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Star Fox 64 review: this N64 gem still shines has much has it did two decades ago.
My youtube review
Star fox 64 title screen.
Note all video and screen shots were captured by me using a Wii U and a Roxio game capture. I used photoshop to add text to some of the screen shots.
Well a few years ago I reviewed the original Star Fox and well it was a mix bag to say the least, it’s taken two years despite the fact that the fact that the folder has been sitting on my hard drive since I review the original but I am now about to sit down and review its sequel Star Fox 64. With a new Star Fox out on the Wii U what better time to sit down and talk about the best game in the franchise. This game did a lot on the N64 for a game that was still on a measly cartridge it manage to have tons of voice scripted dialogue, it was the first home console game to have force feedback which is in all of the controllers now days. But at the same time it’s the last of the old school games.
By that I mean it’s the last game I know of to be released that can be beaten in under an hour, uses that fact to have you replay it just for higher scores, and if you do get a gameover it’s not back to a continue screen but the title screen you go. So let’s take a look at this unique blend of new and old let’s take a look at Star Fox 64.
The story takes place in the Lylat System which was peaceful except for a maniacal scientist named Andross mistakes that get him banish to a baron planet Venom. When Pepper notices strange activity coming from Venom he sends the Star Fox team consisting of James McCloud, Pigma Dangar, and Peppy Hare. However Pigma betrays the team and gets James killed while Peppy barley has time to make it home to Corneria to tell James son Fox about what happen. A few years have passed and Andross has assembled is own army to take over the Corneria system. General Pepper turns a new Star Fox team headed by Fox McCloud to save the Lylat system once again.
Yeah the back story is pretty much the same has the SNES, minus the black hole device so I guess I can forgive Pepper for not shooting Andross in the head. The game does present its story in a unique way though. Each mission its own chapter with two endings either you succeed in one of the side quests and succeed the mission. Like avoid the spot lights, or shoot the switches in order to get through. Some of these make sense and have some real devastating effects if you don’t complete the mission right, like in this mission you have to shoot down this saucer before time runs out if you don’t then the saucer launch a very indepdence day destruction beam down on the base, and you ou will get the bad ending for the stage. Weather it’s big like that or small like saving Falco and flying through arches to get to a better path the fact that there are in most stages at least two branches makes the game feel a lot bigger then it is. Also the fact that it changes the narration for the stage you completed but can also have effects on the next stage really gives it a create your own story path, even if it each stage is somewhat linear by design. It really is a unique way of doing storytelling and the fact that all other Star Fox games I have play so far (haven’t played command) is one of the reasons why they didn’t hit a cord with me.
Falco showing you the routes
I should also mention yeah the game parody not only Japanese sci fi has we see a knock off of Gundam here. But also western sci fi has there plenty of Star Wars and Independence Day references (which was new at the time)
Most of this game plays like the original game where you on this on rails shooter where you control a plane and well you shoot enemies. Now many tweaks and upgrades have been made to improve this experience. First you can now charge your blaster and lock on to enemies with it. Now only does this let you destroy more than one enemy with a single shot but it really boosts your high score. There are also still the Twin and Hyper blasters you can pick up. But this time the game is a lot more balance when it comes to these two weapons there are 2 to 3 pickups per stages in most instance where you can get these power ups, meaning dying and or breaking your wings no longer means being downgraded to where your just destined to get your hinny kicked. You still get a down grade sure but not to the degree that you once did.
Now I already mention this in the story but yeah most stages have more than one route through and finding these secret routes and exploring all the stages does take some doing. And most of the time finding these things and completing them is fun and just feels good whenever you see mission successful.
Has far has your wing man… yes there back and even more annoying. But at least there is some charm in there annoyance. Also helpful is you can shoot them out of the sky if you want too. But you won’t. You see each wingman does something useful. Slippy has annoying has he is does your shield analysis. Peppy gives you useless information that tells you he’s too old and senile to fly. (show do a barrel roll) THAT’S AN ALIRON ROLL YOU DUMB BUNNY. And no I have a pilot for a brother he’s been obsess with planes since he was 5, I knew that waaay before Matpat pointed it out on game theory.
Has far has Falco despite him giving you a lot of lip if you want to see the more advance stages you need him around. He’s the one that often times opens up these routes. And while your wing man can go down and go down easily I might add there not dead forever, there gone till the end of the next mission over. Then you get them back.
However it keeps you from obtaining medals. You see in each stage you have to get a certain score high enough to win the medal. And yes usually means completing the mission right. But you also have to end it having all 3 swing man with you. If not your SOL and will have to try again on your next mission. Completing all the medals opens up a harder difficulty level which I did manage to unlock on my N64, but since I don’t have it and only have it on the Wii which I am still lacking a few medals I don’t have any footage. But these medals are hard to get and will keep you playing through this game multiple times to get all of them.
I should mention there are stages different from the usual strike game. First you have free roaming stages where your stuck in a small area usually defending a base from enemy attack. Here you can do a cool u turn move and fly around freely, usually though you’re going to spend most of the time bailing out your wing man who get enemies on their backs every 5 seconds. But these stages are fun and usually have you ending fighting Star Wolf in a huge aerial dog fights. or at least knocking off Independence Day. HEY BOYS I AM BACK.
There also two tank stages where are pretty fun but not really necessary, I guess they necided to break up the monotony of flying a plane by driving a tank. The controls for the most are the same has the Arwings and it feels good. The submarine well it’s controls are ok but it’s stage is frustrating. It’s dark so you have to fire out torpedoes constantly just to make sure you’re not crashing into anything. Yes they wanted to give us a creepy under the ocean feel to this stage and it succeeds at that, but unfornatley it also frustrates us in the process.
The graphics in this game have hold up rather well. Don’t get me wrong you can definitely tell it’s about to hit the two decade mark there are sharp edge on a lot of those ships and buildings but you know what, you rarely care because your too busy speeding around shooting things. The frame rate is good and the action is still smooth. The boss and there design still hold up after 20 years. And Yes this affects the way I feel about the Nintendo 3ds Remake.
The planet themselves although lacking in some details compare to modern day don’t look ugly or anything. Basically everything fits together and it fits together fine.
Most games from this era have aged like milk
The music in this game is excellent with most stages having their own unique tracks and all of them are catchy. Plenty of voice samples were thrown in this game and most of them sound really good for the time. Remember this came out in 1997 the same year has Symphony of the Night and Mega Man 8 and those come out has just laughably bad. Here Nintendo got some decent talent to make it sound really good.
The 3ds Version
You know the 3ds version came out just a few months after the Ocarina of time 3d and had just has much love and effort put into the remake. They even throw in a classic N64 version which keeps the game old school, but also has a 3ds version that allows you to save, continue, and disables the option of shooting your friends out of the sky weather on purpose or by accident. And the graphics are just has well done with just has more effort put into detail. Katina here has swamps all around it now and the base looks more futuristic looking. You see more detail in the robots, and the buildings has you fly pass them on the different planets and everything is clean up and looking nice. Then why can’t I recommend it. Well if this was a choice of the virtual console version is 10 dollars, while the 3d version was 15-20 I would say go for the 3ds version. But at a price point of 30-40 dollars I really can’t because it adds no depth to the gameplay experience. Yeah I know that’s odd after all I recommend Zelda Ocarina of Time for the 3ds full hardily but I do believe it’s the way we experience the games. Zelda is an adventure game where we spend time in that world exploring and interacting with it, and it needed the upgrade big time because let’s face it those characters looked awful even back in the day. Star Fox 64 doesn’t really look awful in fact if anything the classic graphics look kind of quaint and it still runs really smoothly, the improvement’s add nothing to the experience. So for 10 dollars on the virtual console if you own a Wii go get that version and don’t worry about the 3d version
I give Star Fox 64 both the 64 and the 3ds version a 4 out of 5. There really fun games even if the overall experience is short there still blast to play and I have play through these games on multiple occasions it’s just a fun guilty pleasure to get back to. And it improves on the gameplay of the original so much. Its 10 dollars on the original Wii virtual console go get it you won’t regret it.