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Developer:
Nintendo
Publisher: Namco
Platform: GameCube
Release Date: February 15, 2005

by Ryan Summerlin




Fox McCloud has finally put away the “magic stick”.


StarFox 64 was inarguably one of the N64's benchmark titles; with its furry, colorful characters, witty dialogue, and endless swarms of enemy spacecraft in your starfighter’s sights to keep your twitchy trigger-thumb busy. Diehard fans of the game begged for a sequel, but what they got was a Rare-developed adventure that forced Fox into a world of sorcery and talking dinosaurs. Years later, Nintendo handed the StarFox franchise over to Namco, and the result was exactly what hardcore fans have been waiting for. Look out, galactic bad guys. Fox is back.


StarFox: Assault draws heavily on the original StarFox 64, while introducing a completely new tactic: the ability to park your Arwing starfighter and duke it out with the adversary on the ground. The game’s 10 missions each have a unique objective: sometimes you’ll be stuck in the cockpit, others are entirely ground-based, more often you’ll have to cover your assets both on and over the battlefield. Space missions follow SF64's style of gameplay very closely; in fact, the scoring system and the way your aircraft handles are actually improvements on the original. You’ve probably heard the most hype, however, about the game’s on-foot missions.


On-foot, Fox begins with a standard-issue blaster. Not too impressive, but you’ll quickly pick up bigger and badder weapons as you defeat baddies and explore the battlefield, which is good, as the biggest enemy vehicles require some serious knock-down power to destroy. At times, you’ll even get to hop in a Landmaster tank and really take care of business, knocking over behemoth walkers and mowing right over small-fry foes. Most of the areas you explore during your missions are also available (or unlockable) in the game’s multiplayer Vs. Mode, which pits you against up to three other pilots with the vehicles, weapons, and characters of your choice.


The story is a bit clichéd (body-snatching aliens invading your galaxy), but it moves along quickly and ties in well with the back-stories of its predecessors. Missions also move at a fairly quick clip, though in ground missions you’ll have to keep one eye on the radar or you’ll wind up wandering around like a lost puppy. The visuals and music are top-notch. Much of the music is remixed from SF64, serving to thicken the StarFox experience for long-time fans.


One hang-up I have so far is the game’s ground controls (controls for aircraft are always the same regardless of your control setup). Assault offers three types of control schemes that let you choose your preferred Y-axis orientation (reversed or not reversed). You can’t change control set-ups mid-game, however. For instance, the Dual Stick scheme (which is most natural if you’re a fan of Halo 2 or other FPS titles) works best when you’re on foot, but makes it very difficult to drive and maneuver a tank. In the end, the default Single-Stick control scheme is probably your best choice overall, and I recommend it for first-time Assault players. On a side note, I also bemoan the lack of space-exclusive missions: Namco seems biased towards the on-foot battles and keeps you on the ground.


Overall, the game is a satisfying and enjoyable experience, a must-have for GameCube owners and hardcore fans who crave the kind of bang-bang shoot-‘em-up action that made SF64 a classic.


Final Grade: 80%




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