Developed by: Rare
Published by: Nintendo
Feeling Like: A rare ending
I chuckled when I saw Star Fox Adventures at 274.
I first created the my master Excel spreadsheet about 6 years ago, with some additions and subtractions along the way. When the 500 is completed in 74 years, I’ll make a list of everything and move games accordingly based on new entries. Time has a major influence, along with context, experience and nostalgia when I try to decide a game’s place on the list. Even looking back at some entries now, I’m confused as to why I had them as high or low as I did; reading the article itself sometimes yields clarity, but not always.
Star Fox Adventures hasn’t budged at all, and I can’t justify it.
The Gamecube is filled with examples like this. Games that don’t hold up, and didn’t necessarily garner critical acclaim at the time. Nintendo is basically the coach’s son or daughter; they don’t ride the bench for long, if at all. I exhibit extreme favoritism on the 500 and I ignore the pleas of other games’ parents to put them higher on the list. Nu-uh. Not gonna happen.
It’s so silly. Why? This isn’t even a good Zelda clone, let alone a good Star Fox game.
I just can’t help but look back on it fondly. Usually the Gamecube meant I was wrapped in a blanket in my parent’s basement on the oversized pink chair. There’s barely any light, I have no idea where the rest of my family is and I have few obligations. I have my trusty wireless Wavebird controller in my hands and Super Mario Sunshine, or Star Fox Adventures or Metroid Prime in front of me and I couldn’t be happier. Just me and a space faring fox.
Of course the game feels off – this wasn’t supposed to be a Star Fox in the first place. Rare had been hard at work on Dinosaur Planet, a Zelda-like 3D adventure for the N64. You can even see early screenshots and videos online, though the game was never released. I’m not entirely sure of the details, but Shigeru Miyamoto himself strongly suggested that the game would be better off as a Star Fox vehicle. And…I guess you don’t say no to the man and that’s why Star Fox Adventures feels so strange.
There are very few Arwing missions. You know, the core gameplay of the series. It’d be like if Zelda was all of a sudden a city-building simulation, or Mario in an RPG…well, ok that one turned out pretty well, but the point remains that putting Fox McCloud outside of his comfort zone had mixed results. Flying through space feels tacked on, and unimportant. Slippy, Peppy and Falco are relegated to barely-seen status. There are some frustrating decisions in terms of back tracking, and the language used by the inhabitants of Dinosaur Planet isn’t as endearing as it was in Banjo-Kazooie.
Wait, Banjo-Kazooie is lower than Star Fox Adventures? What in the Rareware hell am I thinking?
Well, let’s start with the graphics. The screenshots I posted here don’t do the game justice. Not even close. This is back in the day when video game magazines would have the advantage over the internet. Glossy, printed pictures were a better preview, but that’s besides the point. You’re not reading a magazine, you’re reading the 500 and you’ll have to trust me – the game is really pretty. There’s a ton of variety of colors, the landscapes are diverse, the framerate is silky smooth (sometimes) and the fur on Fox and Krystal look terrific. You really want to reach out and pet them and make noises like you would towards your cat when you want to express how cute they are.
The inspiration may be Zelda, but its soul lies elsewhere. The puzzles are simple, but obtaining new powers and traveling to a distinctly African sounding soundtrack was really enjoyable. Wandering around aimfully talking to dinosaurs and rock statues and floating MacGuffins doesn’t ever feel offensive. Tricky, the baby triceratops you have to protect, could get annoying but it wasn’t ever too much to bear. Whacking enemies with your bo staff and shooting lasers into corresponding buttons on the walls isn’t new territory, but I was intrigued enough to ensure Fox did it all, and did it with a smile on my face.
Not on his face. Another leftover from the original game concept is that Fox is a bit of a jerk here. Maybe it was Rare projecting their own thoughts on being railroaded into a different project, but every side quest or request made by the friendly village dinos is met with a sarcastic quip or an eye roll. From what I’ve read, other gamers shared Mr. McCloud’s angst.
The final ten minutes is what finally sold me on Star Fox Adventures. The big bad turns out NOT to be the big bad, which normally infuriates me. In this case, however, the big bad is revealed to be Andross, the Bowser of the Star Fox universe. And Falco comes to your rescue, and you get to out-duel your rival in an Arwing. The controls are insanely smooth, and barrel-rolling has never felt better. So I forgave the decision to do the villain switch-a-roo this time.
Sigh. Can’t we just have a good sequel to Star Fox 64?
I guess that’s all I really wanted. This game didn’t give it to me entirely, but for some reason I’m so desperate to pilot an Arwing as an anthropomorphic fox, I’ll be insanely forgiving if something includes even a morsel of that and bump it up at least 50 spots on the 500. It’s not an amazing game, but considering its origins, it’s far better than it has any right to be.