Review by Arkrex
Do a barrel roll!
When Peppy Hare offered those four bite-sized words of advice to Fox McCloud, little did he know that they would soon do a barrel roll unto themselves, transforming what appears to be a simple, spur-of-the-moment shout-out into one of the most popular internet memes ever conceived. Many will see Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars as the game that brought about this review's catchy tagline, but it was so much more than that.
Fox McCloud and his fellow anthropomorphic wingmen delivered an unrivalled arcade-style space-shooter, boasting vast quantities of epic space battles ingrained with a deeply intelligent design that effectively made high-scoring cool again. The full 3D graphics were gorgeous at the time - definitely a huge step up from its prequel's ultra-plain polygons - and the never-ending explosions were a pyromaniac's wet dream; all of this was given even more impact by the force feedback provided by the N64's Rumble Pak, as well as the testosterone-fuelled soundtrack.
The destination was Venom, home-world of the crazed scientist Andross, and the mission was to bring the tyrant's mechanically-induced, galaxy take-over to a swift end. Whether it be in a barrel-roll capable Arwing, equipped with high-tech lasers and splash-damage smart bombs; a purpose-built, hovering tank; or a homing-launcher equipped submersible, the Star Fox team had all possible terrain-types covered as they hopped from planet to planet towards their end goal. The variety of craft offered somewhat different gameplay styles, but the real difference was in the levels themselves which always threw something new at you with every barrel-roll.
Star Fox 64 is predominantly an on-rails shooter, that is your path is largely pre-determined and you simply shoot up everything (apart from you wingmen who won't hesitate to yell at you) on screen as it comes. Occasionally you will enter free-range mode (Arwing only) and this switch is accompanied by a more search-and-destroy orientation. You now have a higher degree of freedom which allows you to make some very impressive, and useful, evasive manoeuvres, such as full loops and U-turns, whilst maintaining a tactical offence all the way.
Some great dogfights with rival squadron Star Wolf and Independence Day-like war scenes featuring dozens of military units are among some of the best moments that Star Fox 64 has going for it. The boss fights are amazing and each one is very unique in their own way, both in aesthetics and strategy, and to this day, it is immensely satisfying to reduce them all into smouldering hunks of biologically-enhanced metal.
Top-gunners will be able to reap the rewards of their hard work and dexterity. Should you be able shoot up a certain number of enemy vessels by the end of a level, you will earn a medal. Gain all of the medals and you'll unlock Expert Mode - the best Star Fox experience you can get, complete with more conniving aerial/ground-based SOBs that are no longer slouches when it comes to turning you into ship-kebab. Earn all of the medals again in this mode you'll unlock even more goodies (which is by no means an easy task, especially with the pre-requisite of keeping your disaster-prone wingmen alive); most importantly, though, is that you can now claim to be the master of 3D Shmups. That is, of course, so long as you can back up your status with conclusive evidence of high scores - the thing that will bring you back to Star Fox 64 time and time again.
There has yet to be a true successor to Star Fox 64, and given another ten years, I highly doubt that anything will match the impact of this incredible N64 classic that's a must-have, even if you have to play it via Virtual Console or otherwise. The game may be a bit on the short side, but with multiple paths to take through the galaxy and nigh perfect Shoot 'Em Up thrills, Star Fox 64 remains as one of the most replayable console classics of all time.
VERDICT - 9.5/10 As long as you avoid multiplayer, you're in for a cracker of a ride.
This is one of my Top 10 games, ever. Now go and find them all!
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Lylat Wars (Rumble Pak Bundle) (EU, 10/20/97)
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