Review by nastynate3118

Reviewed: 03/04/14

"There's an enemy base there?!"

Introduction

Star Fox 64 is a 1997 space-shooter game on the Nintendo 64. I was absolutely blown away the first time I ever saw footage of the gameplay in its TV commercial. This was a heavily-hyped game that for many kids was considered to be a “must have.” When my friend finally did get this game we spent hours and hours playing it and while I was a bit surprised it was anthropomorphic animals flying around, the game lived up and surpassed the hype and is still a joy to play 17 years later.


Gameplay – 8/10

You control Fox McCloud as he pilots through various stages in his Arwing spacecraft shooting enemies and defeating objects. The premise is extremely simple but what makes it fun is the amount of variety that appears in each of these stages and the non-linear gameplay. There are many levels to explore but as a player you can choose the path that you want to take and which stages you would like to experience on any given play through. This allows for tremendous replay value and due to the engaging level design you will want to see what everything has to offer.

On the surface, the gameplay is very passive with the player simply following a predesigned path and shooting enemies, but the timing and variety of these obstacles as well as the tight controls make this game very intense. You can have Fox perform a variety of techniques with the Arwing (most famously the barrel roll) and evade enemy fire and collect power-ups. Assisting you in combat are your wingmates Falco, Peppy and Slippy. They will try and offer firepower and hints to the player but they usually do more harm than good with their incredibly bad AI. These pilots will often fly into the path of your shot and/or will constantly need assistance. Besides this bad AI, the levels are very fun to play through and will keep you busy for hours.

Another key addition to the gameplay is the excellent scoring system. You will get a single point every time you defeat an enemy and bonus points for tougher enemies or groups of enemies at once. This allows for more focused and engaging gameplay and can lead to unlockable features.

The multiplayer is an aspect of the game that has not aged well and is severely lacking. You can face another player in one of two levels in a firefight, but unfortunately you cannot select which character you want to be without unplugging your controller and plugging it in to another port. Overall, the multiplayer does not offer the same amount of intensity and variety as the single player and leaves a lot to be desired.


Interface- 9/10

Star Fox 64 has above average interface. The main menu has plenty of options to choose from and there is a nice amount of stuff that can be unlocked. I really like how the game saves your high scores and you can boot up your cartridge years later and see what your best play through ever was. Changing your course during gameplay is very simple and everything is streamlined well.

The only issue I have interface-wise comes while playing the main story. There is no way to pause and exit out to the main menu unless you kill yourself and get a Game Over or reset the game. Besides that, the interface is very solid.


Story- 8/10

Star Fox 64 follows the mercenary unit Star Fox as they complete missions for General Pepper and hunt down a dangerous villain named Andross. The plot itself is nothing really spectacular but what makes this game so memorable is the little one-liners spoken throughout the game from each character. Each pilot has a very distinct personality and role and their dialogue truly brings this game to life. Some of the quotes have become famous and I find myself today being able to quote almost this entire game as I play through it. The only character I have an issue with is Slippy; he is just plain annoying and seems to be Nintendo’s answer to Jar-Jar Binks. His dialogue is nothing more than constant cries for help or some type of complaining/whining. Aside from him, the characters are great and truly drive the story along.

Before each mission, General Peppers has a discussion with Fox about what is about to happen but these mission briefings are often far too brief or silly. Peppers’ most infamous briefing consists of the line “there’s an enemy base there?!” and nothing more. The ending is done very well and there are different variations to how the story is concluded and an overall satisfying finish to the plot.


Graphics – 9/10

I personally find the visuals in Star Fox 64 to be very impressive even today. The many planets all look unique and feature a ton of different enemies to defeat. The animation is perfect and the character models are smooth and detailed. I love the various textures and the fact that you can interact with them in the Arwing.

The only complaints I have with the visuals are very nit-picky. The explosions are pretty laughable and are really nothing more than an orange dome (Atari, anyone?) while the mouth movements when the characters speak are really spazzy. Aside from these minor flaws the visuals are beautifully rendered and are among the best on the N64.


Sound/Music –8.75/10

Star Fox 64 has hands-down one of the most memorable soundtracks ever on the N64. There is a certain grand “space opera” theme to the music that lets you know this game means business. The Great Fox theme, Corneria theme and Star Wolf theme are all very memorable songs and the boss battle themes are filled with adrenaline and urgency. I absolutely love the “surround sound” quality of the sound effects and still consider them to be among the best I have ever heard in a game.

The voice acting is so-so. The actors do a good job for the most part but Slippy’s voice causes major problems. He is a male frog but for no reason has a high-pitched, female voice that does not match his character at all. Combined with his annoying lines, Slippy is a pain to listen to and you almost hope for him to be shot down. The voice acting itself also is very muffled and does not match the clarity heard in the sound effects.


Play Time/Replay Value – 10/10

I completed my play through of Star Fox 64 in 52 minutes even. Do not be fooled by this short play time; the replay value in this game is extremely high and backed up by the engaging gameplay that will entice the player to explore different stages. There is another difficulty that can be unlocked, medals to achieve and new modes you can find in multiplayer. The reality is that this game can be as long or short as you want it to be and is very flexible.


PROS
+Multiple paths
+Tight controls
+Engaging scoring system
+Solid interface and scoring records
+Lively cast of characters
+Varied endings
+Unique stages
+Smooth character designs
+Memorable, grand soundtrack
+ “Surround sound” effects
+Flexible play time
+Plenty of things to unlock


CONS
-Multiplayer is lacking
-Dumb AI
-Slippy is annoying
-Some presentation is too brief
-Lackluster explosion graphics
-Spotty voice acting


Final Recommendation

Star Fox 64 is a Nintendo 64 classic and in my opinion a “must-have” for anyone on the system. I cannot bring myself to call this gameplay “outdated” due to how tight the controls are and how much there is to do in this adventure. Some may be turned off by the short campaign and mediocre multiplayer but this ‘90s classic has the potential to be enjoyed by many future generations, just as I have enjoyed it for 17 years now (has it really been that long?!).


Final Score: 8.79166667/10 rounded to 9/10

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Star Fox 64 (US, 07/01/97)

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