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DS

North America

Star Fox Command

by Jonathan Metts - August 29, 2006, 4:46 pm PDT
Total comments: 21

8.5

Flying around in circles has never been this much fun.

For the newest entry in a series that has fallen on hard times lately, Star Fox Command is not an attempt to recapture the old magic, but rather a bold new game that mixes some nostalgia and core concepts with many new features. Maybe that's why it works so well, even though we old Star Fox fans may still pine for a fresh set of on-rails shooter levels.

Command's biggest new feature is right there in the name: strategy. Each mission is made up of several brief encounters which are initiated by placing your ships in the path of enemy squadrons on the map screen. The touch screen lets you draw convoluted paths through friendly bases and bonus items on your way to the enemy. Adding pressure and, well, strategy to the strategy elements are the limited number of turns, ever-present time limit, and enemy missiles that ignore no-fly zones and cannot be shot down by the Great Fox, your vulnerable base ship. The early maps are pitifully easy, but this feature eventually becomes quite challenging. Often, routes must be carefully drawn and re-drawn to stretch them out far enough so that you can take out all of the enemy bases and missiles in a limited number of turns. The strategy feature is brilliantly executed and turns out to be much more captivating than expected.

Now for some not-so-welcome news: every flying stage in the game, save for one excellent boss battle, takes place in a fully three-dimensional airspace with enemies swarming in all directions. These "all-range" environments were officially introduced in Star Fox 64 and were generally less interesting than the tightly designed, edge-of-your-seat, linear "on-rails" levels that defined the first Star Fox game as a shooter, not a flight sim. But, for the most part,, the all-range levels in Command are bigger and more interesting than those in previous Star Fox games. The varying planet topology rarely matters, but there is still a ton of variety thanks to the massive number of enemy types. There are several different enemy models for each of the game's dozen or so planets, and you may take a few battles or even multiple missions before you'll see everything a planet has to offer. The different enemies are not mere pallet swaps ,but rather distinct creatures and ships of widely varying flight patterns, attack types, and degrees of aggressiveness. When you're playing through the game for the fourth or fifth time and still see new enemies, that's impressive, and it's a major factor in the replay value.

You'll want to play the game numerous times because of the branching story paths. All of the Star Fox games (strike that: all of the GOOD ones) have had multiple paths, but Command eliminates the obscure gameplay requirements and instead asks you to choose the story direction at certain points in the game. The storylines themselves are written well enough but get rather melodramatic, and likely only the most frighteningly hardcore Star Fox fans will get into the plot details. Each choice determines which planet you'll visit next and what mission will be played there, ultimately earning one of the nine endings. It's a bit frustrating in that you can't really tell which path will lead to a desirable ending, but this structure does make it easy to try all the paths, if you just have the patience to keep replaying. Fortunately, even when you have to replay a mission (like the very first one, which occurs before the first branching point), it changes and gets much more challenging each time you beat the game. The strategy map will throw more fog of war, more no-fly zones, and a lot more enemies at you, and that high level of tension is part of the game's appeal. So while the game may seem easy at first, subsequent runs will prove otherwise.

The mandatory touch screen controls for Command actually work very well. The screen acts as the ship's yoke and throttle, while lasers are activated by any face or shoulder button. This setup is much more comfortable than the one needed for games like Metroid Prime: Hunters, because you can easily support the DS with your secondary hand and mash away at the button or D-pad direction of your liking. The rolling maneuver is extremely important in Command, as it both deflects enemy shots and attracts nearby items. The game tells you to scratch side-to-side for this move, but I found it easier to draw a quick circle or ellipse, which feels more natural and still activates the screen locations needed to start the roll. Loops and U-turns have tap icons, while bombs are dragged onto the touch screen map for pin-point decimation. It's a very cool application of this vintage weapon, but it makes some battles way too easy by letting you take out every single enemy at once with a well placed explosive.

Star Fox has never had a strong focus on multiplayer, and while Command continues to offer only basic dogfighting, the introduction of online play means more people are likely to try out this mode. You can't select a ship, choose a level, or set any other options,, so this feature is even more simplistic than the online features in Mario Kart DS and Tetris DS. Nevertheless, it is frantic and usually fun, as players are spawned at the edges of a large environment with power-ups piled into the middle. The initial mad dash for upgrades quickly establishes dominance and rivalry. Drag-and-drop bombs can take out even expert players, but it takes speed and cunning to fly in and collect the spoils, floating stars that determine the winner of the match. Random matching will fill a game quickly, but many players choose to drop out before all three battles of a match are complete. What's worse is that the match ends for everyone if even a single player drops out. Stick to playing with friends and you should have a good time, although the simple design probably won't keep you coming back for months on end. The game also allows for six-player local wireless play from only one game card, which is always a great feature.

This may not sound like a great compliment, but Star Fox Command is easily the best game in its series since Star Fox 64. In fact, it's better than SF64 in some ways, and it also steps into new territory with the strategy elements. Supposedly, Miyamoto asked developer Q-Games to concentrate on all-range missions and get the most out of that type of gameplay. I'd say they succeeded completely in that regard. Let's just hope his next request is for a crazy new on-rails shooter edition of Star Fox.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8.5 9 8 8.5 9 8.5
Graphics
8.5

Environments can look bare, but everything is sharp and colorful. Some of the boss animations are great, and the strategy maps are easy to read if not flashy. Questionable character art and occasional slowdown are minor factors.

Sound
9

In true Nintendo fashion, the soundtrack features plenty of old music as well as new music that fits the series perfectly. It sounds more like Star Fox 64 than the first game. The fantastic sound effects deserve acclaim; try playing a missile stage with no volume. It's not nearly as exciting without the escalating swoosh of your ship barreling through slipstream beacons.

Control
8

After an hour or two, the touch screen controls feel quite natural. Rolling may not always activate quickly enough, but it seems to get better with practice. I fail to see why a traditional layout wasn't included as an option, as the old D-pad and shoulder buttons worked fine in the original SNES game.

Gameplay
8.5

Though lacking in the lush level design of an on-rails shooter, Command supplants its surprisingly varied, engaging all-range flying gameplay with a challenging strategy feature. The multiplayer is no-frills but exciting nonetheless.

Lastability
9

Command gives fair incentive to play through the entire game nine different times, and that adds up to many hours of playing time. Multiplayer is at least worth checking out, and the online function makes that easier for most of us.

Final
8.5

Finally, the Star Fox series is redeemed by a respectable, quite original new game. Command will appeal more to recent fans than those who cut their teeth on the SNES original, but everyone should give it a shot.

Summary

Pros
  • Cornucopia of enemy designs
  • Fun, straightforward online mode
  • Sharp graphics and excellent sound
  • STRATEGERY
Cons
  • Missile chases and base wrecking get tiresome
  • Online dropouts immediately end the game
  • Playing well can still result in a "bad" ending
  • Plays almost nothing like original Star Fox
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

KnowsNothingAugust 29, 2006

My brother got this today and we played some multiplayer. It's a bit lacking in the options department, but it's still fun face-icon-small-smile.gif

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusAugust 29, 2006

I wish Nintendo would've put n an option to use the D-Pad. I sometimes struggle with the touch pad controls. I know the point of the DS is innovation but sometimes you shouldn't mess with a control style that works tried and true. Aside from that complaint I like the change of pace in this Star Fox game and it is cool to actual play some part of what made up the unreleased Star Fox 2.

UltimatePartyBearAugust 30, 2006

I'm glad it turned out well, but after so much damage has been done to the series, I just can't drum up a shred of interest in this game. What's funny is that I'd probably be drooling over it if it weren't named Star Fox.

hudsonhawkAugust 30, 2006

I'm picking this up tonight. I'm excited they moved to the free-flying level design; really, what happened since Starfox 64 is that the free-flying mode games like Rogue Leader and Crimson Skies kind of upped the ante. Rather than trying to do the same they made Starfox Assault into a weak BF1942 clone without online.

I still maintain that Starfox Assault would've been fun with online multiplayer. As it was, it almost destroyed the brand.

Smoke39August 30, 2006

I really can't get excited about this game. The levels sound boring, and the controls sound like a pain.

PopeRealAugust 30, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: PartyBear
I'm glad it turned out well, but after so much damage has been done to the series, I just can't drum up a shred of interest in this game. What's funny is that I'd probably be drooling over it if it weren't named Star Fox.


So what does it matter? I don't get what you are saying. If you like it, you like it. At least try it out. In my opinion the styls controls are smooth as hell.

DAaaMan64August 30, 2006

Funny forum, I really liked Star Fox Assault and Adventures was *ok*, this one is really good.  The only thing I really hate having to do is the missle streaming levels.  The suck.

*EDIT*  WTF WAS I THINKING, THIS GAME BLOWS

Maybe I should buy Assault and Adventures with the Wii being back-compat?

~Carmine M. Red
Kairon@aol.com

SvevanEvan Burchfield, Staff AlumnusAugust 30, 2006

Kairon: you'd have better luck buying a brick and attempting to have fun with it.

Hmmm... am I allowed to break the brick up into pieces?

~Carmine M. Red
Kairon@aol.com

SF Adventures is not poorly made, it's just not fun. SF Assault is both poorly made and not fun.

Smoke39August 30, 2006

I fail to see how you could consider a game that isn't fun to be well made.

IceColdAugust 30, 2006

High production values, technical accomplishments (graphics, AI, physics, on-screen action), etc, etc.. Although I totally agree with you; we shouldn't even care about all that stuff it the game isn't fun..

Karl Castaneda #2August 30, 2006

Think about it this way, Smoke. I can write out a 1000-page report on why College Rule paper is better than Wide Rule and have it be perfectly written with an excellent argument throughout the piece. That doesn't make it interesting to read, though.

Same thing with Star Fox.

UniversalJuanAugust 30, 2006

So what of us that actually very much enjoyed Assult? Are we all just just ocmprised of phail at gaming? I personaly didn't find the on-foot that bad at all and, of course, loved the flight missions. Guess I'm just doomed to like such a mediocre game.

Jamaican Mario ScholarAugust 30, 2006

"...online play...You can't select a ship, choose a level, or set any other options..."

Will they ever stop tarding up their online games?

Smoke39August 30, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: ViewtifulGamer
Think about it this way, Smoke. I can write out a 1000-page report on why College Rule paper is better than Wide Rule and have it be perfectly written with an excellent argument throughout the piece. That doesn't make it interesting to read, though.

Same thing with Star Fox.

That analogy doesn't work. The purpose of a report usually isn't to be an interesting read. I would say a better analogy would be an interesting report full of logical and factual errors. It has it's merrits, but ultimately doesn't server its intended purpose.

UltimatePartyBearAugust 31, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: PopeReal
Quote

Originally posted by: PartyBear
I'm glad it turned out well, but after so much damage has been done to the series, I just can't drum up a shred of interest in this game. What's funny is that I'd probably be drooling over it if it weren't named Star Fox.


So what does it matter? I don't get what you are saying. If you like it, you like it. At least try it out. In my opinion the styls controls are smooth as hell.

I never claimed it was a rational position. I might get it someday when it's available at a high discount. However, after two crap sequels in a row, I am sick and tired of the Star Fox franchise being misapplied, even if the result is actually a good game this time. I got some enjoyment out of Dinosaur Planet a long time ago, but I thought the premise was idiotic, and I've never had any interest in replaying the game. I only paid $14 for Assault, and I consider it the worst gaming related purchase I've ever made. That's coming from someone who spent more than that on Twin Snakes and never got past the first room. I want an old school Star Fox, and until I get it, I'll hold that against any other Star Fox game that comes along.

CalibanAugust 31, 2006

Man I didn't even see this game coming so soon, well it seems I gotta buy yet another DS game.

SvevanEvan Burchfield, Staff AlumnusOctober 16, 2006

YAY I got the best ending in Star Fox!

BOO the endings in Star Fox suck

YAY I've gone to every planet in the game!

BOO all the planets are the same

YAY I've unlocked every playable character!

BOO I still have to play as Slippy

YAY a Star Fox game that isn't the fail!

BOO a Star Fox game that isn't Star Fox

GoldenPhoenixOctober 16, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: Svevan
YAY I got the best ending in Star Fox!

BOO the endings in Star Fox suck

YAY I've gone to every planet in the game!

BOO all the planets are the same

YAY I've unlocked every playable character!

BOO I still have to play as Slippy

YAY a Star Fox game that isn't the fail!

BOO a Star Fox game that isn't Star Fox



Well you got farther than I did, I could never get used to the controls and got overly frustrated face-icon-small-smile.gif.

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Star Fox Command Box Art

Genre Shooter
Developer Q-Games
Players1 - 6
Online1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Star Fox Command
Release Aug 28, 2006
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Star Fox Command
Release Aug 03, 2006
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages

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