won’t be winning any literary prizes, but it’s engrossing enough that I’ll refrain from spoiling it here. Basically, it sets up the scene for a ‘collect-‘em’-up’ adventure in which Fox must retrieve four mysterious stones, six godlike spirits, and a myriad of powerups for his new weapon - a staff, all in the hope of saving Dinosaur Planet and a mysterious girl called Krystal from the wrath of an evil tyrant. He is joined by a small triceratops called Tricky, the Prince of the EarthWalker tribe, who is commanded with the C-Stick.

Dinosaur Planet is a huge world, and it really draws you in. It is seamlessly linked, except for the occasional drop in framerate as the game loads another huge location into the Gamecube’s memory. Although Rare have decided on using generic environments, such as a volcano, icy mountain, and dirty swamp, they’re all surprisingly unique. Cape Claw is perhaps the visual pinnacle of the game - a sprawling tropical cove with endless water, many characters, an ancient temple, beautiful foliage, and a stunning musical composition.

Gameplay is occasionally interrupted by fun racing sections, in which Fox must chase down SharpClaws (the enemies) on a futuristic hovering vehicle. There are also area-specific gameplay elements, such as Mammoth and Pterodactyl riding. Travel between certain areas of the planet is only possible with the help of Fox’s Arwing, and these sections are true to the Lylat Wars gameplay formula. These sections break up areas where tedium sets in due to excessive travel over sprawling landscapes.

Quite simply, Starfox Adventures is graphically stunning. The water effects rival anything ever seen before, locations such as Thorntail Hollow and Dragon Rock stretch unbelievable distances with no fog or character ‘fadeout’, and the game engine manages to do this at a rock-solid 60 frames per second. Switching between Starfox Adventures and Super Mario Sunshine is painful - the graphics in SMS seem clunky and primitive in comparison. Rare touted their revolutionary ‘fur shading’ technology as being a huge leap in graphic technology, and they were right - It looks amazing. One look at Peppy on the main menu, and you’ll be convinced.

Character animation is what you’d expect from Rare – high quality, motion captured, and ultra-realistic. The character voices are lip-synched flawlessly to their mouths, and it makes for a very believable interactive experience with every character. There is one occasion in the game where the lip-sync seems to be excessively lagged behind the character’s facial animations, but considering the huge amount of work done with the rest of the game’s cutscenes, it’s a minor complaint.

The sound design in this game is phenomenal, especially when a Dolby Pro Logic II receiver is involved. The sound effects are clear and convincing, environmental ambience bombards you in every area, and the music is catchy and upbeat. A surprising variety of songs are used, from Tribal rhythms, to Rock, to cheesy ‘romantic’ saxophone solos. As you’ve come to expect from Rare, the music is of the highest quality and VERY catchy. Voice acting from all characters is convincing, except perhaps for Fox’s sidekick, Prince Tricky, who has an irritating, nasal voice, reminding me of a male Fran Drescher.

Rear channels are used constantly to immerse you in the locations you’re exploring, and if you’re looking for a game to demonstrate the power of DPL2, this is it.

My only complaint is the occasional channel separation problem, in which the music, which primarily plays through the front speakers, will momentarily play through the rear speakers. It’s a small complaint, and nothing that detracts from the overall aural experience.

As Rare’s last GCN game, Starfox Adventures shines as an example of triple-A quality game design, rivalling even that of Nintendo’s EAD. It may be lacking in groundbreaking originality, but it sure is a LOT of fun to play. The sense of awe that comes from exploring a new area is something rarely captured in games today, but Starfox Adventures conveys it perfectly.

Rare have since been bought by Microsoft Game Studios to work exclusively on the XBOX, and PALGN wishes them well in their future endeavours. Future coverage of Rareware games will subsequently take place on PALGN XBOX.
The Score
Rare departs from the Gamecube with one of their best games to date. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 decade ago
Don't know about you but I noticed a fair bit of slowdown in the game.
1 decade ago
Don't know about you but I think the game isn't that great, well the design is and stuff but the actual gameplay just seems poor, perhaps it's just me but all I seem to do is run around collecting stuff and hit bad guys like a million times since they always block. The Arwing is too long and that restricts your view during the space missions which is irritating. Also seems fairly easy, within a few hours I am up to around 50% doesn't seem like their 100 hour estimate will hold up unless they have loads of collecting later on.
1 decade ago
That 80 hour, 2 disc estimate was a rumour.

I finished it in 15 hours flat, but it was a satisfying experience. You'll either love it or hate it and to strike a compromise, I'd say that the gameplay was a tad stale but the overall presentation was great. Plus, the game harbours some of the best graphics I've seen in a videogame.
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60Hz Optimised
Dolby Pro Logic II Support

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