Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Star Fox 64 3D

Post-Launch Review
Star Fox 64 3D


A refresh of the N64 space shooter, Star Fox 64 3D follows the Star Fox mercenary team, led by Fox McCloud, as they fight back against the evil scientist Andross and his attempt to take over the Lylat system. Fox and his team blast their way through hundreds of enemy ships, blazing a trail to the planet where Andross was exiled years ago - Venom.

At Launch

Star Fox 64 3D was well received, averaging review scores of 81%. Reviewers enjoyed the action, some noting that the game is better as a portable title due to its mission length - it's easy to play a short session.  The multiple game modes and branching campaign. Many critics felt that the game should have included some new features instead of just a visual update, and many complained about the lack of online multiplayer.

Post Launch
No updates.

The Good

Shooty Arcade Action
There's plenty of stuff to shoot. The levels move pretty fast, with some of the later ones being particularly crazy, with potentially hundreds of enemies. The action is fun, and the short levels are actually a great thing for a 3DS game. You can pick it up and play a single mission in five to ten minutes. Some of the bosses are surprisingly challenging.

Your allies - Falco, Peppy, and Slippy - can take damage during a battle. If you fail to protect them and they take too much damage, they drop out of the current mission, and are unavailable for the next one during repairs. It's a neat way to add some consequence and continuity to an arcade shooter, and helps to convey that all this is happening over a very short period of time.

The Star Fox team are mercenaries, not military units. In a funny and clever touch, after the game, Fox sends General Pepper an invoice for payment, proportional to the number of enemy units you destroyed during the game. 

There are many alternate routes to arrive at Venom, with branching paths offering different missions depending on your choices. After beating the game once, you've seen probably only a third of the available missions. And even the missions you did play can turn out very differently depending on your path - the second time around, the final level was completely different, with a dogfight instead of an on-rails mission, and even the boss battle changed. The game also keeps track of scores for clearing the game, so if you enjoy chasing high scores, you're encouraged to find the optimal mission path to score the most hits.
The first time you play, I don't recommend choosing missions labelled as "alternate" - you might get confused like I did, and find yourself on "The Search for Slippy" when Slippy never disappeared and in fact was with us only five seconds ago.

The Neutral

Accessing Alternate Routes
There are many branching paths, and you can see the branches on the system map, but many of those paths must be unlocked by completing a hidden objective. I generally like hidden unlocks but it's rather confusing for the game to tell me, look at all these alternate paths you can't access! Some of the routes you'll probably unlock without even realizing you did anything special - for example, defeating Star Wolf's crew before the bomb goes off unlocks Solar. But some of the unlocks are things that might never occur to you; for example, you unlock Sector Y if on Corneria you both rescue Falco and pass through all the archways on the lake.

The Bad

Normally the length of a game is not something I would ever say is a bad thing, only that you be aware of it before you buy or play. However, I beat Star Fox in just one hour. It's a damn good thing I got it for free via promotion, because if I had paid the full $40 I would have been a little upset. The alternate mission paths help, though, especially considering how even the same mission can play out differently.

The credits are unskippable until the third time you beat the game, having seen both possible endings. Since the game only takes about an hour to play through each time, that's really annoying. But at least it clears up eventually.

Voice Acting
Most of the characters sound like bad B movie characters in the delivery of their very few lines. Sometimes it's funny in a campy kind of way, other times it's just bad.

The Verdict

Recommendation: play it, but not at full price.
Star Fox is fun but not really my kind of game. Mostly it's just pure arcade action with very little story to tie it together - only a handful of mission paths present any plot or characterization beyond "shoot the bad guys". The branching mission paths offer a lot of replayability, though they can be a little confusing to unlock. I had fun with the game, but personally I don't think Star Fox is worthy of $40, so I would recommend trying to find it cheaper or through a promotion.

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