I had to write a game critique for DigiPen, I picked this game. I'm no writer, but I thought I'd post it here.
Star Fox Command for Nintendo DS
I have played and completed every Star Fox game in the series, included the unreleased, leaked game, Star Fox 2 for SNES. So that should show that my opinion has some experience behind it before I critique Star Fox Command for the Nintendo DS. This game is amongst my least favourite in the series. It is not that it is a failure of quality, but rather a failure of design. This game contains two modes, the first method is a top down draw your own path (via the DS stylus) turn based strategy game similar to Advance Wars and more primitively, chess. The other method is an all-range mode (fully 3d, a la Star Fox 64) that you encounter when at the end of your turn, it lists all the battles between you and your teammates that are to take place in all-range mode for turns to advance. I am going to analyze the failures in design beginning with each mode as well as look at certain aesthetics such as character dialogue.
Star Fox Command is often considered to have things in common with the unreleased Star Fox 2. I understand this, the top down make your own path system is something that is straight out of Star Fox 2. However, unlike Star Fox 2, every time you get to a new level, you have a new field to draw your path on. Whereas, in Star Fox 2 the player sticks to one map for the entire game. This adds a lot of very good things to Star Fox Command. More precisely, it adds length, a change of scenery, and different strategies depending on positioning of units. However, how they implemented this causes a few gripes. Firstly, when youâ€™re playing a map, the map feels a little disconnected from the rest of the game, due to the simple looking ships, general look of the field and at the end of your turn you can have to go through a stack of battles before continuing actions on the map. If it were possible to enter the battles as you went through a turn rather than at the end of it, I think the map would feel less disconnected. Second, "fog of war" and it's implementation in the game. For example, many things within two turns can sneak out of the fog and destroy "The Great Fox" (Your base), and if it's a missile, it'll destroy The Great Fox instantly. So often what happens is a missile will appear and your on the other side of the map frantically trying to move back and destroy the missile. Then, if you manage to reach that missile, you enter an incredibly unforgiving battle to destroy the missile. In that battle, there are a series of rings that you have to fly through, each ring is required to fly through to not fail the turn, each ring speeds you up, and once you catch up to the missile you have to blow it up with your lasers while continuing through the rings. I find failing at destroying the missile, and as a direct result, losing the level, very frustrating. I think this scenario and other lesser turn ruining failures like it, frustrating enough to put the game down for several days.
All range battles in Star Fox Command change depending on what youâ€™re at battle with. For example, battles against enemy bases are fun; you have to destroy little enemies flying through the level then immediately destroy the very large enemy above the base. Killing the large enemy above the base is very satisfying, reminds me of Independence Day. It's worth noting that you have to fly through rings to get up enough speed to destroy the enemy, and If you miss a ring, you don't just lose, you lose a life! Since it is a rare occurrence, it can be forgiven, but it could be thought through differently.
The biggest failures of battles in Star Fox Command can be noticed within an hour of playing. Firstly, enemies are often small, hard to find, and when you do find them it is difficult to manoeuvre yourself to a position to actually destroy the enemy. You'll have at least 2 of these to kill and an upwards of 5 to kill to complete the battle. I cannot stress enough that because of the maneuverability of your Arwing this is frustrating. It's often a repeated situation to have you flying too fast, then slowing down too much, the having to do a u-turn, then having a piece of the scenery right in your face that you might run into. What only makes this worse, is a rather pressing time limit! It's a scenario that again causes too much frustration. Also note, the time limit results stacks, so the time remaining you have in one battle carries over to the next battle.
I have very little that is negative to say about the dialogue in Star Fox Command, there's a lot of it, and the story can keep you playing. I enjoyed this because I liked the Star Fox characters and teams, I was glad to see them all mingle and mesh together even if they were past enemies. The only complaint I can come up with is the slightly corny dialogue usually instigated by Fox over his ex-girlfriend Krystal. Since love stories are not usually a factor in Star Fox games, going into it this deep may not have a place in Star Fox at all.
Aesthetically, Star Fox Command has fair visuals. Your ships in battle are good looking and it's fun seeing the differences between the ships. However, the visuals falls short of grabbing the player. The maps and the battles that occur on the maps feel like they have very little to do with each other. The battle environments are bland, they lack any scenery that makes me feel like I'm somewhere interesting. The battle environments also suffer from fog. Plus, almost all of the enemies you fight in a battle feel like they have no personality. The strategy to kill the enemy might change, but you have no interest in destroying it except for you are required to do so. It would be better if they had something that resembled a face or arms outside of tentacles.
This game had potential, I think Star Fox 2's greatness proves that, but like the last two outings of Star Fox, it's time the series looked over its roots. This game has its moments, but things like time limits, fog of war, bad maneuverability, instant death, and flying through rings all in combination cause too much white knuckled game play. Plus, as features go, those things don't even lend themselves well to fun.
5 Rainbow Bunchies out of 10.