Of all of Nintendo’s series, Star Fox is perhaps the one that has had its potential being wasted the most. The first game for the Super NES was a blast, and Star Fox 64 was an absolute classic.The series started going downhill with Star Fox Adventures, which was mediocre at best and was never intended to be a Star Fox game in the first place. However, that game is perhaps better in many ways than Star Fox Assault, the series’ second Gamecube title. This game set out to deliver a proper Star Fox adventure, and with Namco as a developer, it seemed like nothing would go wrong. Unfortunately, what the two companies came up with was the game that I feel is the worst Star Fox game ever made, and one that tries mightily to even reach mediocrity. What went wrong? Here are ten reasons why this game was frankly terrible…
10. Yet Another One Shot Villain: One problem that the series has been experiencing lately is that they have featured villains, some with great potential, that only appear in one game in the series and then they are never brought back again. Here, the villain in question is the Aparoid Queen, whose troops have invaded the Lylat System. You do not get to see her until the end of the game, and once she has been defeated, it is guaranteed that she will never appear in another title. At this rate, the Star Fox series will be just like the Sonic games: relying far too heavily on one shot villains and not bringing enough attention to recurring antagonists.
9. Terrible Story: The game’s story is perhaps the worst in the whole series. At first, the Star Fox team finds themselves dealing with Andrew Oikonney, Andross’ nephew, who wishes to take over the Lylat System in his stead. However, this potentially dangerous foe is soon abruptly dispatched in favor of the Aparoids, and from there, the plot becomes largely uninteresting. Some potentially fascinating plot points, such as the potential deaths of some major characters, are thrown out the window throughout the game. It is as if Nintendo and Namco were rushing the game out so that they could have a proper Star Fox title available before the Gamecube was discontinued, and thus they forgot to tell a decent story.
8. Voice Acting: The voice acting was excellent in Star Fox 64 and somewhat decent in Star Fox Adventures. Here, however, most of the voices range from mediocre to bad. Slippy has never sounded worse, Fox sounds like he’s bored with the whole adventure, and Pigma now sounds like he has been reduced to being quite greedy. Not every voice is bad: Krystal sounds pretty decent and even has her British accent from Adventures intact. The fact remains that the voice acting could have easily been so much better here.
7. Inconsistent Frame Rate: The main action is schizophrenic in more ways than one, and that includes the game’s frame rates. In the rail stages (i.e. where you travel on a linear path), the action is a smooth sixty frames per second. Then you get to the all range missions, and the frame rate is cut in half to thirty frames per second. As a result, it seems that you are playing two very different games, and it can feel a bit disorienting. Why the creators chose not to give the entire game a single frame rate is beyond me.
6. Slow Arwing: In the few missions where you pilot the Arwing on a linear path, it seems quite curiously slow. Consequently, what should have been fast and furious stages become slow and boring. Yes, there are still enemies to defeat, but the pace seems to simply artificially lengthen the stages featured in an already short game. Even Star Fox Adventures had the Arwing move at a good pace, though its missions were tacked on. I wish to fly through the levels at a relatively fast rate, not plod along for a seemingly long time.
5. Short Length: This is a game that can be beaten in a weekend, as there are only ten stages in total. While Star Fox 64 could be beaten in about an hour, its multiple paths gave players hours of enjoyment. Many of the stages do not last all that long, and there is even a mode that challenges you to beat them all without saving. While you can actually save between missions in the main game, the fact remains that you can beat the game in just a few hours’ time. As mentioned, the slow pace of some missions seem to artificially add play time, and that move is something that Namco and Nintendo should be ashamed of.
4. Only One Path: As mentioned, what made Star Fox 64 so grand was that you could complete missions in different ways so that you can journey through new planets and even view different endings that depend on your actions. Star Fox Assault does not have this excellent feature, opting instead to simply take you through a single path to the finale. There are no alternative ways of finishing missions, or even optional stages with additional challenges to unlock. Instead, you are sent through the ten specific stages that each have only one way to complete them. This lack of replay value thus brings the game down that much more.
3. Teammates in Trouble: Fox’s friends, loyal as they are, still have not seemed to learn to take care of themselves. They often find themselves being chased by enemy ships and ask Fox to help them out. This is especially annoying in larger stages when you have to stop what you are doing and aid them. Since it may take forever to reach them, they might have to abandon the mission before you can save them. Note to Nintendo: if you are going to have other characters help Fox, either make them significantly more useful or else just let them stay aboard the Great Fox and spare players from needless frustration.
2. Lack of Checkpoints: Nothing is more frustrating than having to repeat a lot of things, and the lack of check points in this game really make for a tough time. In the rail missions, the check points are invisible, and thus you have no way of knowing how much progress you would have to repeat unless you die. In the worst case scenario, you may have to redo quite a lot of tasks. It is even worse in the ground missions, as you may die when you have only one more target left to destroy, and then you have to go back and eliminate all of the targets again. This is quite aggravating to say the least, and something that no game should ever have.
1. Heavy Reliance of Ground-Based Missions: The all range portions of Star Fox 64 were a bit small, but they worked out rather well. By contrast, they are much more prominent here, and they have taken several turns for the worst. The areas in which they occur are much larger, to the point where they are almost overwhelming. The ground controls, which worked flawlessly in Adventures, are a bit weird here, and Fox can take too much damage in just a few seconds due to a lack of temporary invincibility. There is also too much switching vehicles and too many strong enemies around. These missions are quite bad, and since they take up about 60% of the game, it is by far the worst feature of all.
Star Fox Assault should have been a solid Star Fox game, but it turned into something far worse. The game does not even reach mediocrity, and the many experiments presented here backfire, a rarity for Nintendo. Perhaps it is little wonder that the game was initially available only for rental, as it simply did not become the return to glory that the series deserved. If a Star Fox game is ever released for the Wii, let’s hope that Nintendo restores life back to the franchise and give us a long overdue solid follow up to Star Fox 64. With any luck, they will not incorporate any of the above features ever again, and as such, the Star Fox series will become highly respected once again.