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Chris Sell
25 Jan, 2007

Star Fox Command Review

DS Review | Do a barrel roll!
Star Fox fans have had a hard time in recent years. With Star Fox Adventure focusing on exploring and Star Fox Assault proving one of the most hit-and-miss games ever created, there’s been very little to cheer about. Given the accuracy of touch-screen control, a new Star Fox game for the DS was inevitable, and the appearance of Star Fox Command at E3 last year gave fans a glimmer of hope that the series was about to get back on track. But can it recapture its past glories?

The first thing you notice from the moment you begin is how Star Fox Command looks very much like a traditional Star Fox game. You’ve got the map of the Lylat solar system with the usual gang of Fox, Slippy, Falco, etc. all making an appearance. But following the trend of recent Star Fox games, Command again strays from its roots and is actually something quite different. The basics remain the same with you flying your ship, shooting enemies, firing bombs and barrel rolling to deflect enemy fire, but that’s where most of the similarities end. There's no ‘on rails’ gameplay here, and instead each level now resembles the ‘all range mode’ style that Lylat Wars flirted with on occasions throughout the N64 classic.

Before we go any further, let’s explain the strategy structure that has been introduced into the game. As you set off on each mission, you're presented with a map, mostly covered by fog. It’s then up to you to move each of your Arwings into strategic positions to intercept enemy battalions and hidden bases that could be a threat to the Great Fox mothership. Think of a free-moving, space-based Advance Wars and you’ve got a very rough idea. When moving your Arwings, you're given a limited amount of turns to defeat all the enemies, and a set amount of fuel to move your Arwings within these turns. Your limitations are increased further during the actual battles by an ever-ticking clock that counts down towards your death.

  
It's the Mothership beacon! Be prepared to do this about 134 times during the game.

It's the Mothership beacon! Be prepared to do this about 134 times during the game.
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Thankfully, there are a handful of time pick-ups throughout each area, and actually finishing a level offers a time reward also. Finishing a stage basically involves the same thing throughout the whole game - simply defeat a certain set of enemies and collect their ‘cores’. Sometimes, you’ll have to take down the enemy mothership (by guiding your ship through a set of square markers), and there’s the occasional boss thrown in, but not nearly enough to make up for the repetitive ‘seek and destroy’ missions. Plus, there’s no real sense of progression as you find yourself doing almost the same thing at the end of the game as you were at the start.

The free-roaming format isn’t the core problem with Star Fox Command, however - it’s the lack of creativity shown within the missions that lets the game down. If you think back to the ‘all range mode’ levels in Lylat Wars - the ‘Independence Day’ battle of Katina, preventing the bomb going off on Fortuna and destroying the shield towers of Bolse – why wasn’t anything like this in Command? Instead, the game makes no attempt at trying to hide the fact you’re just hunting targets again and again. While the game offers multiple paths and different endings (nine in total), things that are normally seen as something to encourage multiple play-throughs, where is the motivation to see them all when the battles essentially remain the same? To top it all off, the game is almost devoid of any real challenge, so there’s no escaping how disappointingly shallow it all feels - not even the excellent combo system that made Lylat Wars such an almost endless experience could have saved it.

Despite the complaints, Star Fox Command does actually get a few things right. The controls are hard to fault, with precise touchscreen movement and aiming, plus the ability to fire with any of the buttons on the DS makes it far more comfortable than, say, Metroid Prime: Hunters ever was. You simply press an icon for flips and loops, rolls are easily performed using a circle action with stylus while boosting/braking is done via a double tap on the top/bottom half of the screen. The subtle differences between characters is a nice addition too, not only offering a little variety to proceedings, but also a touch of strategy. With each character having different weapon and health attributes, it can be wise to send your more powerful guys for base assaults, and save your more agile Arwings for dogfighting.

  
The strategy sections are a first for the Star Fox series.

The strategy sections are a first for the Star Fox series.
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The multiplayer options in Star Fox Command are nothing to get excited about, but there’s been enough work put into this aspect of the game to have produced something actually worth your time. Through either local play or via a Wifi connection, you must battle over huge expanses littered with power-ups (that can boost your weapon’s firepower, recover your shields, and even turn you invisible for a short period of time) against three other players, with the sole intention of shooting down the most opponents and collecting their cores. The fact that you have to get the core to get the point opens up a a lot of stealing opportunities, making for a fast and frantic game. Just be sure to play against as many friends as possible as, just like Mario Kart DS and Metroid, quitters will soon ruin your enjoyment, especially as the game will end for everyone even if just one person quits.

Graphically, the game is reasonably impressive given the limited 3D power of the DS. The environments are somewhat overly barren, but they do have brief moments of beauty, while the ship and enemy models are well-constructed and textured with detail. It’s also worth nothing that the framerate remains commendably smooth throughout. The soundtrack is solid and fits within the Star Fox style, but never threatens to match anything from Lylat Wars or Starwing when it comes to providing you with timeless tunes.

Overall, it’s hard to say that Star Fox Command isn’t a big disappointment. From the shallow mission structure to the abysmal story (yes, we know the story isn’t what Star Fox is about but with so much emphasis on it this time around it shouldn’t be this teeth-grindingly bad), there’s very little to praise. It controls well, the strategic elements are an interesting addition, and the game is enjoyable when taken as a simple ‘shoot everything as quick as possible’ kind of game, but yet again the latest Star Fox game has fallen well short of the high standards set by Starwing and Lylat Wars.

Some of you reading may feel this whole review has simply been about wanting Command to be a direct follow-up to those games, and while that is partly true, if you ignored the Star Fox name on the box and took the game as a nameless shooter, it is still far from being a great game. It’s commendable that they’ve tried something different, but ‘different’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘better’. And in this game, ‘different’ actually means ‘worse’.
The Score
As its own game, it's worth picking up cheap if you’re looking for a simple shooter fix. As a Star Fox game, it falls well short of what it should have been.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Star Fox Command Content

Star Fox Command Preview
06 Aug, 2006 We take the portable Arwing for a test flight.
Star Fox DS named and dated
30 May, 2006 And it's coming sooner than you think...
E3 2006: First Star Fox DS shots and details
10 May, 2006 Very first screens of Fox's handheld debut.
13 Comments
7 years ago
5.5 it deserved. What a shotty game.

BTW, why the heck did this take so long to review? This game came in November...last year.
7 years ago
El Taco wrote
BTW, why the heck did this take so long to review? This game came in November...last year.
Well, Matt left PALGN and he was originally going to do the review, then Brendan was going to review it but he went to Canada and never got time to do it and I myself never even got around to playing it until Xmas so it got forgotton about during the Xmas rush of reviews. The European release is tomorrow so I thought I'd get a review done to coincide with that icon_wink.gif
7 years ago
I may pick this up if it's really cheap, I mean I got Project Rub for $15 at K-Mart but does not seem like something I would pay over $30 for.

I hope they bring out Lylat Wars on VC sometime this year
7 years ago
It is such a S1it game. I mean you have to use the stlyist.

They shoudl have jsut ported the N64 version, and focused on multiplayer.
7 years ago
While I think you may have scored it a bit harshly I think your review is very similiar to my own thoughts. The game does feeel shallow and all of the turn based parts are just rubbish. Like sephiaya, a portable version of Lylat Wars would have been mine but this game feels as though it has been cut down for the DS which isn't how it should be.
7 years ago
I completely disagree here. This game is a totally awesome DS game. Maybe it's because it's my first Starfox... I have no expectations.

All that aside, no game should be judged based on other entries in the same series. That's called bias.
7 years ago
Agreed with the sentiments of dullestrobert, that games shouldn't be scored against their prequals, it's like saying Zelda TP was crap because OoT was awesome. Doesn't give TP the justice it deserves.

I do agree with the score here though, it's just too shallow. They tried to make a game based on eliminating opponents and it gets boring, very quickly.
7 years ago
I believev that they should have used the old starfox, but even as a new game it is just shit. Really boaring, and the controlling is not enjoyable at all.
7 years ago
I actually traded in this game today. I traded starfox assault, clubhouse games and super mario kart ds, lumines and liberty city stories on psp and raving rabbids on wii. I got lumines II, meteos and liberty city stories on ps2, oh yeah and the masters guide for world of warcraft.

but I found starfox pretty boring, there wasnt all the dodging and barrel rolling fun from the snes version, wherre you flew through a citty and so forth. it was just all open air with enemies floating round. not my idea of fun sadly
7 years ago
You Traded LCS on PSP for LCS on PS2 for...what reason?
7 years ago
nihilcreative wrote
I actually traded in this game today. I traded starfox assault, clubhouse games and super mario kart ds, lumines and liberty city stories on psp and raving rabbids on wii. I got lumines II, meteos and liberty city stories on ps2, oh yeah and the masters guide for world of warcraft.

but I found starfox pretty boring, there wasnt all the dodging and barrel rolling fun from the snes version, wherre you flew through a citty and so forth. it was just all open air with enemies floating round. not my idea of fun sadly
6 games traded for 3 games and a guide. Woot.
7 years ago
^ trading at EB is a great thing aint it icon_razz.gif
/sarcasm
7 years ago
wow is it really that bad wat a dissapointment for the starfox series
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Nintendo
Developer:
  Q-Games
Players:
  1-4

Extra:
Wi-Fi

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