Afternoon Quickie: Star Fox Assault (Gamecube)

I have many pleasant memories of Star Fox games, but said memories seem to end immediately after Star Fox 64. Crazy thing is, that’s only two games and there have been a chunk of titles since then, but they’ve all flown right under my radar. I ended up with them in my possession after a buddy of mine kindly donated his collection – but only recently checked them out! Those two games of course are Star Fox Adventures, and Star Fox Assault.

A few months back I popped in Star Fox Adventures, and wasn’t really gripped at all. The weird switch to 3D platforming took me by surprise and eventually other games took priority. I never returned to it. Then, for some reason I decided I wanted to play a space shooting game, and naturally Star Fox came to mind – so I popped Star Fox Assault into my Rectangular Gamecube (better known as the Wii), and got going. What took place could only be described as “replaying childhood memories – in HD.”

Starfox Assault has the same style and flow as its space-based predecessors. You begin each mission with a briefing with your sassy superiors, before getting a motivational kick out the door to get to work.

The chemistry is just palpable!

The mission stages are broken out into different sub-missions, with your fellow anthropomorphic crew yelling out instruction, requesting assistance, the typical Star Fox fare.

Gameplay is divided up between vehicles; the Arwing which you’re no doubt familiar with, the Landmaster, a hovering, barrel-rolling tank that’s a blast to party with, and what I could only describe as the least expected, is Cloud on foot. Yes, Star Fox Assault like to spontaneously jump between a dogfighting simulator, a tank battler, and a third-person shooter. Impressively, it does a terrific job at all three.

Surprisingly enough, playing as Cloud on foot is actually really fun. The controls feel pretty tight; tight enough in fact that even using the Sniper Rifle feels great. Sniper rifles in third-person shooter control schemes like in Star Fox Assault can often feel clunky and awkward, but you get used to it pretty quickly. This is a great thing, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time on foot in this game.

Fox’s arsenal is typical for the Landmaster and the Arwing – you have your bombs, you have your regular attacks, and your defensive maneuvers like breaking and boosting. But a really neat addition to Assault is that you can land the freaken Arwing, hop in a tank, blow up some bad guys, hop out of the tank, run into a building and eliminate the aliens, run back out, hop in your plane, save Slippy (who is ALWAYS on the brink of being murdered by somebody, the damsel in distress that he is), bail out of the Arwing, land back in the tank, blow up some more bad guys, etc. It’s pure chaos and it’s so much fun.

It takes a bit to master the controls, but once you do, you are a death machine in this thing.

There is a mission (the sixth mission, named “Sauria: Reunion” in which Cloud & Co. are sent to the dinosaur planet of Sauria. The mission is simple – the dinosaurs are under attack and it’s your job to save them, like ya do. The idea is to keep the area under control by preventing a “Might Meter” from filling up. You need to continuously “cull the herd” by taking out enemies in the sky and on the ground. You also need to take out creatures called Aparoids, specifically their hatchers. Overall, it’s a very chaotic mission that involves Cloud-on-foot, tanks, and Arwing goodness. This definitely shines as one of my favorite missions.

Let's Play Star Fox Assault #6 - "This is my friend, Fox McCloud ...
Pay attention to the radar on the bottom right – there are enemies everywhere.

For my first (and probably final) playthrough of the game, I actually had quite a bit of trouble in the first two or three levels figuring out where the heck to go. Sure they’re yelling instructions at you, but the radar isn’t very descriptive as to what you’re supposed to be doing. Of course, the goal of a radar is to tell you where to go, so I can’t fault it for that, but some of the mission instructions being shouted to you are pretty vague. I found myself saying out loud, “ok, I went where I’m supposed to go, but what am I supposed to do here?” Eventually I figured it out, but I’d estimate 20% of my gameplay time was spent wandering around aimlessly, killing monsters as they respawned.

That’s a pretty mild complaint though, as the gun-play, tank-play, and Arwing…play (?) are really fun, and exploring yields some sort of reward in most cases, be it a health boost or some new weapons and ammo.

One type of mission that felt a little absent were the sections where Cloud is flying through a tunnel and must maneuver his Arwing properly to avoid obstacles. These levels were fairly common in the earlier Star Fox games from what I recall, although admittedly that could be due to the memory available in the system, and the polygonal nature of the game made it easier to make a few technical tunnels than pack another level full of bad guys. I assume.

Star Fox Assault was a solid 6-7 hour journey back to my childhood, enhanced to look like what I remember Star Fox looking like. While I’ve attempted to go back and play the original Star Fox on the SNES Online app, it’s been tough for me to get into. While I’m a sucker for nostalgia, the twelfth time I explode, I get a little agitated. Must be age chipping away at this title was exactly what I needed, and if you want a fun journey back to simpler days, check out Star Fox Assault.

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