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Star Fox Command Review

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Developer: Q-Games Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: August 28, 2006 Also On: None

I’ve always felt that Nintendo treated its Starfox franchise like a lab rat. Even the original, which was released on the Super Nintendo, used the FX Chip, a new 3D technology. Starfox 64, what I consider the pinnacle of the series, was the first major release to use rumble technology and launched bundled with Nintendo’s N64 Rumble Pack. Starfox Adventures took things to the ground and ultimately failed as a boring, fetch quest marathon. Starfox Command, the series’ first handheld debut, puts Starfox back where he belongs: in the sky. But it does so in a strange, DS-appropriate way that isn’t quite great but it also isn’t bad, either.

Consider this experiment a success, because it shows that the Nintendo DS can handle a flight action game very well. Starfox Command utilizes only the Nintendo DS touch screen and the L Trigger (or R Trigger, for left-handed players) and it does so very well. Using the touch screen, players control their pitch and yaw, steering the Arwing with precision. Making a frantic scratching motion sends the Arwing into its classic laser-deflecting barrel roll, and there are buttons found on the touch screen to pull off other maneuvers like flips. The L/R Trigger is the only non-touch-based control button, and it allows you to shoot your lasers. Any other button allows you to shoot as well, but the L/R Triggers are definitely the most intuitive.

The touch screen mechanics don’t end there. Q-Games had to implement something new into their game to set Starfox Command apart from other Starfox games, so they made the game’s battles spread out into a turn-based strategy mechanic. Each mission will throw you out onto a battlefield diagram where you’ll direct your Starfox team around the map, engaging in conflict with enemy ships and taking over bases. The goal in every mission is to keep the big, defenseless Great Fox afloat while destroying all of the bad guys and stopping their missiles from reaching Great Fox. On the diagram you can fly over power-ups that give the Great Fox a little defense of its own, as well as power-ups that give you more time on the master clock for each mission. That’s right, each mission has a time restraint. What a bummer.

The conflicts (or more appropriately, scuffles) that you’ll engage in are over far too quickly, and that’s unfortunate because they’re where the old-school Starfox charm is delivered. I’ve actually completed some of these little battles in mere seconds. Sometimes you’re asked to take out several different units, and sometimes they appear right in front of you, making it all too easy. Now, near the end of the storyline, I started engaging in much more difficult battles–some that, admittedly, had me frustrated and wondering what to do–but most of the game I plowed through untouched.

The game’s over pretty quickly, but Starfox Command offers branching paths and multiple endings, and is also one of the many games these days that takes advantage of the DS’s WiFi capabilities. With a trusty wireless Internet connection, players can connect and duke it out in the Corneria skies any time of the day. The wireless battles are fun and entertaining as you’d expect them to be, after all, they’re Starfox flight battles. What more could you ask for?

Visually, Starfox Command is a standout as one of the more impressive DS games that runs on a 3D engine. The frame rate is almost always smooth, though it admittedly does slip up from time to time. There is a considerable amount of things moving around at all times and despite some fog issues, Starfox Command looks fantastic. It also sounds pretty good, and the standard Starfox gibberish is a nice addition–especially when you record your own voice to use in the cut-scenes!

Overall, Starfox Command is a pretty successful lab rat. The gameplay holds up pretty well but it has the same old Starfox problem; the thrills are over far too quickly and far too easily. The visuals run smoothly and the presentation isn’t bad. The online multiplayer is quite a service for Starfox fans who want to take on the world with their skills. Starfox makes a decent handheld landing, albeit with a few holes in its wings–it’s not perfect, but it’ll entertain fans of the series regardless.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 7.8
Written by Cliff Review Guide