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Star Fox Command Review 46

Beginning with the original 1993 SNES title, Nintendo has toyed with the space combat series Star Fox in a number of ways. Star Fox Adventures added a doodad-hunting adventure format, while last year's Star Fox Assault included ground-based battles that managed to actually detract from the game's appeal. Now on the DS, the Star Fox series has experienced yet another format shift: Star Fox Command. Command offers some simple strategy elements, an innovative control scheme, and the tried and true dogfighting gameplay the series is known for. It also dwells on one of the series' weaknesses, plot, to the detriment of the game. Despite that and a few other issues, Star Fox Command will provide some quality space combat for anyone looking to kill some time, and a few aliens. Read on for my impressions of Nintendo's latest core series release.
  • Title: Star Fox Command
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Q-Games
  • System: DS
The SNES version of Star Fox was a landmark experience for many gamers. It was one of the first graphically intensive console titles, and offered some new twists on the staple space shooting genre. It was pretty, it was fun, and if you chose the hard path to Venom it was really hard. Star Fox titles since then have been muddled by additional, less successful, game elements. The core gameplay has always remained relevant, though, and is framed beautifully by some tasteful additions in Command.

In Star Fox Command, you take on the roles of Fox, Slippy, Falco, and the rest of the the Star Fox band, in an attempt to deal with new threats to the known universe. Dr. Andross, the boss from previous games, has been defeated. As a result of interpersonal problems, the gang has broken up and moved off in their own directions. Always trapped in the role of Johnny Hero, Fox McCloud takes on the alien race known as the 'Anglar' in an attempt to keep the peace he's bought with most of his life. Along the way, McCloud runs into the other members of his former squadron and enlists their aid to save the day. It's all pretty traditional stuff, and you'll probably find yourself tapping the stylus over and over on the 'next' button to get into the actual gameplay. The only real point of interest here is that the game's replayability is rooted in the story. After you beat it once, moving through the conversation options you have available, you'll be able to go back and play through again with new witty things to say. Each complete trip through the game is a fairly quick experience, and you should have no problem moving through all the options in a few days. I found this 'space opera lite' storyline fairly predictable and forgettable. Just the same, it's commendable that they've given you the option to explore it more fully as a side effect of accessing new content.

Though it sets the game apart, I also found the title's strategy elements to be more enjoyable as a means of getting to the combat than as a distinct game feature. In order to engage in combat on the many worlds, you'll have to navigate a tactical screen and direct your pilots. On the strategy screen are all the pilots you have available, the Great Fox mothership, and any enemy groups you'll have to take out. By drawing a line with the stylus you direct your pilots into the path of enemy groups, thereby engaging them. For any given scenario you're alloted a specific number of turns to accomplish your goals. If you fail to destroy all of the enemies in the allotted number of turns, you lose. This Advance Wars-style control scheme is complicated by several additional elements. The goal of the enemy groups is not to engage you: they are aiming to take out the Great Fox. Fail to intercept one of these gangs and you'll forfeit your mission completely. A fog of war hides and distorts reliable intelligence on enemy movements, and impassable barriers make planning out the movements of your pilots a requirement. If this sounds challenging, it isn't. A few levels into the game you'll have all of these elements under your belt, and the tactical screen will become just another barrier between you and the fun part: space combat. As with the branching plot, though, it's an interesting way to mess with the Star Fox formula. It's also far less objectionable than, say, tanks.

Among the many tweaks to the gameplay, though, what shines is the combat control scheme. It takes a little bit of practice to appreciate the fluidity and power Q-Games has offered you here, but it's worth the time and energy. With the ship's stick in your hands, you control every aspect of your craft via the stylus. You move the stylus in the direction you want to fly, changing attitude and pitch with intuitive dragging movements. To fire thrusters you double tap, and quickly rubbing from side-to-side executes a barrel roll. You can also execute u-turns, and fire bombs, all from the touch screen. The only action you can't take with the stylus is firing, and that's accomplished by pushing any of the buttons on the DS. This can result in some discomfort, unfortunately. I really enjoyed using the stylus to fly, but had to cramp up my hands in order to hold the DS, fly, and fire at the same time. Other large-handed individuals playing on a Lite may experience similar problems.

The discomfort is worth it, though, because flying, shooting, and keeping your time meter filled are a whole lot of fun. Each mission has a falling timer, and if you run out of seconds you're through; you can also fail a mission by running out of shield strength. The goal of each mission is to take out enemies with special cores, with a certain number of cores required for each mission to be considered complete. Time icons are obtainable to extend your mission length, as are shield regenerators, bombs, and other power-ups. Barrel-rolling is a required tactic, as it not only deflects harmful blasts but adds a small amount to your time as well. The catch is that all of these elements (shooting down enemies, watching your shield strength, keeping your time up) have to be accomplished in little more than 60 seconds. Even boss battles are very quick, and failure is something you'll be faced with until you have the controls mastered. At that point things may become a bit rote, but by the time they do you'll probably have finished the last iteration of the game's storyline anyway.

Visually, the game holds up well when compared to more recent titles. The original games combat graphics, which wowed me when I was 13, would probably seem a little crude by 2006 standards. They've managed to keep the 'feel' of the blocky polygonal look that founded the series, while offering a lot more detail and some fabulous looking backgrounds. Command manages to recall fond memories of older games, while retaining the look of newer titles. For a series that's had a rough go of it the last few times on the market, this deliberate graphic nod is a great touch. Enemy and friendly units alike have a likeable look to them, with some especially tripped out looking creatures coming your way from the depths of the Anglar fleet. I do wish that terrain and map elements had been more thoughtfully implemented; as it is combat arenas have a sort of randomly generated quality to them that I felt could have been more polished. The game's audio is adequate, with mostly throw-away sound effects. They've kept many of the same effects from earlier games, adding to the nostalgia quality of the graphics. Music, too, has some similarities to previous incarnations in the series. Fans of the original game's martial theme will not be disappointed, as it makes a remixed (and skillfully composed) appearance here.

Like its predecessors, Star Fox Command is not intended as a long-term gaming commitment. Instead, the title delivers fast-paced space shooting, enjoyable retro graphics, and some tactical tweaks to the series standards. Wireless multiplayer is even an option, with or without additional carts. Command is the kind of popcorn-depth game that is great every once in a while to cleanse your palate. It's the perfect road-trip game, or something you can breeze through in a long weekend. Given the lackluster efforts of the last few Star Fox series titles, it's refreshing to see Nintendo and Q-Games shaking things up by going back to the game's roots. If it's broke, fix it. If you're looking for a quickie game in between the heavyweight titles coming at us this fall, Command has enough simple, honest gameplay to make your hands spasm in enjoyment.
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Star Fox Command Review

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  • by Klowner ( 145731 ) on Friday September 29, 2006 @01:35PM (#16248077) Homepage
    While I enjoyed the game, I was slightly disappointed by the length. I managed to beat it in under a week and that's with my very random/opportunistic DS use. Although the multiplayer is pretty fun.
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Friday September 29, 2006 @01:37PM (#16248119) Homepage Journal
    does Slippy still have...certain...tendencies in this game? Because you know, I never did quite feel comfortable with him on my 6.
  • I found the story and the 'tactical' elements annoying. The acctual combat, while very fun, always felt too short. 30-60 seconds of fun combat, 2 minutes of story and psuedo-tactical actions.

    The tactical part felt alittle lame too because there weren't really any options for me to explore. I either did it exactly the way they expected me to, or I lost the mission.
    That makes the tactical part more tedious. I would have prefered that part of the game to be more open ended with more then 1 solution to the prob
    • by rjung2k ( 576317 )
      "30-60 seconds of fun combat, 2 minutes of story and psuedo-tactical actions."

      If you want more combat, force yourself to take out all the enemies in an encounter -- you don't have to, but nobody's making you rush through the fights in 30 seconds, either. I usually take out everyone to prolong my flying time and to get more time for later fights; it's not unusual for me to finish a mission with 250+ seconds accumulated and 20 minutes of dogfighting. Starfox Command is as long as you want it to be, which is
  • Neat (Score:3, Informative)

    by cyberworm ( 710231 ) <cyberworm@gma i l .com> on Friday September 29, 2006 @01:44PM (#16248271) Homepage
    I like the game. It's entertaining. The control mechanism sucks IMO. My 4 year old son wanted it, so we went and got it. It would be nice if there were options to change flight control.
  • Hated it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dcstimm ( 556797 ) on Friday September 29, 2006 @01:44PM (#16248275) Homepage
    I bought the game the second it came out, It got very good reviews, but I think I was expecting star fox 64.

    I start to play it and it has a very cool intro that got me into the game but what really turned me off was the non rail game play. I love the 64 version because it was on rails. This game is more a stratagy game, you have to protect Great Fox at all costs, to do this you have to draw lines to the enemies and you need to fight them before they get to the GreatFox, this is soo boring to me, and I got very frustrated with it. Also once you get into battle the levels are all based on a planet, they do not have that feeling that I loved from the starfox 64.

    This game will be fun to people that have never played starfox, but for me it really was a huge disapointment.

    Sorry for any grammer and spelling mistakes, I was in the hospital since 2am last night and I am tired.
    • Does it do on-line play? If so, does that help your impression at all?

      p.s. Sorry to hear about the hospital visit, I know those are unpleasant.
    • Since I doubt this game was programmed in Ruby, I'm at a loss as to what this means. Enlighten me?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        If you've played Starfox 64, most of the levels are "on rails", as opposed to the free-flying boss fights.
        When referring to shooters, "rails" indicates a path that players are obliged to follow from the level's beginning to its end.
    • Yeah, second that. I sold it back to gamestop for store credit less than a week after buying it.
    • by Zorikin ( 49410 )
      Perhaps you would benefit from reading a review or two before you buy any more games.

      Also once you get into battle the levels are all based on a planet

      There are free-space asteroid fields as well.
    • by Godeke ( 32895 ) *
      "This game will be fun to people that have never played starfox, but for me it really was a huge disapointment."

      I have played every version of Star Fox and I found Command to be quite refreshing compared to Assault and Adventures. I couldn't believe how well the control system worked on the DS. I do miss the rails style missions though: someone must think that "free flight" is manditory or something. Nevertheless, I will take this over the Game Cube versions.
  • Hand Cramps (Score:3, Informative)

    by ArmyOfFun ( 652320 ) on Friday September 29, 2006 @01:45PM (#16248285)
    I really enjoyed using the stylus to fly, but had to cramp up my hands in order to hold the DS, fly, and fire at the same time.
    I haven't played Starfox but I had a similar problem with Metroid Prime Hunters. The solution, is fairly simple, use the thumb strap that comes with the DS. It's difficult to hit a specific spot on the touch screen with accuracy using the thumb strap but, if Starfox is anything like Metroid, it's rarely a problem.

    I'm also considering getting the ActionGrip for the DS, anyone have one of these? A MadCatz (I think) grip for the GBA SP removed all hand cramping I had with that.
  • I have to admit, I didn't read a lot about this game at all before purchasing. I haven't played a StarFox since the original on the SNES (well, I did play Adventures but that doesn't count). I expected a rails based shooter and didn't get that at all. I was disappointed with the first level because of this and thought I had bought a dud. Once I got over the fact that I wasn't played StarFox 1 on my DS I had a really good time. The free form flight fairs very well on the DS with the touch screen control
  • I want to like it (Score:3, Informative)

    by rdaneel72 ( 680696 ) on Friday September 29, 2006 @02:08PM (#16248643)
    Starfox SNES and Starfox 64 were brilliant games, and I had high hopes for this one, but after two weeks, I just cannot get the hang of it. I beat the initial story arc, and am now at Venom on only MY SECOND PLAYTHROUGH, and I am stuck. Flying with the stylus is NOT AT ALL intuitive. Chasing the missles is by far the most frustrating chore, but dogfighting is a close second. Braking, loops and U-turns are impossible to pull off with any kind of consistency. Since the DS has an identical button layout to an SNES controller, the omission of a traditional control scheme is unforgivable. Perhaps the game would be too simple if you had any kind of control over your craft. I am all for Nintendo's push for innovation, but flying a plane with the stylus DOES NOT WORK!!! This game is an exercise in futility, and the number one threat to the lifespan of my DS Lite.
    • Thumb strap.

      Seriously, I don't know why people are so hesitant to use it. I can't imagine playing Mario 64, Metroid Prime Hunters, or Star Fox Command any other way.
      • They don't package it in with the Lite. I don't understand why Nintendo keeps churning out these games that are made more difficult and clumsy by the innovations of the DS hardware. I found Mario 64 and Metroid nearly unplayable with the stylus for all the reasons Starfox sounds like a nightmare.

        Everyone makes fun of the PSP nubbin, but I'd rather play a game like this with an analog controller any day than with a pen.
        • by Zed2K ( 313037 )
          I just don't buy DS games anymore that REQUIRE the use of the touch screen for controls. It's too frustrating.
          • I too am not a big fan of the touch screen. For some games it's fine(Brain Age,Monkey Ball), but more times then not it feels forced. Like Nintendo throws a kick back to developers who use the touch screen for something. The marvel fighting game, Rise of the Imperfects(?) was like that, so was Vengful Joe.

            IMO, game developers should avoid making games that require BOTH touch pad and joystick controls. It's too much work switching back and forth from stylus to thumbs and reminds me complexity of today consol
        • But it's only $4 [nintendo.com].

          Just order one and enjoy it. I agree that it's exclusion is mysterious, and makes me worry that people will stop making games that take advantage of it. It's closer in experience to an analog stick than the PSP nub - it's possible to get nearly as good at Mario 64 with it as it is with an analog stick.
      • by Zorikin ( 49410 )
        SFC is fine with the stylus, because you can use the D-pad for firing, so there are no hand cramps. Other than that ergonomic oversight, I have no idea what these guys are complaining about. The thumb strap sounds perfect for MP:H though. I'll have to pick one up.
    • Actually I like the control scheme, ok it took me a while to get the hang of it, but i love it now...
    • "I am all for Nintendo's push for innovation, but flying a plane with the stylus DOES NOT WORK!!!"

      Strictly anecdotal, but I've finished seven of the game's nine endings, and flying with a stylus works great for me. Braking is slightly problematic at times, but otherwise I haven't had any complaints.
    • Ahem for loops and uturns you have two sepecial areas on the pad, which you just have to touch, it is also easy to drop a targetted bomb by just drag and droppin it from the b area... probably since I come from the pc side of things those things are more natural to me than to a console guy who expects a button for everything.
  • Sorry, but the pointless time limit to the missions killed whatever fun might be hidden in there for me. Nintendo : "Are you excited to get behind the controls of an Arwing again?" Me : "YES!" Nintendo : "Great! You can't play for any longer than a few seconds before you have to frantically scramble to get more time in which to play!" Me : *tears* I really think they just lazily jammed in the time limit mechanic to try and take the player's attention from the fact that they weren't having as much fun as t
  • I find it funny that 90% of the arguments against this being a fantastic game were of the "it isn't exactly like the original Starfox" variety. Sure, the developers went out and tried something new while adhering to general principles of the first, but shouldn't that be the point?

    Nintendo, while sticking to a handful of properties is always trying to innovate and we should applaud them for that. Sure, they've had a few missteps (Starfox Adventures, arguably Super Mario Bros 2), but overall, they've taken
    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      Nintendo, while sticking to a handful of properties is always trying to innovate and we should applaud them for that.

      There is nothing wrong with trying something new, there is however something very wrong with forcing a control scheme into a game where it simply doesn't fit and thats exactly what Nintendo did here. Zelda Phantom Hourglass is another case where they added pretty weird touchscreen controls instead of sticking to good old and trusted dpad controls, we still have to see how that works out, bu

  • OT here, but does anyone know is there a way to take screenshots from DS game without emulator or IS-NITRO-CAPTURE device?

    I have M3 Lite DS though, but there is no such feature on it.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.