Star Fox Adventures
Much like Eternal Darkness, Star Fox Adventures made a lengthy, complex and ultimately worthwhile journey to the GameCube. What was a cancelled Nintendo 64 title called Dinosaur Planet has transformed into the action-adventure debut for Nintendo's spacefaring fuzzball, Fox McCloud. The fantasy storyline, non-player characters and prehistoric-themed levels might not have been originally designed for Fox and his pals, but the combination of beautiful graphics and solid gameplay make it worth recommending to most gamers.
The adventure begins with a prologue starring Krystal, a mysterious female fox who speaks a freakish foreign language. After a brief aerial battle, she confronts the evil General Scales, who roughs her up and imprisons her in an ancient temple. A distress beacon goes out to Fox McCloud. He arrives on the war-torn world of Dinosaur Planet with little knowledge of his situation, but his pals Peppy, Slippy and General Pepper (we knew him back in the '60s when he was just a sergeant) help out Fox with tactical support.
It's painfully obvious that the natives of Dinosaur Planet need assistance, and lots of it. For the first few hours of the game, Fox transforms into the ultimate Good Samaritan. Fle's nursing herds of tired mammoths back to health with turnips, collecting tasty mushrooms for dinosaurs and lighting torches to aid hungry critters scared of the dark. These fetch quests might start to grate on your nerves after a while, but you will learn the ins-and-outs of the gameplay while acting like a fuzzy Boy Scout. If you can stick through these middling bits, the game opens up into a full-fledged epic with traditional dungeons and bosses.
The controls are a no-brainer for anyone who's played a recent Zelda title. Fox controls just like Link, from the automatic jumping to the lock-on combat. You can activate items and special moves via a handy C-stick menu, and even map these abilities onto the Y-but-ton. An original gameplay element is Tricky, a sassy dino sidekick who helps Fox solve puzzles (see below).
Graphically, none of SFA's N64 roots show through. Impressive special effects like reflective water, lifelike shadows and amazingly realistic fur, show off the best the 'Cube has to offer. Huge environments stretch far into the distance, and every area features a full day/night cycle, as well as changing weather. The action runs at a speedy clip, only stuttering for one or two seconds when the game loads a new area. Rare had a long time to work on this game, and it definitely shows in the polished graphics.
The sound is also up to Nintendo's usual high standards. Music is catchy, vibrant and varied, building into a tense tune when danger's afoot. Unfortunately, not as much care went into the voices. Fox is great; he's a likable, self-assured hero. Whether you're able to stomach Slippy, Peppy and General Pepper depends on your past Star Fox experience. They're awfully annoying, and they talk a lot. Even worse, however, is the new language invented for the game. It sounds silly when the characters drop English words like "General Scales" and "Dinosaur Planet" into long strings of nonsense.
As you can tell by the scores, a strong rift of opinion divided our reviewers. The string of simple fetch quests that bogs down the first few hours could turn off players looking for an adventure that starts on a grander scale. Also, many of the game's puzzles require tons of experimentation to solve, so some patience is required. For most folks, however, Fox's quest will be a fun, challenging endeavor.