By Sarumarine 11 Comments
Normally I use Past Expiration to talk about lesser known games from way back that people have little to no chance of ever finding much less playing through again. But today I'm going to cover a game that doesn't need any extra exposure. I'm talking about Star Fox 64 because... I really like Star Fox 64. I think it's a fantastic game. Topical!
Star Fox 64 (Animals locked in Space Combat: The Game) It really doesn't need an introduction mostly because of internet memes about barrel rolls or a space wolf not letting you do things... but I'm going to do it just to be on the safe side.
Star Fox 64 is (for the most part) a rail shooter where you fly an advanced space fighter called the Arwing and shoot down tons of enemies that swarm the screen. The Nintendo spin on this game is that the major cast is a bunch of anthropomorphic animals. You play as Fox McCloud (who is a fox) and lead the Star Fox Team (a gang of other animal mercenaries) to defend the planet Corneria against the evil forces of Andross (who is an ape). The story is good enough to get things rolling, but it's no Shakespeare even if it does have a weird reference to a Shakespeare play. Now, this game is a sequel to the Star Fox game on the Super Nintendo, but you don't have to play it to enjoy this one.
On a more historical note, Star Fox 64 also came packaged with the Rumble Pak. This used force feedback to shake the controller when an explosion went off, your ship crashed into something, or a massive boss rolled past. I didn't think much of it at the time. It was entertaining sure, but kind of a gimmick. Now, try to find a controller today that doesn't rumble when you fire a gun or toss grenades. Or at least a game that doesn't make some use of the controller rumbling in your hand. I couldn't imagine that it would be so widespread as it is today.
| Awhile ago I mentioned it was a rail shooter and put "for the most part" in parenthesis. While the majority of the game has you flying down a corridor shooting at things, there are a few moments when you can break out in free flight. The game calls this "All Range Mode" complete with a short cutscene and a demonstration of Fox's voice acting. This was somewhat of a bullet point for this game, but people who regularly put in time with flight sims on the PC probably weren't impressed. Even still, the ability to fly wherever you want (in a conveniently box shaped zone) added some opportunities for dogfighting. This was especially true with the Star Wolf Team who acted as direct rivals to the main characters. They were pretty good at showing up, dropping a bunch of one liners, and teaching you how to pull off a U-Turn or a 360 flip by shooting you in the ass.|
Now only a few areas in the game made use of all range mode, so it never got old or unwelcome. At the same time, some of the worst levels in the game are entirely all range mode... Like Sector Z. So there's that too.
While blowing through levels collecting power ups and saving your incompetent wingmen over and over again is fine, my favorite part of this game has to be the boss battles. The Nintendo 64 is not the most advanced piece of gaming machinery to ever grace the planet, but they still came up with some memorable fights and crazy enemy designs. For example, there's one boss called Mechbeth you fight in a tank that looks like a giant robotic kite anchored to a train. Why? The player's guide has an explanation for that, but it's pretty weird all the same. There's also the most bizarre submarine I've ever seen, known as the Sarumarine. It's one of my favorite boss fights ever because you're encouraged to abuse the hell out of the game's screen clearing smart bomb. And the captain talks like a pirate too. Other bosses include a fist fighting robot, an Independence Day knock off, a giant clam, the world's most cowardly golem, and a smug ass jerk who pilots a meteor crusher. Any route you took, you were bound to run into something that was fun to shoot to death.
This brings me to one of my favorite parts about early Star Fox games. Route select. In the Super Nintendo version you simply picked which way you wanted to go, which was more of an "easy, medium or hard" selection. Star Fox 64 upped the ante by hiding most of the alternate routes. You had to pull off some feats in order to take a detour to other planets in the Lylat System. Sometimes they were pretty obscure, like saving Falco in the first level and flying under a bunch of rock arches. Other times they made more sense like stopping a doomsday weapon from obliterating an allied base, or crashing an enemy supply train. Either way, there was a ton of replay value going back through the game and trying to find the routes. Of course when this game came out I didn't have the patience for it. Which is why I convinced my parents to buy the Star Fox 64 Official Player's Guide.
| To give you some perspective, this was back before I knew how to use the internet to its fullest potential. I can't even remember if I knew GameFAQs existed. Cheat Code Central? Anyway. I really wanted to go to places like Sector Y, Aquas, and Zoness. I could save Falco but how was I supposed to know about flying under some stupid rock arches? |
Besides telling you how to go everywhere and kill everything, it also had some extra material in the form of stupid Star Fox 64 lore. Stuff like planetary data (which I'm extremely curious if they did scientific research or just made it all up), information behind bosses and trivia about the enemies you shoot down. It's got some great pictures. It also tells you the names of all the bosses. And it's from Nintendo so it must be legit, right?
| One of the reasons I bother mentioning the Star Fox 64 players guide is my username. It's so obscure that I usually always get it (like when I came to Giant Bomb). Considering how much fun it is to kill the Sarumarine in the game and how crazy that sub design is, I just went with it.|
Always a good sign when people think Lord of the Rings because of the "saru" part. I've heard that saru means monkey in Japanese, so it must be a weird portmanteau of monkey and submarine. But I don't know that for sure. Either way, this is probably more than you ever wanted to hear about the name Sarumarine.
One of the last things I'll mention before wrapping this up is the short, but effective voice acting included in the game. They're soundbites compared to the monologues you can find in games these days. I used to have a link to a database of all the lines from Star Fox 64. My favorites included the train driver from Macbeth and the Area 6 commander. You can probably look through YouTube if you absolutely have to hear it. I think it stands up. It's not outstanding, but it does its job. The only exception would be Slippy's voice which is absolutely terrible. The sound quality is probably terrible compared to today's standards. But show me another game where a boss gets so fed up with fighting you he calls your entire team "cocky little freaks!"
Now that I've got this out of my system, I'll leave you with this.