Snaaaaaaake! I mean, Fooooooooooox!
Namco’s Star Fox is much improved over last year’s showing. The E3 demo had three modes available: an arwing mission, a land-based mission and versus mode. And while the graphics are still sub-par, the gameplay is very good.
The most outstanding mode was the arwing mission, which was highly reminiscent of the second-to-last level in Star Fox 64, where Fox and his team infiltrated Andross’s Armada. The mission starts of innocently enough with Slippy getting bogies on his tail, but it slowly gets more and more intense as you battle swarms of ships, large and small. This level was fairly short, but it was clear this game is a true Star Fox game. You can charge up an lock on to enemies by holding A, perform tricks with the C-stick, roll with the L button, and brake and boost with the face buttons.
The land-based mission took place in an improved version of last year’s battle arena. Fox starts off on foot, shooting down enemies with his blaster until he gets better weapons. For the land-based missions, there are two control schemes: single-stick and dual-stick. In single-stick mode, you run with the main stick, aim by holding down R, and fire with A. In dual-stick mode, you aim with the C-sick (you can aim while running), and shoot with the R button. You can also jump with Y. With some weapons you can zoom with the X and Y buttons, and charge up/lock on with A. Some of the cooler weapons included a bazooka and sniper rifle.
Early in the level you get a land rover tank. This also has both dual-stick and single-stick controls similar to on-foot controls—L rolls and X hovers. The main objective was to destroy scattered targets, many of them hidden in buildings or corners. The tank can destroy some walls, but is less maneuverable than Fox on foot. The boss is a land-walker that shoots green missles. Using the tank, you must shoot the underbelly of the walker to bring him down to the floor and then hover on top of him. You must shoot the core while avoiding land mines-like attacks without falling off.
The versus mode has many more levels than before, and there are power-ups, but overall it feels too much like Star Fox 64. The game encourages camping: when on foot you can be virtually indestructible. Machine battle takes out the on-foot action—you spawn in arwings and tanks instead. One space battle arena only supported arwings, much like Sector Z in Star Fox 64.
I should also mention that the characters talked before and during missions, and they were downright horrible. Fortunately, I’ve been told the voice work was done quickly by NOA Treehouse members and is temporary.
The game looks ugly, but at least it is Star Fox, and it is most certainly fun. Anyone up for a straight-up shooter who can manage a few land-based missions will not be disappointed.