In 2000, Rareware’s Dinosaur Planet was announced as being one of their last Nintendo 64 games, and one that I would have loved to play. It would star an entirely new cast of characters, among them General Scales, a villainous dinosaur who ruled the planet with tyranny. He might have become a strong antagonist, and likely the game’s final boss, but fate had other plans. When the Nintendo 64 version was canceled in favor of a Gamecube version, it ended up getting a massive overhaul in that it was changed into a Star Fox game titled Star Fox Adventures. Even so, many elements and characters from the original version, including Scales, were retained, but whether it was because the game was rushed or because Rare simply ran out of ideas, the tyrant’s menacing appeal would be reduced somewhat, especially towards the end of the game. How is this possible? Let me explain…
In the game, Scales is introduced as Krystal is exploring his flying galleon. He calls himself the ruler of Dinosaur Planet, and in his first scene, he demonstrates why the planet’s other inhabitants fear him so much. He tries to attack a CloudRunner (pterodactyl) in a cage before grabbing Krystal and tossing her off his ship. Fortunately, she has a CloudRunner companion of her own, who catches her and spirits her away to safety. A strong opening for such a potentially frightening villain.
As to how Scales came to rule the planet, it seems that he and his SharpClaw army had been wanting to do so for years, but their plans had always been foiled. Now, however, Scales’ strength has somehow increased, making him a force to be reckoned with. He knows that the planet was built on a magical force point that is kept at bay by a quartet of SpellStones, and thus he swipes them, causing the force point to literally tear Dinosaur Planet apart. The main quest involves Fox McCloud having to collect the SpellStones, each of which has been taken to a floating chunk of land that was once part of the planet, and return them to their rightful places in the Force Point Temples. Adding to the urgency is that Dinosaur Planet may otherwise explode, causing great harm to the Lylat System, though in actuality, the planet never comes close to being destroyed no matter how long it takes the player to complete the adventure.
A major problem with Scales is that he really does not get a lot of screen time in the game. He makes a brief appearance in a flashback where he threatens the SnowHorn (woolly mammoth) tribe with death unless he is allowed to bring the SpellStone to Darkice Mines. When its Gatekeeper, Garunda Te, refuses to aid him, his daughter, Belina Te, opens the gate, and as a result, much of the tribe is enslaved. His next appearance is in CloudRunner Fortress, where he interrogates its queen, at one point placing her in a choke hold, about the whereabouts of Fox. The Star Fox leader rushes in to try and save her, only to be knocked out by Scales’ robots. Later, Fox finds him in the fortress’ treasure chamber, and tries to confront him, but the tyrant presses a button on his belt and disappears. Sad to say, this is his last major appearance in the game (aside from an imaginary version of him in the Test of Fear) until the end.
You continue to hear the hardships that Scales has brought to the inhabitants of Dinosaur Planet, from kidnapping innocent dinosaurs to rendering one dinosaur virtually mute as a result of being traumatized and feeling guilty over his failure to save the planet. This makes you want to take him down at the end of the game that much more. Scales looks to be the ideal final boss, or at the very least, a penultimate boss in the event that someone other than him is the true source of the planet’s problems. However, when you finally get the chance to teach Scales a lesson, that is when Rare pulls off a trick so sinister that, in my honest opinion, it results in having it jump the shark.
When you enter the last Krazoa Shrine, you find Scales, wielding a sword and insisting that he still rules Dinosaur Planet even though all of the SpellStones are back where they belong. It looks as if Fox will now have to finish him off once and for all. However, if you do not take out your staff immediately, you see Scales’ only move: he just walks towards you, sometimes stopping to brandish his sword, and he never uses it to hit Fox even once. When you do whip out your staff, a cut scene plays in which the two of them hear a mysterious voice, which is soon revealed to be that of Fox’s old nemesis, Andross.
It turns out that Scales was so concerned about being the most powerful individual on the planet that he never suspected that Andross was using him to help revive himself following his defeat in Star Fox 64. To do this, he required the Krazoa Spirits that had been scattered throughout Dinosaur Planet following Scales’s takeover. Somehow, Scales had acquired one of the spirits, and it had been inside his body the entire time, likely giving him the power that he had lacked before. Forced to give the spirit to Fox, Scales then collapses and either dies or becomes unconscious, the game does not make it clear which is the case. It also does not state why Scales is injured or killed as a result of releasing the spirit whereas Fox and Krystal never showed any apparent signs of long or short-term health problems after releasing the spirits that they collected. Thus, a tyrant falls due to a seemingly rushed plot twist, and any potential of his becoming a threat to Fox in future games seems to have vanished.
It is evident from the above facts that Scales had plenty of menacing qualities, and was evil enough to try and make all of Dinosaur Planet’s inhabitants extinct. Unfortunately, in some ways he simply failed to live up to his full potential. He could have been given more appearances, maybe showing up to try and destroy Fox a bit more often. Perhaps he could have even killed at least one person to show how cruel he truly is. Most of all, he should have been the last, or at least the second-to-last, boss…I think the inclusion of Andross was tacked on as merely one more way to emphasize the game as being a Star Fox title. If you were given the chance for a decent fight with Scales before the plot twist, it would have been fine. I like a good twist, but here it is executed rather poorly, perhaps as a result of the game being rushed out before Rare would become a part of Microsoft and a once strong relationship between them and Nintendo fell apart. Scales became a victim of such hasty planning, and what should have been a very strong villain turned out to be an antagonist with wasted potential.
Such a bad move still upsets me to this day…I know a lot of players, myself included, were looking forward to defeating Scales, but in the end, it was not to be. Maybe it is just as well that Rare left Nintendo…although I do not own either an Xbox or an Xbox 360, my understanding is that Rare has not been the same since the Nintendo 64 days. Scales could have been a strong villain in future Star Fox titles, but the series has now become notorious for using one-shot antagonists in recent titles, a fear that I hope does not continue when and if a Star Fox game for the Wii materializes. If you have never played Star Fox Adventures and you have always wanted to so that you could defeat Scales, you have been suitably warned that you will not get the chance to beat him. I wanted Scales to be a great villain, and I wish Nintendo and Rare would have followed through…it is such a shame that they did not, nor likely ever will, do so.