Star Fox Adventures - Does It Hold Up?
Next month marks the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, the final entry in the series for the Nintendo Wii. This week, however, marks the first entry in GameZone's brand new editorial series, Does It Hold Up? Here, I'll take a look at some older games, many of which will be related to upcoming releases, and see how they stack up to gaming's modern standards. Taking an older Zelda game and seeing if it still held up would be kind of pointless, because we all know it would. Instead, I decided to take a game that borrowed heavily from the Zelda series, all the while trying to distringuish itself as a part of the respected Star Fox franchise.
When Star Fox Adventures first landed on the GameCube almost a decade ago, gamers were treated to one of the most impressive titles developed at the time. Visually, the game definitely raised the bar for what graphics should look like in a console game. Impressive water effects, noticeable fur physics, and bold environments all made for one of the prettiest games of 2002. Hell, Star Fox Adventures looked amazing even during the GameCube's subsequent years.
Because this title is one of my all-time favorites, I make it a little tradition to try and play it every year. It may come as a surprise to some, but I still think the game looks great. That said, with the exception of Fox's fur and the cool water physics, Star Fox Adventures is certainly beginning to show its age. I absolutely adore the use of color throughout the game's many environments, and the art direction is incredible, but a lot of the scenery is fairly polygonal, and textures aren't really up to par with today's standards. However, this is a game from 2002, so we can't really fault it too much, now can we? All in all, Star Fox Adventures still looks great, and there's no denying that it even manages to look better than a lot of Wii games.
One aspect that still shines through regarding the game's presentation is the sound design--specifically the soundtrack. Throughout Fox's interplanetary quest, you're treated to some truly amazing themes that range from tropical to grand. Many of the songs heard in the game feature tribal-sounding chants that add a nice ancient feel to the music, and exploring the depths of Krazoa Palace is truly awe-inspiring thanks to the ethereal music that haunts its inner walls. Simply put, the soundtrack in Star Fox Adventures was excellent nine years ago, and it's still fantastic today.
What's not very fantastic is the voice acting in the game. With the exception of the cheeky merchant and the condescending Slippy Toad, most of the voice over work in Star Fox Adventures is cheesy and kind of lame. None of the characters have much of an interesting personality, not even Fox. Truth be told, Fox comes off as a total d*ck throughout most of the game, and he doesn't seem to like helping the very dinosaurs he's been sent out to save. The combination of a questionable script and crappy delivery results in a poorly acted tale, and with such high-quality standards these days, this aspect of Star Fox Adventures hardly holds up.
What about the most important aspect of the game? How well does the actual gameplay in Star Fox Adventures fare in 2011? Honestly, the game still plays great, and I'm not just saying that because it holds a special place in my little gamer heart. The truth is that Star Fox Adventures manages to play really damn well, and it definitely holds its own when compared to other modern games. One gripe I would have to pinpoint is the slightly aged animation, which translates over to the controls. Guiding Fox is simple enough, but running into rocks or walls can sometimes cause him to get stuck. This is really just nitpicking on my part, but it is something that stands out.
Like Zelda, Star Fox Adventures features very simple combat and puts most of its emphasis on puzzles and exploration. The puzzles in the game are fairly simple, but they're still a lot of fun. Hitting buttons, shooting switches, and pushing blocks are just a few of the tropes that make up Star Fox Adventures. While I personally don't mind that the game isn't very combat-heavy, I did find that fighting enemies isn't as rewarding these days as it used to be. The combat mechanics are a bit dull for today's standards, so it's probably a good thing that Star Fox Adventures doesn't force you to brawl against baddies too often. Boss battles, on the other hand, are pretty fun, and they follow the mold of classic Rare games, pitting you against massive foes with glowing weak points.
At around 10 to 12 hours, Star Fox Adventures is pretty decent in terms of its length. Unfortunately, there aren't any extras, with the exception of some collectible tokens that can be used to unlock bonus content such as a jukebox to listen to the game's incredible soundtrack, or a filter that presents the entire game in sepia. Still, considering the game is so linear and can last you up to 12 hours, there's plenty of game here even without an open world or hidden items.
All in all, there are only a handful of flaws present in Star Fox Adventures that truly indicate the game's age. Even then, this title is still totally accessible, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. If you want something to tide you over until The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword drops in November, I would suggest you fish out a copy of Star Fox Adventures and take it for a spin.
The verdict: Star Fox Adventures holds up especially well despite a few miniscule flaws.