Star Fox has caught a lot of flak from gamers over the recent years, for very little good reason, besides the derivative Star Fox Adventures, also on the Gamecube, which was negatively received. But Assault is different; it has the same rail-based 3D shooting that the series is famous for, along with several other modes. So, why did nobody give Assault a chance? Why is it never included in people's lists of best 1st-party Gamecube games? To be honest, I'm not sure. Keep reading to find out why Star Fox Assault is worth your time.
Star Fox Assault starts out with an intense rail-shooter space battle, much like the previous games in the series, and certainly shows that it is out to prove that the franchise is still alive and kicking in what it does best. The control is smooth and responsive, and all the standard attacks [Shot, Charge Shot, Bomb], so anyone who has played a Rail Shooter before will know what to do. The only issue I had with the controls while piloting were that the Y-Axis control was inverted, and not the X-Axis, but you can change that in the options menu. The piloting sections are cool, and if any of you Gamecube owners out there were ever jealous that Panzer Dragoon Orta was an Xbox exclusive, then these stages will ease your pain. There are also missions that take place on-foot, that allow you to use multiple weapons or a tank to shoot your way through enemies. These levels are very fast-paced and have a fair bit of diversity among equipping weapons; Pistols, Rocket launchers, Sniper Rifles, Grenades, etc. You wouldn't expect to find more than one or two extra weapons in a game like this, and to be honest, you don't really need them, unless required by mission parameters, but they are a ton of fun to use. As I said, you can also drive a tank, if you like. The tank cannot use the extra weapons, but has better defense, can hover for a brief period, and can kill weaker enemies by running over them. These missions reminded me a lot of Capcom's PN-03, another Gamecube exclusive, which is a very good thing. The third type of mission is an aerial dogfight mission, which is like the pilot missions, but gives you total freedom of movement. This mode is nice, too, and is on par with many other aerial combat games, but doesn't bring anything really new to the table; it just does the essentials notably well. There are also a couple of different sub-missions that occasionally take place after a main one, and sometimes ground and dogfight missions are combined, having you hop in and out of your Arwing to manage enemies in the air and ground. The worst part about the game, though, is its length. There are only 10 missions, so you can finish it in a day, which is a real shame, because this game has a lot of great ideas, and the gameplay is just fun in its purest form, but you only get a few short hours of it. I would have loved to see at least another 10 levels; more if possible, but I guess beggars can't be choosers.
I was seriously surprised by Star Fox Assault's story; it was much deeper than I expected from an action game. I have never gotten very far in a Star Fox game before, but I always assumed it had little story, and didn't really need one, but this game's story totally came out of left field. I'm not saying it's anywhere near what you might find in an RPG or an Adventure game, but it stands heads and shoulders above other action and shooter games, making it feel more like an action movie. Now, don't get me wrong; I don't want to make this out to be any more than it is, but I still think Nintendo should be commended for writing up something quite different. I had some issues with awkward dialogue in the game; mostly from the fact that it was written with kids as the primary audience, so it is jarring [and kind of funny] to hear frequent profanity substitute words. It just feels really out of place. Other than that, I think Star Fox Assault has a relatively good story when compared to the rest of the genre, but once again, it is crippled by the disappointingly short length of the game.
What do you know? I was surprised yet again by Star Fox Assault. Since this is a science fiction game, I expected a soundtrack heavy with rock and techno tunes, but all the music in the game is actually orchestral! It sounds very good, too; I can tell that a fair bit of work was put into the music. I thought the orchestra music would sound out of place in a game like this, but with all the huge battles going on in each mission, it fits like a glove. The sound effects, on the other hand, sound pretty generic and basic, but in retrospect, it's probably better that they didn't interfere with the background music. The voice actors for the characters seem different than the ones I remember in Star Fox 64, but then again, I remember them being much more annoying in that game. All the actors are well-suited for the characters they represent, so no complaints there. Overall, I seriously enjoyed Star Fox Assault's soundtrack; maybe not enough so that I would put it on my MP3 player, but enough to make me come back to the game.
The graphics in Star Fox Assault are all right when doing ground missions, and are great when doing pilot missions. All the chaos going on in the background of the latter mission type really gives you the sense of an epic battle in space. That, and the detail on each ship looks nice, making it all the more shocking to see all of this happening at a quick, steady framerate, especially on missions where two both aerial dogfights and ground combat are going on at once. Thus, it isn't the game's graphical detail that is impressive; it is the amount of action going on at any given time that makes you wonder how it is possible. It just all comes together to a game that has much more technical than visual prowess. The graphics are still above average, though, especially during cutscenes, where everything is bumped up to a much higher level of detail. I would still say that the in-game graphics are a step down from its predecessor, Star Fox Adventures, but it is likely just to allow for faster action and a better framerate; because of this, I think it is a fair trade-off.
In order to offset the disappointing length, a 4-player battle mode was included that, honestly, is one of the best multiplayer experiences I have had the chance to play on the 'Cube. The mode is fun and addictive, and move along at a speedy pace, like the rest of the game. Unfortunately, there is no option for CPU-based multiplayer, so you're going to actually need some friends with you to play. But, it isn't that big of a deal; it is worth getting everyone over for some good shooting action. Just like the main game, Dogfight mode, Ground mode, and a mode that combines the two are available for multiplayer, which can lead to some really interesting and clever strategies that add a lot of depth to the game. I'm going to go so far as to say it may be worth it to buy this game just for the multiplayer, as it is just that much fun. I haven't had such a good time with a local 4-player game since Super Smash Bros. Melee. A lot of people don't know this, but it was actually Namco that did most of the development work on Star Fox Assault; Nintendo only did a bit of the development work, and all the publishing work. Thus, completing the game on Normal mode unlocks Namco's classic SHMUP, Xevious, for you to play. It's just a nice little extra cherry on top that isn't necessary, but is appreciated nonetheless. Star Fox Assault is currently selling for $15 at Gamestop. Despite how much fun this game is, I'm still going to have to recommend that you try and find it cheaper; maybe around $10 or so, due to the game's length. I have seen many copies sell for about $5, so you should have no trouble finding one. But when you do see the game, by all means, buy it, especially if you are planning a game night with some of your friends, and need to stock up on good 4-player games.
Star Fox Assault, at its core, is a great game with a ton of neat and creative ideas, but all of that is cut short by its terribly brief length. The multiplayer mode offsets this, but there is no excuse for a short single-player mode. If Namco and Nintendo had put a bit more time into this game to add at least 10 more levels, this would be less of a problem, but as it stands, this game was too much crammed into too little of time. It is still an extremely fun game, and is definitely worth a purchase, but unless you frequently play games with your friends, you will just beat the game and move on, which is just a tragedy for such an otherwise good game. But, as I said, I am pretty sure you will still love Star Fox Assault, with its fast, furious, and exciting gameplay, so give the game a shot when you happen to see it for sale.
This is Lisalover1, repeatedly shooting the obvious glowing weak spot.