Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Star Fox Command review

I've been playing this game quite a bit lately, so I figured I may as well review it! Plus, when was the last time I wrote ANYTHING DS related here?

Developer: Q-Games, Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: August 28, 2006 (North America)
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone Ages 10+

The Star Fox series of games is an oldie, that's for sure. But as of the last few installments, it seems that they're not as fun as they were back in the day of the SNES and the N64. The added on-foot segments were disliked by nearly all fans of the franchise, and even the vehicular gameplay seemed to lose some of it's "oomph". Has Star Fox Command succeeded in redeeming this declining franchise? Read on to find out.

One of the most controversial aspects of this game are the controls, so I feel that's as good a place as any to begin. First of all, it needs to be said that nobody will adapt to these controls immediately. Star Fox underwent a massive overhaul in order to conform to the DS' unconventional control setup, resulting in something alien to even the most hardcore of DS owners. Almost everything is controlled by the touch screen, from steering to dropping bombs to advancing the conversations between levels. The only thing NOT relying on the touch screen is the laser, which can be fired by pressing any one of the DS' buttons, as well as any direction on the D-pad.

While extremely bizarre at first, these controls become entirely natural after a bit of play time. Steering feels tight and responsive, for both lefties (Such as myself) and righties (Such as pretty much everyone else). Besides the steep learning curve, I can find nothing wrong here.

Star Fox Command's gameplay, although familiar, is also quite new. As always, there's your standard dog-fighting Arwing battles. But, in between each battle, there is a level of strategy. Instead of the usual "fight, choose level, fight, choose level, etc." flow of previous games, players are instead faced with a more strategy game-like interface between skirmishes (Pictured below).

Star Fox Command between battles

At the beginning of each turn, players can do any combination of the following:

-Fire a missile from the Great Fox at a swarm of enemies
-Direct pilots to their next destination by drawing a line from their current location to another point on the map
-Erase some of the "fog of war" covering the map, in order to better know where your enemies lie

When ready, players can then press the A button to mobilize their pilots. The ships will then follow the drawn path. If their trajectory crosses paths with a swarm of enemies, a missile or an enemy base, players then choose which battle to begin first.

Once a fight has been selected, the players are "tossed into the arena", so to speak, with several enemy fighters. However, not all enemies need to be destroyed to finish the level. Only those carrying "core memories" need to be dealt with. If the fight is merely with a swarm of foes, it ends here. However, if the fight takes place at an enemy base, one more objective must be fulfilled: Destroy the enemy mothership. To do so, players must follow a line of beacons to the enemy craft, and strike it while performing a barrel roll. If the pilot misses a beacon or fails to hit the ship while spinning, the pilot's craft is destroyed, and the fight is lost.

However, none of the above will happen if the encounter is with an enemy missile. When chasing down a missile, the pilots have to maneuver their ship into each beacon, while simultaneously firing at the ballistic projectile. If the player misses even one beacon, they lose track of the missile, which then moves even closer to it's target, the Great Fox. If the missile makes contact with the Great Fox, the ship is destroyed, and it's Game Over.

Also, with the exception of missile chases, every fight has a strict time limit. But don't worry, as time can be recovered by deflecting enemy attacks, finding special items and defeating as many foes as possible.

The graphics in Star Fox Command are quite impressive for a DS game. The ships, environment and enemies are all rendered beautifully, sometimes looking better than those in Star Fox 64. However, some of the battlefields (Such as the ocean or open space) are very barren and uninteresting. Also, the strategy game-style screen between fights is nothing to get excited over.

Perhaps one of the most widely disliked aspects regarding the graphics in Star Fox Command are the character designs (Example below). The characters are overly-chibified, and Fox doesn't even look hairy anymore! What, did he get waxed since Assault? Even so, the graphics are still pretty impressive, even if Fox looks like he's made of plastic.

Falco, Fox, Krystal and Slippy as seen in Star Fox Command

Star Fox Command ain't too harsh on the ears, either. The audio in the game is very well done, with many different background songs and sound effects. And for those sick of hearing Slippy hollering at you to "get this guy off my tail" or whatever, don't worry, this game is 100% voice acting free. Instead characters speak in a garbled gibberish, with slight changes in tone depending on the person speaking. It actually sounds pretty good, especially considering we don't have to listen to Slippy yelling 24/7.

What is a review of a Star Fox game without mentioning the incredibly cheesy storyline? Command takes place about 2 or 3 years after Assault, and the group has since disbanded. Falco became a bounty hunter, Slippy got engaged (?!?!), Peppy Hare became General of the Cornerian Army (Former General Pepper fell ill), Krystal's whereabouts are unknown (She left after a spat with Fox), and Fox opted to keep the group running on his own.

However, soon a new threat to the Lylat System's peace arises, a group of fish-like villains known as the Anglars (Hey, I told you it was cheesy!). Fox first opts to tackle this new foe on his own, but soon realizes he'll need some help. He then decides to try getting the Star Fox team back together, despite how fragmented they've become. The rest is up to the player to discover...

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Star Fox Command's story is the fact that there are 9 different endings to see. The first time you play through, you're restricted to following a pre-set series of decisions. However, after you've beaten the game once, you have the option of choosing whatever path best suits your taste, resulting in many endings, bizarre twists, and plenty of replay value.

Star Fox Command is a landmark as it is the first game in the series to feature online play. Players can face off against foes all around the world thanks to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, and what's more, NO FRIEND CODES! Although Friend Codes are an option, they are not required to play online.

One BIG problem with Star Fox online is that you absolutely NEED four people to play. If you manage to grab a group of four players to fight, that's great! But if even ONE person leaves, the entire match screeches to a halt. And all those kills you gathered? Yup, those are gone, too. Still, people seem to mostly stick around, which is good. But every few battles you will end up with a disconnector. Oh well, there's plenty more frags in the sea! Wait...


Controls: 9.0/10

The controls almost ALWAYS do exactly what you want them to do. Sometime you'll barrel roll unexpectedly, but it's nothing too common or crippling. However, the learning curve is quite steep, so if you don't get it at first, just keep at it.

Gameplay: 8.0/10

Battles are as hectic as ever, with enemies always at a high concentration. The strategy element seems a little out of place for a Star Fox title, but just because it's new doesn't mean it's bad!

Graphics: 8.7/10

Besides the fact that environments are sometimes barren and Fox looks like he fell into a bowling ball polisher, the graphics are amazing. You will encounter slowdown every once in a while, but never anything too severe.

Audio: 8.5/10

Thank the gaming gods, Slippy has been silenced! No more "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!" and "Get this guy behind me!" pounding your eardrums into oblivion. Also, the music during battles is always fast-paced and exciting, and every sound effect does it's job very well. Nothing outstanding, though.

Storyline: 8.0/10

The story is as cheesy as ever, and I couldn't be any happier! Fish monsters? BRAVO!!! But sometimes ends don't quite meet in the branching storylines (Characters may reference something that didn't happen).

Online: 7.5/10

Fights over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection are generally exciting and lag-free. However, the strict minimum of four participants and the battles screeching to a halt whenever someone disconnects hurt the experience quite a bit.

Overall: 8.0

Star Fox Command is a very well put together game, with great looks, sound, story (Anglars!!! AWESOME!!) and controls. However, the online play has a few kinks that need to be worked out. Even so, it's a solid game that will keep even the most hardcore Fox fans busy for a while.

The Duck Has Spoken.

1 comment:

ModestMr.Green said...

Nice review, Duck! I've had Star Fox: Command for awhile now, and I was definitely happy to see that it was a great improvement over Assault.

Hopefully, the Wii version of Star Fox will exceed even this version, as well as introduce an expanded online component.

And OMG, you're a lefty too? Sweet! XD