Remastered Review: N64 Review #2- Star Fox 64
Continuing down the path to reunite my first 8 Nintendo 64 reviews with the rest of the team, we travel all the way back to April 7, 2013. That was the day before Review a Great Game Day that year and so I chose what I believe to be a great game. As it would turn out, “Remastered Review” is pretty accurate. Back then, my website was configured for a differently formatted review. It was the kind where every piece of the review was broken into sections like sound, visuals, etc. It also used that data to compile a score. I learned two things as I kept on writing. First, I hate review scores. Second, my writing style is terrible for such a structured review. That dictates that I have to do quite a bit of touching up to these to fix them without changing the original review too much but they look a lot better now. Anyhow, I present the review of one of the greatest games not just on the N64, but of all time, Star Fox 64.
The Nintendo 64 introduced a number of groundbreaking ideas and concepts that are still used today. It had the first controller with a thumbstick as a main feature, introduced the concept of sharing information from handhelds to console games, and the rumble feature. The latter was introduced with the 1997 release of Star Fox 64, the game that introduced the Rumble Pak. Nintendo very wisely packaged the Rumble Pak with the game. Rumble alone does not a great game make, however. Let’s take a deeper look.
The Lylat System is under attack by the evil Andross! You are Fox McCloud, leader of Star Fox, a team of four animals with human qualities that all turned out to be very good pilots thankfully. General Pepper, whose brother the physician you may know, is calling on you to help fight back Andross’s evil forces and eventually take on Andross himself. Your team is comprised of the whiny but technically savvy Slippy Toad, the cocky but super talented Falco Lombardi, and the elderly but wise Peppy Hare. Peppy was a member of the original Star Fox team with Pigma Dengar and your father, James McCloud. One day Dr… General Pepper sends that original Star Fox team to investigate some activity on the planet Venom. Pigma takes the opportunity to betray the team. Peppy barely escapes but James is unfortunately lost forever. Or is he? You’ll have to beat it to find out. Along the way you’ll run into some of the team’s old friends and your arch nemesis, Star Wolf, lead by Wolf O’Donnell. It has a very good backstory and it gives the player more of a reason for fighting other than, well they hit me first. Oh, this dude killed my father allegedly? We’re gonna get this guy. To your Arwings!
Think about your favorite side scrolling arcade shooter. Now imagine you get to play that in 3D. That is basically how the Arwing (fighter) handled. It was fast, nimble, and controlled very well with good responsiveness. You could also “do a barrel roll” to deflect enemy fire. It featured upgradeable lasers and smart bombs for weaponry. The lasers could lock on to a target and cause collateral damage to other nearby enemies. You could use the Arwing in two modes: the standard linear mode that would be featured in most of the level and then all-range mode that was for boss fights and dog fights. All-range mode gave you a more open world feel and it was where the Arwing became very fun to play with. Dogfighting was a pleasure with the ease of the ship controls. In all-range mode, you had the additional abilities to pull a mid-air u turn and to pull a loop to suddenly appear behind your enemy.
There was also a tank called the Landmaster that let you hover to clear objects, but didn’t really have a lot of other use. It seemed like it was just added to provide a break from the flying levels. There was also one obligatory water level that introduced the Blue Marine, a submarine with torpedoes that would not only damage enemies, but light your path. Star Fox 64 also had a four player multiplayer mode where you and three friends could go toe to toe by land or air for bragging rights. The single player campaign featured branching options depending on the things you did in the previous level. That gave the game immense replay value as it forced you to play it through many times to experience all it had to offer. Then there’s that Rumble Pak. The rumble feature made its debut here and it was done very well. You knew when you were getting hit, when a boss was exploding, and when you flew into something because you were texting while flying. The biggest flaw in the gameplay is the lack of a save game feature. Granted, you could complete a playthrough in around an hour but sometimes things come up and you want to save your progress. By no means did it kill the game, but it would have been really nice.
Star Fox 64 is absolutely visually stunning. Full 3D models of the characters and vehicles you recognized from Star Fox on the SNES with a few new faces, beautifully immersive worlds to do combat in, and great weapon and explosion effects are all present to treat the player to a visual buffet. From the very first level on Corneria where you can see the Arwing’s reflection in the water you knew immediately that your eyes were in for a treat. It became very easy to get lost in this game and the visuals were a huge part of that. Star Fox 64 definitely won the visual department.
Sound is another thing Star Fox 64 did amazingly well. We got to hear our beloved characters speak, in the case of Slippy maybe too much, and it added so much to the game. Each character had a unique personality, even the enemies. Lasers and bombs sounded cool, exploding bosses screaming their final words sounded good, and the radios cutting in and out added a nice touch, although they did sound a bit dated to be included in a game that would lead me to believe it was happening in a futuristic alternate dimension. The soundtrack is still stuck in many of our heads, and was always appropriate for the level and the situation.
Overall, you have to stretch to find complaints about Star Fox 64. It is simply one of the best games there is, even today. This is one of those games when someone tries the console for the first time, you suggest this among the first games that need to be played. There was even a 3D remake of this on the Nintendo 3DS for all of your portable Star Fox 64 needs. Why are you still here? Go play Star Fox 64!