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Do a Barrel Roll in This Nintendo 64 Classic - Star Fox 64 Review
Star Fox 64 has been praised for years thanks to its creative on-rails shoot ‘em up gameplay. When it was released for the Nintendo 64 back in 1997, it was considered revolutionary. Years later, it has been made available on the Virtual Console, and it still holds up exceptionally well today. There are a few minor flaws in the Virtual Console release, such as the lack of rumble and a lingering learning curve when using the Classic Controller, but Star Fox 64 continues to hold its own.
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Star Fox 64 Story
The plot of Star Fox 64 is based around the return of an evil scientist known as Andross, a monkey with a desire to take over Corneria. It’s up to Fox McCloud and his team of mercenaries to aid the Cornerian Defense Forces and take down the ape. The story unfolds further as you play, with briefings before each mission and constant dialogue from your comrades. This helps the game’s pacing, and it keeps the game flowing smoothly. No scene ever drags on for too long before you’re pitted right back into the action.
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Star Fox 64 Gameplay
The gameplay in Star Fox 64 is easily its strongest attribute and the one aspect of the game that has aged the best. You’ll guide your Arwing craft through the skies and shoot down enemy fighters, alien creatures, and intimidating, larger-than-life bosses. There are even a couple of levels where you'll travel via tank and submarine. The gameplay design is for all intents and purposes very simple, but it’s also intuitive and a whole lot of fun. Yes, this game is on-rails, but you still feel like you have complete control over your Arwing. You’ll shift from side to side to avoid enemy fire and debris, perform evasive barrel rolls and somersaults, and shoot enemies down with your laser and missile pick-ups. Even after completing the game once, you’ll want to go back and find hidden routes, increase your top score, earn medals for your performance, and seek out the game’s hidden extras.
Star Fox 64 also features multiplayer for up to four players. The three modes included in the game aren’t too deep, but they do provide a fun distraction for a while. You’ll play against your friends for the highest score in these modes, and these multiplayer sessions can get pretty competitive at times, but they pale in comparison to the main game. It should also be noted that these modes are strictly head-to-head, however, and it’s very unfortunate that there was never a co-op campaign included in the game.
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The Virtual Console version of Star Fox 64 supports the Classic Controller and GameCube controller. The Classic Controller works well enough, but due to the position of the analog sticks, it can take a while to really get used to maneuvering your Arwing with that input method. And even after you’ve gotten used to it, it may cause some problems for you later on.
If you have a GameCube controller, however, you should definitely stick with that option. The C-Stick manages to do a far better job of emulating the four C buttons on the original Nintendo 64 controller than the Classic Controller’s right analog stick, and it just feels a lot better in general. Unfortunately, this option is also flawed. Star Fox 64 was the first game to support the Rumble Pak, yet there is no force feedback functionality in this version of the game. Some gamers will be able to overlook the lack of rumble, while others may find it a needless, annoying omission from the game.
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Graphics and Sound
Star Fox 64 was one of the better-looking games on the Nintendo 64, and it still manages to look decent by today’s standards. Gamers who were able to enjoy the game’s visuals during its heyday will appreciate their undeniable retro charm. The sound design is also fairly old-school, but it is so stellar that it manages to hold up much better than the graphics. You’ll hear many nostalgic themes that will remind you of the Nintendo 64’s glory days, and you’re bound to get more than just a few of the game’s tracks stuck in your head.
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Though you’ll only play through six stages to get through the entire story, there are hidden paths and special objectives within each stage that will open up different, usually more difficult, routes on the Lylat System map. It’s these alternate routes that really add replayability to the game, and they make you want to seek out that hidden path or help out that partner who’s being chased down by enemy pilots. Throw in the game’s multiplayer mode, which isn’t too time-consuming but does provide a decent distraction, and you’ve got a fairly well-rounded package.
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Star Fox 64 Overall Rating
For years, Star Fox 64 has been the epitome of a rail shooter done right. It’s not overly complex, it’s easy to master, and it offers a challenge that’s never frustrating but always keeps you alert. Fans of the original release who may not have access to the Nintendo 64 version would benefit from downloading the Virtual Console port. And gamers who missed out on Star Fox 64 entirely back in 1997 owe it to themselves to play this game.