marino's Star Fox Assault (GameCube) review

Heartbreaking Disappointment

Let me preface this review by saying that Star Fox is one of my all-time favorite franchises.  I remember getting the original for my 12th birthday.  I remember running right for it at my first E3 in 1997.  And I remember waiting at my local game store for 2 hours a couple weeks later for it to show up.  With all of that said, Star Fox Assault hurts.  It had the potential to be so much, but it is a disappointment to say the least. 
 
The game starts off feeling like it's predecessors and tries to lead you to believe that you are on a mission to stop Andross once again.  Honestly, I would've liked that rehashed story better.  The story quickly shifts to focusing on an invading alien race known as Aparoids.  Namco tried to mix things up a bit by adding more land missions, both in the Landmaster tank and on foot, which is a good idea in theory, but it just doesn't work.  People want their rail shooter.  Everything about Assault feels uninspired. 
 
 
Graphics 
The flying missions are good, but once you get on the ground, the textures start to not look as sharp and the game is less than spectacular to say the least.  The animations are good, and the special effects are done well too.  The overall lack of anything actually new hurts though.  Absolutely nothing in Assault is going to wow you. 
 
 
Control 
Once again, the flight missions are done quite well.  The controls feel virtually the same as before, but now the C-stick is utilized for special maneuvers such as loops and U-turns.  The only problem with that is that not once in the game do you feel it is even remotely necessary to do any of those moves.  In the original and on 64, the game had you darting all over the screen trying to avoid attacks, pick up rare items, looping through hoops, etc.  It made the game exciting.  Assault doesn't offer that.  To make matters worse, the ground portions are less than average.  The control scheme on the ground is more like a FPS...a poorly designed FPS.  You pick up several special weapons like sniper rifles and bazookas, but it doesn't make much difference what you use in most situations.  The Landmaster tank controls like complete crap compared to past games.  The decision to change the control scheme from one vehicle to the next is absurd, especially when you're jumping between them on several levels.  The game now uses a combo system to rank your performance, so every time you kill something, the short timer resets.  Keep killing stuff to keep the combo going.  This is a change from past games as the charge shot was the best way to rack up points.  The charge shot in Assault is rendered almost completely useless due to the fact that the blast radius is so small.  You're better off just spamming the A button rather than trying to lock on to anything.  Again, it's just uninspired, and almost sloppy.   
 
 
Sound 
Overall, just plain weak.  The music is nice, as the original theme seems to have been reworked a bit, much like other Nintendo sequels.  But the voice acting is downright bad.  What hurts the voice acting most is the ridiculous story line.  It's hokey beyond comprehension.  The sound effects are also dull for the most part.   
 
 
Replay Value 
The game offers three difficulty settings and also sets goals for each level to earn medals.  But on the first play through, I beat the game in just under four hours.  FOUR!  Hello?  I waited 8 years for a real Star Fox game and I get 4 hours?  Multiplayer is also available but it's just deathmatches.  When the credits rolled I wasn't sure if I should be disappointed that the game wasn't longer or happy that the experience relieved me earlier than expected.  But wait, there's an unlockable version of Xevious.  Xevious?  Who gives a fuck about Xevious?  How about an unlockable version of the original Star Fox
 
 
Conclusion 
The strictly flying missions are still fun, and will make any Star Fox fan simply beg for more, but more than half the game takes place on the ground.  As I said before, the game is just disappointing in every aspect.  I can't help but think of how incredible Crimson Skies was and is, and how Star Fox couldn't build upon those ideas and created something spectacular, but Namco didn't even come close.  You'd think after two years of development you'd get a game longer than 4 hours even if it was bad.  I only hope this poor outing doesn't signal the end of the franchise and that we won't be waiting another 8 years for a follow-up. 
 
 
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***
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