Posted on October 09 2017 by Andy Spiteri
It’s often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
If that’s true, then one would probably think that Nintendo felt very flattered by their second party partner Rareware during the mid- to late-nineties. Particularly during Rare’s fruitful run on the Nintendo 64, when they seemed to be firing on all cylinders, did it seem that the British developer got assists from Nintendo in developing their games. Banjo Kazooie and Conker both borrowed the game engine that Nintendo had developed for Super Mario 64 and put it to good use; Rare aped Mario Kart 64’s game engine to make up the amazing Diddy Kong Racing (get it? APED?); and Donkey Kong 64 seemed to draw as much inspiration from Mario’s 3D adventure as it did from Rare’s own Donkey Kong Country series.
Don’t take this as a knock against Rare – there’s also an old saying about how if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and all the games mentioned above were awesome. And we all know that Rare created a few truly unique gems all on their own during the N64 era – Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, and Jet Force Gemini come to mind – but they did borrow at liberty from their legendary game publishing partner.
So it only made sense that eventually Rare would come around to borrowing the groundbreaking game engine of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Most of us know the story of Nintendo and Rare’s bad breakup. Rare was looking to sell its remaining shares to a parent company, but Nintendo was unwilling to pay what Rare wanted. Believing (rightly or wrongly) that since they had contributed so much to the Nintendo 64’s success that they should be rewarded for the value they brought, Rare decided to shop their goods around elsewhere. Hello Microsoft, so long Nintendo. In hindsight, it doesn’t seem like a bad move to let Rare go, but at the time it was viewed as a catastrophic loss for Nintendo. There went Nintendo’s biggest ally against the rising PlayStation and newcomer Xbox, an ally that carried Nintendo on its back at times, over to the enemies side.
All those awesome GameCube games we were looking forward to playing by Rare left with them as well. Suddenly, games like Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo were now Xbox exclusives, while other games like Donkey Kong Racing and Diddy Kong Pilot were just canceled.
But thankfully, one game survived the breakup, and double thankfully, if was the game running on Zelda’s game engine. It was Star Fox Adventures.
Fox McCloud took a long and winding road to get to the GameCube. Originally, Adventures was another title entirely on a different system. Dinosaur Planet was intended to be Rare’s swan song for the N64 before being moved over into the GameCube. Apparently upon looking at the game, top Nintendo brass “suggested” that the team add Fox and company to the title, because apparently when you think of a platforming adventure set on a Jurassic planet, you think of Star Fox, but hey. Either way, Star Fox Adventures was here.
To anyone that had played either Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, this game felt intimately familiar. Fox may have stepped out of the cockpit, but damned if he could jump unless he ran off an edge somewhere. Adventures had a day and night system just like Ocarina of Time, as well as context sensitive button controls. Even the progression was a lot like Zelda’s – as Fox ventures deeper into the Dinosaur Planet, he must restore the planets energy at different temples to prevent the planet from breaking up.
In another homage to a long and storied Zelda tradition, Fox even gets his own companion during this game. Yessir; say goodbye to Slippy and hello to Tricky! Prince Tricky of the EarthWalker Tribe is a little triceratops with a whole lot of sass. In also following with the proud Zelda companion tradition, Tricky can be somewhat of a pain in the ass at times, but ultimately proves his worth by helping you defeat the diabolical General Scales of the SharpClaw Tribe.
Sprinkled in between all the action on the ground were gloriously fun but depressingly short sequences of Arwing action, giving fans some vintage Star Fox. I’ll admit, in some instances these sequences felt tacked on, but who didn’t cheer when the final battle came and the evil Andross reared his ugly, ugly head only to have
Revali Falco come soaring in with his trash talk and help you save the day?
I look back on Star Fox Adventures fondly. It seems by listening to most other longtime Nintendo fans though that I’m in the minority. To be fair, it is hard to separate this game from the bitter taste of Rare and Nintendo’s breakup, but that’s not really Fox’s fault. Adventures definitely has it’s flaws, flaws that are quite typical of Rare games – boring collect-a-thon quests, horrible voice acting (except Fox himself actually, he was pretty good), and the aforementioned Arwing segments kind of ruining the feng shui of everything – but Adventures offers up a solid game with amazing visuals and a cool, dinosaur filled planet to explore.
I feel like most of the people who rag on this game probably just didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t a Star Fox 64 sequel and felt it was weird having Fox be on the ground. I wouldn’t say they’re wrong, but when you look at it, the Star Fox games have a pretty spotty history – Assault and Zero were met with less than favorable reviews, and Command and the original Star Fox were decent enough, but I don’t think anyone would call them amazing. I thought it was cool that instead of chasing the dragon that is Star Fox 64 again, Nintendo chose to do something different and creative with the Star Fox franchise.
Star Fox Adventures is probably my favorite Zelda game that’s not a Zelda game. All the classic bits of Ocarina of Time are there, just sprinkled with that Rareware flavor. If you’re a Zelda fan and you’ve never played Adventures, do yourself a favor: go and find it. Who knows, maybe Nintendo will get their act together eventually and release a Virtual Console on the Switch and you’ll be able to grab it there. But trust me when I say that it’s definitely an adventure worth taking for any Zelda fan.