Time to pull out the SNES.
I got my hands on a copy of StarFox: Assault earlier tonight from Blockbuster. I’ve been through the first three missions, and as an avid StarFox fan, I’m quite disappointed with what I’ve seen so far.
What much of it comes down to is that the control doesn’t feel right. Aiming isn’t as tight, and in general, the game feels slower and less responsive than any previous StarFox shooter. Charged shots have multiple levels of power based on how long you charge, but again waiting for your shot to turn red slows down the pace. Also disorienting is that rather than using both shoulder buttons to bank/roll left or right, you use L in tandem with the control stick to bank/roll and R is used for different functions depending on the vehicle.
There are a few different control modes, but the differences apply to the on-foot missions. The default mode uses A to shoot, holding R to aim, and using the C-stick to change weapons. Dual analog places aiming on the C-stick, shooting on the R trigger, and weapon selection on the A button. The final setting uses R to move forward, with the control stick completely dedicated to aiming. Dual analog seems to be the best one to go with, since it’s easier to shoot and dodge on the run.
The on-foot and Landmaster missions further slow the action down by having you run around maze-like structures, looking for targets that need to be destroyed. You don’t need to worry much about losing your tank, because if it gets blown up, Peppy will just beam down a new one. The tank’s shots are rather slow, making it harder to hit quicker enemies like the ones hunting down your teammates in the skies above.
On-foot, you’ll have access to an assortment of weapons, including machine guns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, and grenades. However, to select a weapon, you have to tediously cycle through your inventory, and then cycle through again to get your blaster back – hardly ideal in the middle of a firefight. Grenades and motion sensor bombs are treated just like guns in this respect and thus turn out to be quite useless additions. Grenades are particularly difficult to aim, always flying farther than you’d expect.
Some have praised the Arwing missions in contrast to the awkward ground controls, but the two missions I’ve seen so far haven’t impressed me. Mission three actually has you jumping in and out of your Arwing frequently. You’ll clear through part of a base only to be alerted that ships are dangerously close. You take them out, and then come back inside to figure out what's left. In open-area space sections, the draw-in issues can be extreme. I found myself hunting the displayed names of Star Wolf ships only to have them suddenly appear and fly past me.
Bosses are decent enough thus far. The two in-flight bosses have patterns of attacks to learn and dodge, similar to major enemies in previous games. A mushroom-like walker you fight in the Landmaster is easy, but different: you have to knock it down and jump on top of it, where a weak point appears when it gets back up.
The final thing that can get under your skin is the voice work. Not only is the acting like a bad Saturday morning cartoon, it has a boxy sound to it, and the critters won’t shut up for more than ten seconds. Music varies between remixes and more orchestral versions of tunes from previous StarFox games so there is some relief on the sound front.
StarFox: Assault is enjoyable enough as a rental; it just doesn’t come close to the SNES or N64 games before it. Definitely try before you buy.