When animals attack.
Some franchises age like fine wine, getting better with each title that comes out. Other franchises, like Star Fox, age more like cheese. While Star Fox Adventures didn’t exactly stink, it did smell strangely of Zelda’s socks. So after three years of development, we hoped the hounds at Nintendo could pick up a scent and lead us back to what made Star Fox great in the first place. Instead, they turned our favorite Fox over to Namco, who promptly gassed and stuffed it.
Star Fox: Assault picks up several years after the conclusion of its predecessor. The armies of Andross have been beaten down, but a new enemy has surfaced. After a few too many beers and a Star Trek Marathon, the game’s writers came up with the fearsome aparoids, a mechanical collective that assimilates everything in its path! Resistance is futile! Well, unless you’re a frog, a bird and a pair of foxes.
To prevent the aparoids from turning Corneria and all its inhabitants into mechanical monsters, you’ll fight the enemy from three different perspectives. In the Arwing, you’ll cut down numerous enemies from the skies including battleships and larger than life bosses. The Arwing glides along on a rail, and you shoot everything bad that flies by while spinning and loop-de-looping out of harm’s way. In short, nothing has changed since the N64 version, even though that came out eight years ago.
You’ll also play through a few missions on foot, blasting enemies and picking up extra weapons like a machine gun and homing launcher along the way. There are plenty of bad guys and bosses to shoot down, but any sense of catharsis is spoiled by Fox’s generally clunky, unappealing control scheme.
If heroes gang up on him, Fox can jump in the Landmaster. But for all its ability to hover, roll and dodge, the dumb thing has trouble simply moving. It also turns slowly, making for some frustrating encounters with a few of the game’s ramps.
So running around on foot and in the tank isn’t much fun, but that’s just two-thirds of the game, right? In fact, you can actually jump into the Arwing and rescue your fighter-pilot comrades from getting shot down at various points during the land-based missions. But the fact that such chores can be avoided, temporarily, still doesn’t excuse their poor execution. For a game whose predecessor took place entirely on the ground, Star Fox: Assault is very disappointing.
It looks pretty good, though. The groundside combat will take you everywhere from futuristic cityscapes to the jungles of Sauria, although the textures here tend to get a little rough. In space, on the other hand, you’ll swoop around and zap fighters while humongous battleships drift by like whales and remember that once upon a time, this was what Star Fox was really about.
Meanwhile, the silly voice acting and retarded dialogue remind us that there wasn’t actually much to Star Fox in the first place. The music doesn’t help, and most of it sounds recycled.
Even with a lame story and uninspired gameplay, the biggest problem with Star Fox: Assault is the fact that the main portion of the game lasts only five hours. Five hours! Sure, you can unlock an ancient arcade game called Xevious if you collect some badges, but no one should be paying fifty-bucks for five hours of Star Fox: Assault and ten hours of Xevious! And no, there is no branching mission structure like the one found in Star Fox 64.
Survival mode is unlocked when you beat the game, and it is identical to the regular campaign minus the ability to save during missions. What a bonus! The Multiplayer component provides a little 2 on 2 and deathmatch action, which gets boring quickly due to the ground-game’s lack of polish, and the fact that the Arwing play is straight off of the N64.
Star Fox: Assault doesn’t do anything to improve the series, and it’s criminally short. The good stuff has changed little in eight years, and the new stuff is just not much fun. From a value perspective, you’re dealing with a feature-film’s worth of content for fifty bucks. Independently wealthy, rabid fanboys might want to check it out, otherwise we’d leave this fox to the dogs.