Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Star Fox 64 (Nintendo 64, 1997)

This is quite the evolution of the shooter genre. Say what you will about Nintendo, but they're the masters of having first-party franchises that people really care about... even if that isn't as much the case in the modern era. For the N64, all they had to do was bring back beloved SNES franchises, add a 64 to the end of the title, and they had a guaranteed hit. This is one of the more shining examples of this practice; Star Fox 64 is a fine game.

"Walk" by Pantera plays as our heroes traverse a corridor.



This game has a really good training stage to show you the ropes. I like that it gets all of the tutorials out of the way in this one stage... as it should be. There's no need for games to baby the player in the actual game when they can just put a separate training stage in. I wish more modern games got this.

This is new. "All-range mode" lets you fly anywhere you want within a given area. Rather than consist exclusively of rail levels, this game takes full advantage of the N64 processor.

Also, this game features LOTS OF STORY!

Here's the "overworld". Much like the SNES Star Fox, there are three particular paths through this game. However, in this one, you can weave between the paths by meeting certain criteria in the stages. It's one of many improvements this game makes, and overall I need to give this one the edge over its predecessor.

The first level starts off with a bang. I really like the way the water reflects everything above it. Visually, this game was ahead of its time.

There are lots of arches to fly under in the first level, and the last set of arches has a major effect on your path through the game. More on this in a bit.

Wasn't this the first N64 game to make use of the Rumble Pak? Now that was an innovation that we now take for granted. EVERY controller from the year 2000 on had a built-in rumble feature, and we can thank the N64 for that. I still remember how trippy it was to play this game and have the controller shaking throughout. Amazing that such a simple development would add so much to gaming immersiveness.

There are enemies in this game that sure look a hell of a lot like Ground Hunter-Killers from the Terminator series. Unfortunately, I missed getting a screenshot of one of these rare foes...while it was still standing, anyway. Here we see one exploding to bits. Suck it, Skynet!

The first boss from the original Star Fox flies by, clearly battered and defeated, at the end of the first level. This game is almost a remake of the first in a lot of ways, but different enough to be a new game.

The new first boss... is this guy. It's an easy fight, and you have 360 degrees of movement. Back in 1997, this was extremely novel and awesome. Other games had done 360 degree battle arenas before on other systems, but none of them looked this good.

Mission No 1 complete! Not that it's anything brag-worthy. If this game has one fault, it's that it is way too easy. Even the hardest path through the game isn't anywhere near the difficulty of the original Star Fox. However, collecting all of the various medals in this game IS difficult, and that's where the challenge really comes in.

Rewind a bit. Near the end of the first stage, there are a series of stone arches to fly through. Do this correctly, and things progress very differently. The first time I ever played this game, I did this without even knowing what would happen, so this is triggering some flashbacks for me.

New first boss! This is the Attack Carrier from the original game. Really cool to fight it in this game. For reference, here's the SNES version of the boss:

Yep, the N64 was quite the graphical leap.

Victory sends you onward on a different path than what you face if you don't go under the arches. This is effectively the "hard mode" of the game. In any case, back to my original, easy path, where the second stage is the asteroid belt. For this post, I'm playing it cool. Long ago, I beat the game on the hard path, and it's a bit more interesting that way just by virtue of having some difficulty.

Powering up your lasers is paramount in this game. The initial single green laser is very weak, but gather several powerups and you'll have a ROCKIN' DOUBLE BLUE LASER OF DOOM.

Most of the villains in this game are, oddly enough, apes. Between this and Andross bearing a striking resemblance to Cornelius, I can only conclude that this game takes some inspiration from Planet of the Apes. Which might also explain the Corneria name.

In the original Star Fox, this stage had some catchy music and interesting water-based foes. In this game, it's just a battle arena for our heroes to engage in combat with...

...The Star Wolf Team, which is a sort of evil twin version of our heroes with none of their coolness. You know that Wolf himself is evil because he sports an eyepatch.


Two ships fly away from the battle, looking the worse for wear.

It's just as well, though... Falco is the only other member of the crew worth a damn besides Fox, which is probably why he got a shoutout in Bloodhound Gang's "Mope".

 Intermission time. Nintendo Power released a VHS to hype this game (as is tradition). It was nowhere near the hipness of the videos for Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario 64, yet it had all of the campiness. Here it is if you're interested, but it's a lot of G-rated silliness. Also, Mario gets tortured. You'd never see that in a modern hype video. My question is, why are Sony and Sega working together? Clearly Nintendo was hoping that their mostly-young fanbase would have no concept of competition.

Here we see a path divergence. Not sure how I pulled this off. I can choose to either go to Sector X or Solar next. Let's take a look at Sector X.

This level is brimming with loose girders that fly straight for Fox.

The boss here is a huge mech. While I really like the bosses in this game, they seem less inventive - and interesting - than those of the first game. Really liked the Dancing Insector in that game, for instance.

The boss taunts you with "bring it on" gestures. It would have been cooler if it flipped you the bird, but Nintendo is a PG company.

I'm not sure, but is this supposed to be the surface of a sun? Even if it's a dying red star that gives off little heat, it should still disintegrate any ships that get anywhere near it.

Ah hell, forget science, this is awesome. I think the star is about to go nova. As a second-tier stage, this is quite a bit more difficult than the first-tier stages I've been doing.

The boss here is a giant insect and/or the famed "rock lobster" in question from the song "Rock Lobster" by the B-52s.

Macbeth...Titania... I'm getting a distinct Shakespeare vibe from these planet names.

Not only do you pilot the standard Arwing in this game... there are also stages where you pilot this ground tank. It's bad-ass, and it can hover! YEEEAH!

The boss of this level is a train. Gotta say, I really like the sky here.

...well, the REAL boss of the level is this mech that, for some reason, is attached to the train with a kite string. No idea why.

The worst part of dying in this game? Hearing Slippy's high-pitched shriek. Homie is the Jar Jar Binks of the Star Fox universe.

Bolse Defense Outpost is the last area between our heroes and Venom. It's another 360 degree area, and it seems kind of patterned after the Death Star surface.

Venom starts out with some pretty unsettling scenery: a massive air battle, with lasers flying everywhere.

This game is extremely easy, but Venom isn't. Reaching the checkpoint here is quite a relief.

The "boss" here is a running stone man. It's an extremely easy fight, to leave room for the real endgame...

...Andross. The nefarious leader of the apes. While he isn't quite on the level of a Bowser or a Ganon, he's one of Nintendo's better supervillains.

While in the original game you fight a Bishop of Battle inspired polygon face here, in this game you fight... a giant Andross face with disembodied hands. This is bizarre. Is this Andross, or just a giant bio-mechanical ship that looks like him? Where's the rest of his body? How does he go to the bathroom?

Several times in the fight, he opens his mouth and a swarm of Space Bees soar out. That or rocks. I'm not too sure what this is all about.

Andross also attacks with SITH LIGHTNING~!

Defeat him, and he very temporarily changes into this creepy goblin-head form. He'll launch a few attacks, but before long, he explodes. In the highest "difficulty" tier of the game, he'll turn into a disembodied brain at this point and give you a real final battle. I've beaten him in that form as well, in the past, and the main thing I vaguely remember about it is that it was a very drawn-out battle that consisted mostly of me constantly turning around to try and target him.

Falco begrudgingly admits that Fox did well. Falco is like the Vegeta of the Star Fox world.


"It's-a-me, bitches!"

Our heroes do more running, as the sun sets behind them. Why are they in such a hurry? Because they'll miss the victory party. Why their planet would have a victory party without the squad that rescued it is beyond me.

The ending has our heroes walking in on the assembly at... the Star Base, or Starfleet Academy, or somesuch shit. Funny that this game would copy Return of the Jedi, given the lack of inbreeding. To get this joke, read my review of Donkey Kong Country.

"Walk" by Pantera plays as our heroes walk out of the meeting in slow motion.

What does Nintendo's president have to say about 1997's game?


Other noteworthy posts from around the site:


  1. "My question is, why are Sony and Sega working together? Clearly Nintendo was hoping that their mostly-young fanbase would have no concept of competition."

    Haven't you ever heard of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend?"

  2. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-OR3G7NcYVZs/URk6XK7ilgI/AAAAAAAAac8/j5McB_D3WkM/s400/Star+Fox+64+%28U%29+%28V1.0%29+snap0004.jpg

    This is amazing

  3. One of my favorite games. I got all the medals except Sector Z, where you have to knock out a ton of enemies -and- Star Wolf in a quick why I could never figure out. You're right about how hard it is to get all the medals; it makes this a real challenge.

    I'm glad you got to see the train level; it's one of my favorites, as are the water worlds on the hard path. There's another cool exit you can take in the asteroid belt if you go through a bunch of asteroid arcs correctly. Also, Falco is indeed Vegeta. I like the ending sequence in Venom, too.

    A really fun, re-playable, and well-done game. Thanks for posting it.