Digging up the remains of Rare's fox-a-saurus.

Star Fox. It’s a title that screams old school space shooter monotony. Only by opting for ‘Super Star Fox’ could Nintendo have further wedged the SNES classic into the crowd of commonplace cartridges. The name may have been cliché, but behind the game’s typical exterior lay an extraordinary shooter.

As the first game to really utilise 3D polygons and perspectives with its Super FX chip, Star Fox blew gamers away with its cutting edge visuals and gripping gameplay. The N64 sequel, predictably called Star Fox 64, followed in the same vein as its predecessor and pushed the entertainment envelope even further with updated graphics and sound.

Five years later, a hurricane of hyper space hype turned a few heads. A new Star Fox game was in the works. Though the title was a mouthful – Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet — someone eventually got wise and cut the subtitle. The skeptics, however, weren’t satisfied as it turned out this sequel was not a space shooter.

Huh? What? Had the guys at Rare finally lost their heads? Well, no, they hadn’t. Developer Rare, in their Nintendo swan song after enjoying massive success with games like Banjo-Kazooie, its sequel Banjo-Tooie, Donkey Kong 64, Goldeneye 007, and Perfect Dark, had conceded to publisher pressures in an oddly-betted gamble, one that ultimately paid in spades… er, scarabs. Star Fox Adventures, one of the greatest gems to grace the GCN, is what we got.

It took Fox a while to get used to killing things with a staff instead of his Arwing.

Krystal Maze

The fans were in a frenzy. Was this a Star Fox game or had we lost our minds?

You start the game as Krystal, a female fox in two respects, as she investigates a distress signal on Dinosaur Planet,which has recently began to literally come apart at the seams. Meanwhile, the Star Fox team get sent in by General Pepper to recover a bunch of Force Stones and put Dinosaur Planet back together, and…. [yawn] So… where’s the nearest hangar, I want to fly an R-Wing!  Along the way to piecing the world together again, Fox has to contend with General Scales and his army of Sharpclaw soldiers. Scales? Where’s Andross? As for your sidekick, is it Peppy, Falco, Slippy? (I had a reservoir of tears prepared for the latter.) The answer was Prince Tricky, a triceratops tyke that served as your Earthwalker escort.

The fans were in a frenzy. Was this a Star Fox game or had we lost our minds? Here’s the story. Rare had been working on an adventure title called Dinosaur Planet when Nintendo basically stepped in and slapped on the Star Fox license at the last second.  Shigeru Miyamoto has claimed the reason behind the move was that Sabre, the main character in Dinosaur Planet, bore an uncanny resemblence to Nintendo’s interpid vulpine. Whether or not Miyamoto was just sugar-coating the hard fact that they wanted the Star Fox license thrown in for some bigger bucks, the point is moot. Sure, many a Star Fox fan might not have had the patience to persevere with this presumed pretender, had the game not been so awesome it didn’t matter.

The Legend Of Star Fox: A Dinosaur’s Awakening

On the game-play side of the scale, the game was basically a Zelda clone

On the game-play side of the scale, the game was basically a Zelda clone: automatic jumping as you near a platform’s edge, visiting multiple worlds from a central regional hub, and yes, even those classic over-dramatic animations of picking up new items… their surplus was enough to drive you insane. The combat system was a decent derision but did slide into the repetitive, with only a single button and combo at your disposal.

The game’s quarantined quarters could only be explored once you had enough fuel and enough information to pursue the next Force Stone. There were a few big bosses to battle along the way, and each accompanied by an epic set-piece. As for your companion, Tricky’s AI was more artificial than intelligent. His pathfinding was awful, the only factor that really slowed the game down, as you were always looking over your shoulder to ensure the Earthwalker was in sight. The only other real tedious task was always needing to collect and buy items, not just because of those constant unskippable animations, but because you always found yourself backtracking to the Thorntail Hollow Store, who was run by this really shady floating T-Rex magician. I don’t know how else to describe him.

Fox missed the homeliness of the burrow.

Strangely enough, the adhesive that held Adventures together wasn’t the gameplay, but rather its presentation. This was, and still is, an absolutely gorgeous game; from the lavish environments to the character models. Fox looked fantastic, the fuzz on his fur swaying in the breeze; a flawless frame-rate served up the cherry as you’d very seldom encounter any manner of choppiness. It was smooth soaring.

The diversity of Adventures’ worlds gave the game’s lustre all the more vibrance, from the wintry wastes of Snowhorn, to the sandy beaches of Cape Claw. Through 20 hours of game-play you’d never grow bored of exploring Dinosaur Planet as its worlds were unbelievably fleshed out and full of life. That said, the voice work’s cheesiness could get a little irksome at times, hindered by some goofy dialogue, but it was so crisp and complementary to the visuals that any serious complaint would just be a nitpick.  Here’s your bottom line: Adventures’ production values saved the Lylat system.

Do A Genre Roll!

It’s tough to take that it’s been almost ten years since Fox McCloud touched down, but man, it doesn’t show it; Star Fox Adventures is an absolute timeless action adventure, and a sentimental send-off for the Rare-Nintendo partnership. A Zelda clone to be sure, Adventures’ game-play was a far cry from the 16 bit missile madness of the original, but it was executed with enough confidence that McCloud was never stuck trudding the retro rut of Link’s legends; it was fresh and it was fun. Nostalgic Nintendo nerds, climb back into that R-wing cockpit and remember Rare’s final foray into awesome adventures.

Prefer moving pictures and sound? Then watch our video retro reflection here.

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