Starfox has always been one of the pillars of Nintendo, mainly due to its no holds barred, fast paced and fun rail shooting flight mechanics. That, coupled with one of the best stories ever written for a game in Starfox 64, and some of the tightest controls ever developed has skyrocketed the series to stardom. So when it was time to make a “proper” Starfox game after the underrated Starfox Adventures, Nintendo rolled out Starfox Assault, which is a decent, but flawed entry into the series that goes back to the roots, and tries to expand the scope of the world with a new story and gameplay mechanics.
Starfox has always been about its gameplay and the story that follow, and unfortunately in Assault, the new gameplay mechanics do not mesh cohesively, primarily because Nintendo decided to throw in everything they could this time around. While we get some good throwback levels, the aforementioned fixed range flying sequences and the innovative “all range mode” sequences, they are meshed in with ground assault missions and tank missions which really pale in comparison to the rail sequences. These missions have fox running around on the ground, trying to capture checkpoints or defeat certain bosses while fighting ground troops whose only mode of attack is to swarm you from every direction.
These ground levels are all similar in their structure, and you lose a lot of the variances from the rail missions, because there the levels may be similar lengths or difficulties, but they were varied thanks to the changing terrain of whatever planet or system you happened to be at. Here, the tight controls loosen up, the enemy A.I weakens severely, and the fun the game usually creates dissipates instantly. Fortunately some missions give you the option to switch between the vehicles at will, which adds some degree of control on how to fight the enemies in the game. But the emphasis on the ground combat over the flight combat is what really hurts the game.
What compounds this is the fact that the story is now your standard Sci-Fi fare. There is a new enemy that is basically the Borg from Star Trek, taking over any living and non-living organisms they come across, and it is up to the Starfox team to take them down. The story follows this entire arc to the t, right down to the surprise “sacrificial” moves some characters do to give the heroes a fighting chance in some levels, and the combined forces of former enemies to take down a larger threat. It has great moments with some great drama, but the story is so clichéd that it is kind of disappointing, especially after the good jobs done on both Starfox 64 and Adventures.
The games multiplayer is at least still fun to play. Split screen multiplayer is now a day’s very rare, but the hectic firefights in both cockpits and in tanks make Starfox a fun game to play with three friends. Throw in some of those weak assault missions and you got yourself a complete package for your group of friends, and while it is clear that in this day and age split screen is obsolete, it is still fun as hell to participate in.
The graphics and sound are on par like usual, featuring crisp and colorful environments and grant the illusion of space and quirky characters that we either love or hate, from Fox himself the cool character of Falco to the annoying character of Slippy. The voice acting is decent, with the title characters being the only ones that stand out in the end, and the sound effects and orchestral score are all classic Starfox, creating a feeling that echo’s epics like Star Wars every time you hear it game or in the background.
Overall, Starfox Assault is a fun game, but also a forgettable one. I doubt we will ever reach the pinnacle that was Starfox 64 again in the series, but thanks to a weak plot, poor level design for the ground missions, the loose ground mission controls, and redundant objectives, Starfox Assault is best left as the forgettable chapter of the series.
Final Score- C+