Star Fox 64 is the type of game to play when you’re up late at night on Christmas Eve, soooo incredibly excited about the new games that you’ll be unwrapping on the following morn’ that you can’t fall asleep, even after downing several glasses of warm milk. Or at least, such has been proven by personal experience. It can be completed with relative ease within a relatively short amount of time, which means no long-term commitment for those gamers averse to the seventeen billion hours of playtime involved with many modern-day titles. You’re Fox McCloud, son of famed pilot James McCloud, and you along with Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad, Falco Lombardi and ROB64 are hired by the Cornerian army to defeat maniacal scientist and galaxy-lord-to-be Andross. This is accomplished via flying around shooting lots of little stuff, along with some bigger stuff.
Essentially, Star Fox 64 is a game of flying and shooting, except for the few levels where your signature Arwing is replaced by a tank or a submarine; in those cases, the game is all about driving or submarining and shooting. A typical run through the game will take you through seven of the game’s fifteen main levels. Of these there are three general paths you can take (easy, medium, and hard), with the path you follow depending upon your completion of the level’s various objectives. You can stray from path to path, but the way to fight the best of the boss’s multiple forms and see the best of the minutely different multiple endings is to take the most difficult path all the way through.
Visually, the game is nothing to write home about. It’s your standard 64-bit fare, which was impressive in 1997 but now has nothing particularly better or worse than other games for its console. One point that does stick out is the characters’ facial animations—when your teammates (and sometimes enemies) try to communicate with you, instead of their mouths moving in a manner expected of mutant frogs and rabbits, they kick it into overdrive and seem almost to be convulsing instead of whining at you to get the baddies off their tail.
The musical score of Star Fox 64 totally reeks of importance, a grand orchestra making the game seem larger than it deserves to be. The audio effects sound straight out of Star Wars or any other space-centered sci-fi flick. The game’s voice acting is a nice touch, except after about the fourth or so level when you grow weary of hearing the phrase, “Hey Einstein, I’m on your side!” Some variety in the dialogue would have helped immensely. The voices themselves sound scratchy, as they would through a radio system—except that they continue to do so when the characters aren’t actually speaking through one.
Star Fox 64 features a control scheme that can be all but mastered within a level or two of play. Early on, it’s easy to confuse the button for your limited bombs with the button for your unlimited lasers, but that problem will disappear after you’ve wasted all of your explosives. Interesting to note, Star Fox 64 was the first game to make use of the N64’s Rumble Pak (which was packaged with the game), but as gamers quickly found out, the vibrating sensations were not nearly worth the excessive weight the Pak added to your controller.
Star Fox 64 is an all-around good game. Easy to learn, master, and complete, and it’s enough fun that you’ll want to do so. The title also sports a spiffy multiplayer mode, in which you can either compete with a friend to see who can kill the most NPC’s, or just shoot the hell outta each other. The game’s only downfall is that it’s just too easy, and doesn’t have much in the way of varied gameplay. And what it does have in the way of varied gameplay (sub, tank) is pretty crappy. But Star Fox 64 is a fun game, no question—just don’t get too excited about it.