Star Fox Adventures was a 2002 action-adventure game for the Nintendo GameCube by Rare. Since I loved video games, I was always checking all the video game news websites. My favorite was called IGN64 (now just IGN) because they specialized in covering the Nintendo 64. One of the games they previewed at the time was called Dinosaur Planet. It was another game by the hugely successful developer, Rare, so I was paying close attention. However, when Nintendo started making the next Nintendo console, Dinosaur Planet disappeared. That was fine with me because the new console gave me enough to be excited about.
IGN64 was sending journalists to all the video events around the world coming back with hands-on previews, screenshots, and videos of the new console and upcoming games. One of them was a new Star Fox game by Rare. No one knew at first, but it was later figured out that this new game was the old Dinosaur Planet game with Star Fox injected and then updated for the new GameCube console. Apparently Shigeru Miyamoto, the chief creative guy at Nintendo, thought the game would do better if it featured Star Fox. Mr. Miyamoto was right, but it may not have been the best idea.
The Star Fox series had always been about rail-shooting in space and over land. That was its strength, but Star Fox Adventures played more like a Zelda game. While there were space fighting segments, they were really just mini-games to pass the time when travelling between zones. There was one to thing to unlock in each of them. After that, there was no reason to play them again. They were just a waste of time. The on-foot content was pretty good though. Fox McCloud was a good hero character. He even injected some humor into it.
A lot of research went into Star Fox Adventures. Because the game was originally going to be on the Nintendo 64, the game probably had twice as long of a development time as the average game. This was clear by the dinosaur language the developers created. They had a full set of rules to translate any English into this manufactured language. They even got the voice actors to speak in the language. I thought it was really cool that they took the time to do this. It really made the game feel more authentic, even if dinosaurs talking can never feel very real.
On the technical side of things, Star Fox Adventures had amazing graphics, especially in the particle effects. All the fire and water effects looked like the elements in the real world. Many times I would just stop playing for a second and point the camera at the fire or water to see the effects up close. It was awesome. I also really liked the fur effects on some dinosaurs and animals. It would move around and flow with the wind like real fur. The voice acting was pretty good along with the sound effects. The music was nothing special. I didn’t find much of the music memorable. They tried to create little jingles for reoccurring events, such as whenever Fox would open a chest. The Zelda games were famous for the jingles, but they just didn’t work here.
In the story, the Star Fox crew was ordered by General Pepper to investigate a planet that was falling apart. Fox discovered a female fox named Krystal trapped in stasis. It turned out that an evil dinosaur by the name of General Scales had invaded the planet and enslaved the peaceful dinosaurs living there. Fox selfishly decided to help the planet, so he could rescue Krystal because he liked the way she looked. This brings me to some of the childish stuff in the game.
Fox was supposed to be an adult but many times he acted like a young kid. Throughout the game, he seemed to have a crush on Krystal, acting stupid around her. Some of these scenes were really cheesy. As an adult, sometimes I felt embarrassed if my parents saw what I was playing at my age. In addition to Fox’s actions, some other characters could be cheesy like Tricky, the “prince” dinosaur of the planet, and the shop merchant. Every time a scene started playing, I was bracing myself for a cringe.
Lastly, the game was just a little too short. I think there were four main areas on the planet to explore. Each of them had roughly two dungeons, for a total of eight. Maybe the dungeons were too easy, but I finished them really fast. Occasionally, a puzzle was difficult, but usually because I had to find an item to progress in a non-obvious location. After finishing an area, there was pretty much no reason to return. They had a few fun mini-games, but they were very sparse. Overall, the game was really linear with little replay value. Despite the cons, the game was pretty good. It just didn’t live up to its potential though.
After finishing, I got the feeling that Rare wasn’t sure what to do with the game. I think part of the problem was that they had to redo the game in the middle for the new GameCube. Then, they had to redo it again to add Star Fox. They may have had a clear vision in the beginning, but it had to changed so much, the game lacked direction and focus. Maybe putting Star Fox into it was wrong. Then again, they may have not had any choice in the matter since Nintendo was funding the game.
I think Rare didn’t like how much control Nintendo exerted over them for many years by then. Star Fox Adventures was the last straw. The developer was never the same after this game. Many of the core team members left to start their own companies. Rare later negotiated to be bought by Microsoft, but even that didn’t help much. They were pretty active making games for a few years, but none of their games became hits. Not seeing much success, Microsoft started exerting control just like Nintendo had, forcing the team to make Kinect games. These games sold well initially but eventually tapered off. The company still exists today but is considered to be just a shadow of its former self.