Hey all! Reviewing Star Fox 64 today. Sorry that it's been a month (and two days) since I promised to continue reviewing Star Fox games in preparation for Star Fox Zero. I fully plan on finishing reviewing these games before Zero hits the shelves on April 22nd, so lets get to it!
Same as the last review, I will not compare graphics of this game to graphics of today (even though this game holds up as one of the best N64 games texture wise).
Well... It's similar to Star Fox SNES. In the same way Zero is attempting to be the re-imagining of 64, 64 is the re-imagining of Star Fox SNES, only better in every way.
You control three vessels: The Arwing, the Landmaster and the Blue Marine (Or go on foot in Corneria Versus Mode if you're good enough to unlock it). The Landmaster is used in two missions and versus, the Blue Marine is used in the Aquas mission only, and the Arwing is used literally everywhere else. As an "all-range fighter", the Arwing can go through two modes in Star Fox 64: "All Range" and "Rail". All-Range allows the player to fly within an enclosed map with the ability to visit anywhere within the map perimeters. Rail mode is as simple as it sounds, the player is put on a set course that they can't deviate from (unless certain goals are met that change the course of the level, and even the game). Because rail segments force the player forward, it's theoretically possible to reach the end boss of the level without pressing a button.
Both Landmaster levels, the Blue Marine level and the majority of Arwing levels incorporate or solely use the rail system, while some Arwing missions either incorporate or only use All Range mode.
Moving on, the branching mission plot. I'll get into this more later, but for the gameplay aspects of it, consequence for actions usually effect the story. As you and your allies attempt to break the defenses of the fortified and enslaved Lylat system, you'll find that you can branch off towards difficult and easy paths, both holding their own story endings. If you choose an easier path, don't destroy enough enemies, forget to (or refuse) to save a wingman or let searchlights find you, you'll automatically be shuffled towards the easy side of the map. (It's tempting to neglect saving Slippy from the Spyborg even though doing so ensures the "bad" ending)
Consequences, branching non-linear plots and cool vehicles aside, Star Fox 64 has stable controls for all vehicles (including a dizzying first person mode for those with the original version). There isn't too much to add about the simplistic controls, the rail segments make the game difficult to impossible to speed clear (however bosses reward more points for quicker kills).
The campaign is pretty easy to beat within an hour if you can do it without restarting. However the branching non-linear style lends for great replayability.
Multiplayer is a nice addition as well, serving as the main competitor to Goldeneye for years as the best 4 player versus game. The blending of Arwings, Landmasters and Infantry to those who have unlocked the latter two serve greatly in multiplayer, and are an early example of the style games like Battlefield attempt.
Oh, and the rumble pak was first used here. *drops mic*
While the rail elements aren't anything terribly new (in fact a bit recycled from Star Fox SNES), the branching plot, new vehicles, consequences and overall complexity of Star Fox 64's mechanics/gameplay make for a great game. Despite being a "re-imagining" of a SNES classic, 64 has definitely left a great legacy mechanic wise.
As mentioned before, this game has incredible textures for a N64 game, considering how much cartridge space was spent on the audio alone. The art design lends well into the modern Star Fox design, and serves as perhaps the biggest influence on Zero's texture design.
Of course prior to Star Fox 64, there wasn't a ton of art design within Star Fox games. Most of this was found within the pages of Nintendo Power, or in box art. Star Fox 64 opened us to the idea of a painting, a portrait if you will, within the game itself. Higher detail textures led to a more immersive experience that still holds up pretty well today.
Great varied environments compliment the game greatly, too. From the dusty desert world Katina, to the lush Corneria, this game definitely takes the cake for setting up a bunch of cool planets to visit in later entries.
Bosses are definitely varied (if not too varied, looking at the Goras from Titania) with a ton of work put into the design of their attack cycles. The most complex boss I can think of is the Sarumarine from Zoness, as it requires multiple stages, bombs, and lasers to take out.
Well, Star Fox 64 has some high points, some low points, but it isn't too hard to see that Star Fox 64 doesn't have the most epic narrative in existence.
Still though, it gave me some chills the first time I beat the games hard mode. While there has always been games that leave endings to interpretation, nothing is greater in this subgenre than Star Fox 64's hard mode ending, in which James McCloud seemingly returns from the dead to save his son, but vanishes immediately after the father and son escape Venom.
The backstory is definitely worthy of mention here as well, as it sets a strong base for the character motives within the game. We feel a hatred against Star Wolf and the sadistic Pigma Dengar out of vengeance.
Speaking of Star Wolf, not only is a popular anti-Star Fox thrown into the mix in this entry, but dialogue between characters and their arch enemies consistently raise character building without fail. Same goes for Katt Monroe and Bill Grey.
I hate to say however, minus the abundance of Peppy's Pro Tips, dialogue in the game isn't the most helpful in building a stable story.
Star Fox 64 has a ton of great tidbits of story, especially in the expository opening, ending and battles with Star Wolf. However, this leaves a lot of the game with nothing but empty areas with no character beyond wingmen asking for assistance.
Words on 64 3D
I don't really have that much to say, aesthetically speaking it has minor changes, notably trading jack knives with turning characters into more cartoonish and less menacing, while giving vessels such as the Great Fox a graphical overhaul.
Multiplayer is nice, I am to say in the least disappointed by the lack of infantry in Versus Mode though.
Star Fox 64 is a great game, with tons of replayability in every nook and cranny. Not because it's a nostalgic piece of so many gamers childhoods, but because it really is a big piece of gamer history, I really want to give it a perfect ten. However, writing this review brought me to some of Star Fox 64's flaws, which puts it at the rating seen below.
04:28, March 25, 2016 (UTC)