Review by Heretic9
Reviewed: 04/14/09 | Updated: 04/15/09
Hasn't aged well at all...
One of the early 3D games, and if you play it now, it sure shows....
When this game came out the advertisements tried to give off a sense of attitude and were always in your face. Ranging from Star Fox bearing down his fangs (Despite looking a bit goofy, like an angry muppet) to having him and his crew stand around looking serious, Star Fox was probably aimed more at older gamers. It was such a hit that Corn Flakes offered a special watch version that came with a game built in, not unlike the Game and Watch titles. Like the Game and Watch titles however, this technical marvel has not aged very well. If you play this game today, you might wonder if the 90's were the dark age of gaming...
The first major problem begins the moment you enter the first stage. At the time, this horrible mess of polygons was actually cutting edge and made use of a special chip. It may have looked great at the time, but now it looks horrible. And in fact, this is one of the rare times when a games graphics can actually pose a problem to the gameplay. For starters, I often times have no clue what I can shoot and what I can't. Sometimes I'll accidentally blast my own wingmen. But thankfully back then they had friendly fire enabled so damaging them was impossible. Sometimes I'll be shooting an indescribable mess of polygons only to discover it can't be damaged... And of course I can't forget the time I was shooting at a POWER UP thinking it was an enemy, and then later RAMMING INTO AN ENEMY THINKING IT WAS A POWER UP! Yeah, part of the problem is that I never played this as a kid. I merely took part in the marketing hype and went back to Sonic the Hedgehog.
Another problem is that when you're playing, you'll quickly notice the framerate and overall game speed have suffered as a result of these over the top graphics. It's often times difficult to control the Arwing, shoot enemies, or avoid obstacles thanks to the rather jumpy framerate. It's generally just makes the game a whole lot more frustrating to play, and it's difficult to concentrate. Really, compare this to a 2D Shooter like Darius. No framerate problems, no slow speed, it all worked fine. What about Contra 3? Again, no such issues, and these games were 2D. Along comes Star Fox, which decided to be 3D for no real reason. In this case, it really is more like a gimmick.Odd how the graphics are affecting the gameplay isn't it? This is rare in video games too. Most of the time graphics have no impact, but in this case they break the game.
The gameplay had the potential to be quite good, and this is proven later on when Star Fox 64 came out. The premise of this game is that you've got to stop Andross, an evil scientist or whatever from invading the Lylat System. I think. Hard to tell without the manual since the game from what I can tell doesn't explain the story too well.. The opening demo doesn't help much at all either. Anyway from there you can train or do the real game, or set your controls. Then, you choose from one of the 3 paths. The first level is always the same, but the following levels are different depending on the path, and Venom at the end differs in ways depending on your path. it's very linear however, with only 3 paths available as opposed to the less linear paths offered in the N64 remake. When the game begins, you pilot the arwing around the rather bland arena while awesome music plays. Better enjoy it too cause it's the only good track in the game. It's almost as if they only put effort into that one track. The sounds of your allies aren't much better. Listening to them talk is like visiting hell. They make odd "boop beep boop" noises and it drives me nuts. Another area Star Fox 64 improved upon drastically... Alongside Fox are Slippy, Falco, and Peppy, the offenders I just mentioned (but thankfully the rest of the sound effects are decent). As the game goes on these 3 will help you out in small ways and give feedback, given that you save them when they need it. You basically just shoot stuff as the game progresses on rails, however unlike most rail shooters you can stop or speed up. You can also tilt you craft for better turning or just to avoid an obstacle (Star Fox 64 makes much better use of this however) and do barrel rolls, which deflect enemy bullets. It can be difficult to time the barrel roll though what with the frame rate issues, but it usually works well enough. Power Ups are available that enable you to fire more powerful lasers, repair your wings (which can be damaged and broken), or recover health. At the end of the stage you get a boss, but he's usually pretty simple. Just shoot the flashing area and you're golden. It's a pretty easy shooter, but so was Star Fox 64. Most of the time when I crash, it's due to the backward ass framerate and slowdown. I just can't adjust to it. It's horrible!! You also have bombs when can destroy most enemies on the screen. There's also a first person view, which can help if you have trouble aiming. And naturally, you will have aiming issues, because the laser (or maybe I just suck?) seems a bit inaccurate. Maybe it's the slowdown/framerate, maybe I suck, or whatever, but aiming seems to be a slight hassle in this game. You have lives and a continue, but even so the game isn't very hard. You might get game over once or twice depending on your skill level, but nothing major. There aren't very many enemies to shoot either in comparison to the remake, making the difficulty easier and the game as a whole more bland. No rival team to engage in Dogfights with either, no long-range mode, no multiplayer, no multiple vehicles, etc etc. It's simply hard to recommend this over the remake. But if you feel like you can't get enough Star Fox, give this one a try. As for me, well, Star Fox 64 is enough for me.
It doesn't help that the controls aren't very good. For one thing, the laser firing speed seems off along with the aiming, which I briefly mentioned earlier. The speed of the lasers don't match my trigger finger at all. And why isn't there an autofire? In the remake there was a lack of autofire due to the fact that you held the fire button to unleash a charged laser, but why not here? Or why not have a laser with a more responsive firing speed? I'd like one or the other. The controls in general seem to be lagged, and I honestly don't know if this is just bad controls or if it's related to the terrible framerate and slowdown. Piloting the craft is a real nightmare as well thanks to the fact it just seems sluggish. It seems really unfair towards the end at Venom when I take on bosses that are so much faster than the Arwing. The Arwing in this game is actually much slower than the Landmaster in Star Fox 64, AND THAT WAS A TANK! Again this could be the framerate at work, but I really doubt it. Once again, this is an area where Star Fox 64 excels, further making the SNES version a tough recommendation.
Overall, Star Fox is a decent game, especially when you consider that the game itself is really nothing more than a tech demo meant to show off the capabilities of the FX Chip. In all honesty its biggest problem is just the performance issues that arise due to the graphics and hardware. I'd give it a 7/10 without these annoying issues, but because they're there, I have to give this game a 5/10. I'm actually being quite forgiving here, as I originally gave it a 3/10 but upped the score because I've found that the game IS playable and can be slightly entertaining, especially if you're able to adjust to these problems. Along with the performance issues, the game is also simply outclassed by it's remake on N64, making it feel rather pointless to play this. After all, the general consensus is that Star Fox 64 is the best in the series.
It's simply out fox ed. Save your time and money and get Star Fox 64, Panzer Dragoon, or Sin and Punishment. They're much better games as a whole. Especially Sin and Punishment, where the developers were smart enough to sacrifice some graphics for a more overall solid framerate and game speed.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Star Fox (US, 03/31/93)
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.