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Robert Monroe

Starfox Assault MEGA RANT (READ ONLY)

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Robert Monroe

My ravings about Assault were so long and massive that I hit the post length limit! So in the name of keeping my rant together and in one place I'm going to be posting the rant here for quick and easy access.

DO NOT POST OR REPLY TO THIS THREAD. DIRECT ALL DISCUSSION FOR THIS RANT TO >THIS TOPIC. THIS THREAD IS FOR READING PURPOSES ONLY.

Alright, folks. This is it, my complete and utterly thorough review of Starfox Assault, one that has been stewing in my head for ages, never really having need or purpose to actually commit to writing it... until now. Things changed.

 

See, as some of you may have already known, I've been living in California for the past 3 and a half years, being native to NC. It was a spur of the moment deal, and as a result all of my Nintendo consoles and games have been left behind at home untouched and played by me for years. Well recently, I went searching through the garage of my new home (my girlfriend's family) and uncovered a Wii, and some Gamecube games. Among them was Starfox Assault... so I invested in a memory card to spare me having to play this whole thing in one endless session, and over the past week have completed the game for the first time in nearly half a decade.

 

I never really had a cohesive, collected view of Assault formulated in my mind, just impulsive feelings based off memories of when I used to play it in the mid-2000s. I remember most of the game vividly, but the firsthand knowledge of the game from freshly playing it was gone. No longer the case, now. With Assault's 10 year birthday this year, I figure it's high time I out this one down for good, and finally let my demons out. This is going to be a LONG post, mind you all, and I will be examining the game as it is presented level by level rather than any real categories. This is effectively a written and formulated expression of my raw feelings of the game.

 

So without further delay, let's just crack into this awful game, once and for all. This rant is HUMONGOUS, so it will be uploaded in chunks.

OPENING VIDEO/TITLE/OPTIONS/ETC

 

Right, before we talk about the game itself, let's look over how it presents itself before hand. The opening cutscene is fairly decent with a nice sounding arrangement of the Starfox theme, but something I found amusing about it was the fact this video pretty much shows almost no Aparoid footage, instead focusing on Pigma, Andrew and Starwolf. To call this blatant lies would be a tad extreme, but given the Aparoids are the main antagonists of the game and the fact they show up right at the end of the first level and were never really presented as a big twist, I do find it strange the opening video shows very little of them.

 

The title/menu music is goddamn awful. It sounds like festive party game music, and I really don't know why this direction was chosen. It'd been fine for the multiplayer menus, but for the main game stuff it just feels weird and out of place. 

 

Options are so-so for a game of its time. Oddly there's no music and SFX sliders, but you can set between mono and stereo options. Control schemes for on foot missions are mapped to player profiles, which I actually think is pretty clever. However, the foot-controls also effect the tank controls, and while the optimal controls for on foot is the Dual-Stick configuration, it is absolutely horrible to use for the tank. This could have been remedied with the ability to change the config in-game through the pause menu, but such a feature is not present. You have to make a compromise one way or another (or learn to use R-running I guess).

 

There is no training mode. While this might seem a tad nitpicky, it would have been nice to have to familiarize with the controls, particularly the on-foot ones as well as the handful of game mechanics introduced to Assault such as what the hell the Combo Meter even IS and the Invasion Gauge. Using it to learn how the different weapons handle (as well as recognizing what they are to pick up) would also have been appreciated so you know to avoid grenades and trap mines like the plague.

FORTUNA: A NEW ENEMY

 

Ooooooh boy, Assault starts out with a very rough introduction. We get a shiny FMV of Cornerian warships engaging against Andrew's Rebellion fleet, and staying true to Starfox standards it is cheesy as hell. However, it is not very GOOD of a cutscene. Not for being cheesy, but simply poorly composed and directed. My first and foremost complaint is AUDIO QUALITY with the voice acting... it's too clean. Generic Cornerian Commander Guy and Andrew are supposed to be speaking through radios or whatever, but their voices sound crystal clear like narration voice overs, like they're in a room talking over the game footage. This is especially perplexing as the actual in game mission dialogue has a radio distortion effect even WHEN IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. What the hell, audio editing department? Besides that the combat sequence is just a collection of canned shots of space ships shooting and random explosions. It's superficially amusing and messily put together. The Great Fox then shows up to help out and we're onto the briefing.

 

Ooooh my gooood the briefings in this game are goddamn bad. They all share a few common flaws: the audio quality in this is -ass- with the characters all talking like robots despite being in the same room (I know Pepper and other characters are transmitting through a screen, but the presentation has them all standing in this non-descript room) and it just sounds terrible. The animations are also poorly made, everyone flails their body parts around when speaking and often times they vanish from the screen before they even finish what they're saying.

 

This briefing in particular irks me because it perfectly illustrates a recurring issue in this game: inconsistent mood and theme. The culprit in this specific case is regarding Andrew, and the game really can't make up its mind if he is a legitimate danger or just a comic relief villain. The Generic Cornerian Commander Guy spoke seriously of him, but Fox simply brushes him off as a joke. Later on in the level characters jump around between indignant, nonchalant, and cautious regarding him. Now to be sure character personalities are at play to a degree here (Slippy's confidence can be attributed to his recklessness) but we as a player have no idea what the game wants us to think of this guy. Compared to Starfox 64, Andross and his invasion was always regarded as a serious and dangerous threat which must be handled with extreme caution, regardless of how heroic or arrogant the characters acted (ie: Fox's pre-mission one liners).

 

Another FMV plays, and I actually kiiiind of like this one. We get a nice throwback to the SF64 introduction with the hallway run (even if the animations are ass) and everyone displays a bit of character when they enter their ships: Fox is serious, Krystal is graceful, Falco is show-offy, and Slippy is a derp. I'll go ahead and take this moment of praise to vent my general frustrations with the game's art direction, though. What the HELL is this design direction?  Honestly while I prefer the more rustic used-future Star Wars knock-off style of SF64, I can tolerate the sleeker, Star Trek/Mass Effect style aesthetic in Assault if it wasn't so poorly realized. I'll avoid a full blown rant for now, and rather focus on what's relevant to the moment.

 

Firstly, Starfox team itself. Fox's base design isn't AWFUL in and of itself, but his colors are wretched. Seriously, he looks like "Holiday Edition" Fox McCloud, green, red and white all over. The green jumpsuit is tolerable because Fox's jumpsuit has been green since SF64, and the white could be tolerable too, but... red? Red shoulderpads! Red boots! Red highlights! Why red?! He looks like a gradeschooler colored him in. On a more technical level, Fox's face is just horribly rendered in this game. From the front, his head looks like a -box-, FMVs or in game engine. Falco is... barely tolerable. I have no idea why the game ditched the flight suit and jacket look that worked so well in last games, but egh. If they wanted to give everyone more individual designs, I don't see why they didn't refine Falco's space-biker look from the end of Adventures. His all-red-and-white jumpsuit is an eyesore with too vibrant colors and little in way of interesting design or details, with big dumb shoulder pads.

Slippy's design is not too bad, just a tad to monochrome in color scheme, but at least his earthy jumpsuit colors contrast with his green skin, and I like the sciencey knicknacks on his belts. Krystal is just fanservice. Monochrome, boring fanservice. Circles draw emphasis on her breasts, skin tight latex space-suit, etc. Her costume isn't terrible beyond the fanservice, just... blue. The monochrome is really dull. There's very little interesting details otherwise. Peppy honestly has the best design so far, and he's just an update of the old SF64 look for Assault's art design. This is what Fox and everyone else SHOULD have looked like. I love his little Pip-Boy things, his stylish white jacket, and especially his mustache. General Pepper.... egh. His costume is an upgrade from Adventures (who was rendered really low-def compared to everyone else for some reason) and has a more detailed costume, but he still looks less like a commander and more like a marching band leader. His face has made him look like a bloody zombie. Pepper is old, but not THAT old. His concept art had him sporting his SNES-era aviator sunglasses, a shame they didn't bring them back.

Then there's the Arwing. Eeeeuuugh I loathe this incarnation of the Arwing. While I prefer the more used-future lowfi look of SF64 more, that is a matter of taste and therefore I won't complain about it. However, its proportions are completely out of whack. First of all, the arwing is wider and taller than it is long, which gives it a fat, stubby appearance. The fuselage definiely should've been enlongated - in fact, Command did exactly that for Peppy's Arwing and GUESS WHAT, it improved its aesthetics tremendously. The G-Diffusors are odd too, being MASSIVE in this game (sadly Command did not scale them down) and for some reason adding 2 more of them to the Arwing, which messes with the sillhouette of the ship. This craft does not look like a sleek and agile space fighter. Lastly there's the wings, which are just these utterly dainty and thin blades of metal, which WOULD be ok if the rest of the Arwing was sleek and thin, but its NOT. We have a short fat and stumpy fuselage, large overized excessive G-diffusors, with these... TIN FOIL wings coming out on the side. The Adventures Arwing was a fat chunky piece of shit too, but at least it went all the way with it.

Holy good god we haven't even talked about the gameplay yet. Let's first address the gameplay as a whole: controls, feel, stuff like that. The Arwing is absolutely horrid in this, both on rails and in all range mode. Fortuna is on rails, so let's focus on that for now. It has a very "floaty" feel to it, with no real sense of speed. The background passes by at an honestly very leisurely pace, and while no Starfox has never been SANIC SPEED, you could tell it was pushing its hardware to its limit; Assault by contrast feels slow by design rather than by limitation. Boosting doesn't really give any sense of acceleration, though it does make the Arwing go faster and harder to control. Turns are wide and lofty unless you roll into them, which they suddenly become WAY too sharp and sudden. There's no finesse here; you're either turning a semi around a corner or shooting off from one side of the screen to the other. The Gamecube's shoulder buttons were pressure sensitive, why couldn't we have used this to determine how sharp or wide our turns are? Credit where it is due, though, Iike the braking: the Arwing comes to a complete stop when the R button is pressed down all the way, allowing you to shortly sit in place and focus your fire on something specific.

Shooting stuff is no more satisfying than flying. You start with the single laser as usual and upgrade to double and hypers, but for some reason no bombs. Blasting enemy ships is... hollow, is how I would describe it. Enemies have never provided much resistence in Starfox, but at least there was a sense of weight and destruction when they exploded; here the exploding enemy ships feel empty and honestly unrewarding, like shooting paper targets. The effects are lackluster too, being a very colorful but shallow light show that just suddenly replaces the enemy ship model. No fire, no crashing, and again, no weight to it. Just "pew, boom". The charge shot makes a return after being randomly absent from Adventures, and its kind of eh. Locking onto targets is difficult due to the floaty nature of the Arwing's controls, but it doesn't really matter because the blast radius is HUMONGOUS. Despite that, the "blind fire" charge shots from SF64 are gone. Nova bombs are just awful. They VERY slowly float forward towards your target, and generate one of the most godawful looking effects I've ever seen on the Gamecube; seriously the Dreamcast could've done a better explosion than this. Despite the blast sphere looking HUGE its quite difficult to estimate when to detonate the bomb to maximum effectiveness. It seems the explosion is only fatal to enemies when they're inside its sphere of influence WHEN it detonates, and after the initial blast is complete any survivors can fly right through the graphic unharmed. This is a serious step down from the AMAZINGLY COOL bombs from Adventures.

FINALLY, we can discuss about the actual level design of Fortuna. In short, its just eh. A lot of its problems are less inherent in its design as a level and moreso in all that shit I just complained about with controls and weight, problems that plague Assault as a game as a whole. That said, Fortuna is not a particularly memorable or well made level, mostly taking bits from SF64 and copying them wholesale without any real effort to expand on them or improve them.

Fortuna is split into two halves: a space battle and a surface base battle. The space battle is ultimately just boring. There's pre-rendered spaceships shooting at each other in the background but they never do anything besides shoot the same lasers at each other. ROB says the Andrew fleet is getting decimated but we don't really see it happening. Slippy is the first wingmate to get in trouble as per Starfox tradition, and Peppy says some meaningless words about splitting into two groups and taking the left/right even though you're just going in a straight line. Enemies come at you in DROVES but they almost NEVER fire at you, essentially being free kills. Destroying them in clumps gives a bonus to your points, and destroying all enemies in a "group" gives a second bonus, which is used to determine medals (more on that later). Again though, there's no sense of danger, things rarely fire at you and enemy formations are just fish in a space barrel to fire at. You occasionally run across battleships with giant stupidly exposed weakpoints that can be trashed with a single charge shot, and THEY DON'T FIRE AT YOU EITHER. In fact the first enemy that actively engages you is the "prototype", a sort of Macross/Gundam looking agile robot that spins around a lot and shoots charge shots at you that does decent damage if you can't reflect it with a roll, which is honestly more difficult to do than it sounds because its difficult to tell predict where the beam is going to be because this sucker is RIGHT in your face.

The rest of the level is just more of the same, just clumps of enemies that barely engage you and a few more free-kill battleships. A "stealth squadron" (which somehow still appears on radar???) shows up and fire missle barrages at you; and they're actually somewhat interesting. Their left and right flanks can be blasted off individually for +1 points, and killing them awards +5 points, however after they fire at you they teleport away so you have to be discerning in what to shoot at to maximize your points. Eventually Andrew throws a shitfit over the radio and retreats to Fortuna's surface and you're assaulted with clumps of enemies that fire missles at you that make firing charge shots a bitch because they always impact on the missles.

Fortuna's surface is honestly the worse half of this level. We get two more cutscenes, one where Starfox casually flies past all the battleships and none of them seem to care, and another where they approach Fortuna's surface and we get more banter about Andrew which just further muddies the consistancy. (Seriously, black-hearted?) At least now the enemies try to shoot at us, and we get a lot more variety than just "thing flies at you and maybe shoots a laser". We have Gundam-looking mecha (which mostly just glide around the ground unnaturally and sometimes fire lasers at you), two or three different kinds of tanks, as well as the crappy flying enemies. The big fault of this level as a whole is it looks like they WANTED to make it some kind of large branching path/wide open level with alternate routes to take, but didn't make the effort to really make these routes apparent or well designed. The first case is the forest wherein Falco is chased: you can weave through the trees but there doesn't seem to be any purpose to it, plus you'll almost always just follow after Falco anyway. The second is the military base beyond the canyon: the area is HUGE and it seems to be what would have been multiple branches to take, but instead it's just an oversized shooting gallery with the enemies all clumped in the same predictable spots, making seeking out alternative routes a detriment rather than a boon.

Something unusual I noticed about the design in Fortuna is I don't think the game is paced around when the Arwing approaches but rather the time it approaches something. Using your brakes excessively results in desynched enemy formations flying at you out of the woodwork, often resulting in missed hits and bonuses because you weren't there "on time", which is irritating. This is especially true if you dare to see if there is anything nice to look at in all the open space of the army base (which there isn't) as enemies will appear too close or too far away and just fuck off away from you before you can get bearings on them. Despite being on rails the level does not seem focused on the Arwing itself, and it feels very awkward. Enemy placement as a whole feels sloppy in places, the biggest example being the end of the base where a huge clump of blue not-gundams just sort of slide around in random patterns without any real rhyme or reason, and when they engage or attack you their patterns are random and often miss.

Andrew serves as the first boss of Fortuna, appearing at the end of the base trying to flee into a canyon.... for some reason. A cutscene plays where he transforms his spaceship into an Andross-copy cat (and ditching a huge chunk of the ship's hull in the process which I can only imagine killed how many crewmen on his ship). He functions exactly like Andross, except easier. You can't stun his eyes or bomb his mouth, just shoot his hands. Sometimes his taunts and you can't do anything because he keeps his hands closed, but he doesn't attack either so eh. Once both hands are trashed another cutscene plays where Andrew gets wrecked by an Aparoid laser beam and a second boss comes down to fight. This fight is equally easy: shoot the obvious "Fuck Me" spots on the wings, then avoid the massive easily telegraphed slow-floating molten rocks, then shoot its... head... thing when it opens up. The level concludes with everyone amazed they beat a boss with grade school level puzzle design, followed by Fox being instructed by Peppy to retrieve the "core memory" from the dead boss as more of them show up and everyone retreats.

Fortuna is in short underwhelming and boring. Its design isn't the most horrible by any means, but its loaded with unrealized ideas at best and shallow imitations of its predecessors at worse. The music is just bland generic "spacey heroic" music that provides noise to listen to but is nothing noteworthy. The game honestly just goes downhill from here with a few exceptions.

KATINA: FRONTIER BASE BATTLE

In my opinion, this is honestly the worst level in the game from... soooo many levels. A technical level, a narrative level, just everything falls apart here and its goddamn mission two.

So let's take it from the top and start with the briefing. General P. informs the heroes that grave danger looms and all of Lylat is in danger, and a research director will inform them on the details.

Slippy how the fuck do you not know your dad is a high ranking scientist in Cornerian society I mean really.

But seriously, this is where the narrative really just starts shitting the bed and doesn't stop. Taking it step by step... Beltino mentions the aparoids by name, much like ROB did when the previous level's boss showed up. Fox however shows no knowledge of such a creature. Why? No, seriously, why? Beltino knows about them; ROB somehow identified it; Peppy in the previous level recognized the Core Memory and told Fox to recover it so he clearly knew about them too; how the fuck does Fox NOT know about them? Beltino continues to exposition dump that 17 years ago a sole aparoid (apparenly the same kind that we easily killed last level) destroyed an entire Cornerian fleet... somehow.

Gameplay and story segregation aside (which Starfox looooves to have by principle) wherein an easily dispatched boss that a single fighter plane can take down somehow obliterated an entire fleet of warships aside, let's REALLY look at and question this. That incident was 17 years ago... Fox is 28 or so in Assault - he was 18 in 64, and various sources say Assault is anywhere from one year to three years after Adventures, and Adventures was 8 years after SF64. Regardless of his exact age, Fox would have been anywhere from 9 to 13 years old or so when this Cornerian fleet just goes missing, which is more than old enough to remember such an event happening!

But Rob, you might say, maybe Fox being a kid at the time wouldn't have recalled such an event happening because he didn't pay attention to the news! First of all, that's malarky. The loss of an entire fleet would have been a huge event; that's hundreds of lives lost to a SINGLE enemy, it would have made Lylat News for sure and even the most ADHD of children can recall something about living through a tragedy. I know Starfox isn't "realistic" but come the hell on, this goes beyond the suspension of disbelief.

BUT ROB, you might say, WHAT IF THE CORNERIAN GOVERNMENT COVERED THE INCIDENT UP? Well if that were the case then why do so many people BESIDES Fox know about them? You can make an excuse for Beltino and Pepper as they're obviously on an gov payroll, but what about Peppy? He's just a merc. Or ROB? Wouldn't they have wanted to erase his memory files on this if it was such a sensitive issue? And the real kicker is at no point at all in the story does the narrative seem to imply a cover up was ever a thing; no one talks about Aparoids in hushed voices; General Pepper doesn't make any mention of this being confidential or formerly confidential information. It's just a goddamn hole, a giant gaping massive plot hole. And it's only the first in a loooong succession of them we're going to trip over.

And to wit? This is the last and ONLY time the "Aparoid Incident" is ever mentioned. No one talks about it after this short, 20 second exposition dump. We don't know who killed the Original Aparoid, we don't know how they knew what it was, we don't know ANYTHING besides what the game tells us, which is to say dick all nothing. After mentioning it, Beltino says they're analyzing the Core Memory from the Fortuna boss for data and information, and implies its incomplete, so I guess killing the boss damaged the Core. Pepper then interrupts with an unrelated mention of a distress signal from an outpost on Katina (though he calls it THE outpost, so is it the same one from SF64? Does Corneria only have ONE base on an ENTIRE planet?) and instructs Fox to investigate. Fox obliges, saying he'll do it on foot. Krystal demands she come with him as backup, but he declines saying he wants the rest of the team in the sky as air support, and the mission begins.

Interesting bit to note is on the loading screens, you get little tidbits of the story that fill in what's going on beyond the level you're playing on. Why they didn't just include this into the main narrative is beyond me, and if you're playing on a Wii the screen often loads too fast to really read it, but that isn't the game's fault. Fortuna's was rather plain, only reiterating what the briefing had already told you (Oikonny's fleet is made of Andross remnants, chase him if he flees, etc), but Katina's sheds a little more light on the situation of the Lylat system at current: it clarifies this is just ONE outpost on Katina (though apparently the only sending a signal?) which clarifies Pepper's bad writing and that apparently, all of the Lylat system has gone dark with interplanetary communications going dead. Again, why wasn't this in the breifing? It would have done much better for the mood had Starfox been suddenly faced with the reality that all across the system strange invaders are appearing and there's no way to see if anyone is safe or not, a lot better than Fox being an idiot who doesn't even know what an aparoid is even though by all accounts he SHOULD.

So we FINALLY actually START the level. Fox flies around the base... and then lands OUTSIDE the base. This is so damn stupid. He knows there's a distress signal - which implies there is SOME potential for danger. He knows he needs to go inside the base, an AIRFORCE BASE mind you (assuming so anyway), and there is plenty of room to land the Arwing inside it. Yet he chooses to land OUTSIDE the walls, walk a good distance away from it through the security door, and then acts surprised when TADA! A TRAP! Now he's locked in and out numbered with only his piddly Halo wannabe rifle to fight back with. Great leadership decsision making there, Fox. Look, I know the intention is to introduce the foot controls and give Fox a reason to not just book it to his Arwing, but there's so many other ways it could have been handled. Why not have Fox take some steps away from his Arwing, then have the aparoids destroy/eat it? That way Fox has the pressure placed on him without looking like an idiot. Also, is it too much to ask they render Fox's rifle on his back so when he draws it out he isn't pulling it out of his EAR?

As I said before, this is the first on-foot mission... and howdy-do, the controls just blow here. The default controls are similar to using the foot controls in Starfox 64's multiplayer: the control stick moves, A button fires, you hold down R to aim at targets, and the C stick cycles through weapons. The Y button jumps and the L button allows for strafing and rolling, but those are the same for any button configuration. Dual stick rearranges the configuration to employ FPS style controls with the control stick strafing and moving and the C stick aims, R button fires and the A button cycles weapons. R-running... does exactly that; the A button fires again, the control stick moves you around but you need to press and old the R button to actually move forward, and the C stick changes weapons. You can't backpedal with this config for some stupid reason.

All of these controls blow for the same reason though: Assault's foot controls are just not well made or tight. Fox glides all over the ground like he's on wheels, with very little traction. Honestly his walking animation is just for show, he covers much more ground than possible at the rate his legs move. Aiming is wide and impercise no matter what config you use, though if you wish to ever be able to shoot and move at the same time you need to use Dual Sticks. The crosshair is worthless because there's a glowing circle that appears over the enemy you're about to fire at and so long as you fire when that circle appears your shot will always hit the mark. I know console shooting games have auto aim assist but that's just ridiculous. FUN FACT: if the circle for some reason does not appear on an enemy and you still shoot at it, even if the crosshair is over the enemy, it will not register a hit. Derp. Getting hit by enemy attacks results in Fox ALWAYS doing the same stupid pained grunt while twitching and flailing around like a spastic for a second or two, and while he does have invinciiblity frames during this animation you are powerless to move and will often get enemies just stacking on top of you failing to attack you. When Fox recovers, his frames are gone, and guess what, all those enemies who are literally dogpiling you in vain to attack now damage you by mere TOUCH and the goddamn animation plays all over again. On gold mode this can be frustratinly fatal as being touched even once leaves you open to a dogpile of death.

The start of the level itself is simply put just shooting arbitrary targets. You start with the charge blaster, which is slow as shit but can be charged up (which is also slow as shit) to do more damage in a pinch. There's some 30 odd aparoids in a row you just mindlessly blast through, picking up a machine gun as you go along to make the slog quicker. You come across two large four legged aparoids with shields that block machine gun fire, so you have to dispatch it with a charge shot. It drops a rocket launcher, you use that to dispatch another one like it, and a cut scene plays. Fox says he has his hands full, Peppy sends him a Landmaster tank (or rather, a Landmaster Car with a big honking gun on it) and Falco chimes in that if Fox gets lonely, he'll drop by... fooor sooome reason even though in SF64 it was established Falco doesn't like the Landmaster at all. Character consistancy, what's THAT?

Before we talk about the tank, let's talk about a new mechanic (GASP) that Assault added to the mix: the Combo Meter. On all range missions (all of which involve being on foot or in the tank) you get a colorful bar underneath your hit score that fills up every time you kill an enemy. The first few kills won't mean anything besides filling your bar up, but once it fills out any additional kills will contribute to a bonus that expotentially increases as you keep it filled. Killing 10 enemies gives a small bonus, 20 gives a larger one, so on and so forth. When you aren't killing enemies, the meter slowly depletes, and if it empties entirely your combo is lost, so maintaining a high score (essential for the Gold Mode medals) requires stringing together kills effectively to get the maximum reward. In all honestly I really like this concept and the only problem I have with it is that the game neither explains this to you in any way, or really uses it effectively beyond the Gold Mode medals.

Controlling the Landmaster can either be "acceptable" or "horrible" depending on your control configuration. Unfortunately that choice is the inverse of whatever choice you decided to use for the on foot controls. Dual-sticks is the control of choice for on foot, but it is absolutely terrible for the tank because "strafing" with the tank activates its hover jets. However, unlike SF64 where the jets allowed the tank to strafe quickly from one side to another, these are AGONIZINGLY slow, really I wonder why they're even there. They do nothing effective, you can't dodge enemy fire with them and you can't aim while strafing either. So here you are, steering the tank and also aiming it with the same stick while trying very hard to not accidentally tilt the stick left or right so it doesn't stop all your movement to uselessly strafe at the speed of a snail.

The rest of the tank controls are clunky too. I get that a tank should have some weight to its feel, but the Landmaster is meant to be a high tech hovertank based on Arwing technology. Again, in SF64 the tank was quite fast, and it rolled fast, strafed fast, even hovered fast (faster still if you boosted while doing so). Here in Assalt, the general tank controls... are alright, if you use single stick, but strafing is terrible and hovering is agonizingly slow and heavy. To get anywhere while hovering you essentially have to come to a complete stop and aim your tank in the direction you want to go, then press Y and then push foward. Trying to change direction mid air is just unfeasible. One last note about the tank before discussing the level itself again: the design. It is atrocious. Like the Arwing before it, the tank in Assault suffers from weird proportions, though not as bad as the space fighter. instead of actual tank treads we now have treaded wheels, four of them (hence the gag "Landmaster Car"). The actual body of the tank is... odd, just this really thin frame that connects to the wheel frames with a gun turret slapped on top of it. Despite its clunky game design, it doesn't LOOK clunky at all. For all its aerodynamics, the SF64 tank still looked like an actual damn tank.

So back to the level at hand, we get a tank, and what is our goal? To kill more arbitrarily designated targets throughout the level. Also, you gotta love Fox's little quip about the Greatfox's targeting computer being shit, when Peppy is trying to teleport down to him with pinpoint accuracy a goddamn tank from orbit. He should be grateful the thing didn't fall on his head and crush him, the little shit. In all seriousness though, this part of the game is just like before, just now in a tank instead of on foot. This DEFINES Katina's flaw as a level: looking beyond the gameplay issues that are universal to the game as a whole like the controls, Katina's level design is simply put a giant empty sandbox with random enemies haphazardly strewn around its pointless open spaces and ramps, some of which are given a big red label on your radar and have to go and kill to progress further. It is lazy and uninspired, and honestly feels like an unfinished beta. The entire map design is literally more like some kind of Quake arena multiplayer map with enemies dumped in. There's nothing do DO in the level besides kill the labeled enemies; sure you can go inside a few rooms but there's no REASON to do so, except I think on higher difficulties there are more targets inside them, which just drags the experience out even more. It is mind numbing, brain dead, and worst of all it is BORING.

So after you kill some arbitraily labeled enemies we FINALLY get to kill some kind of sort relevence to the story. Hatchers fall from the sky and attatch themselves all over the base (if this place was filled to the tits with aparoids to begin with why weren't there already hatchers installed though?) and spawn more aparoids. Which doesn't mean much because we see aparoids teleport in out of the sky in the part of the level before this. Hell, the hatchers themselves come out of the same teleporty effects the mook aparoids did. Whatever, at least there is a purpose to killing these than just to be killing something, even if it doesn't make sense. You'll also have to save your wingmates, because that's a Starfox thing even though you're on the freakin GROUND and the whole purpose they're even IN the sky is because Fox wanted AIR COVER. Well a lot of good THAT paid off. After killing all the damn hatchers one more appears out of thin air for the sole purpose of railroading you to the giant obvious prestaged boss fight area.

The boss does indeed show up and its... some sort of generic four legged crab monster. Let's take this moment to discuss aesthetics again, specifically for the aparoids, specifically how they don't have one beyond "HEXAGONS". The aparoids have a design aesthetic that only even passingly works on the Gamecube due to visual limitations, that is to say the graphics of the console define their look. This in and of itself is not a bad thing, a lot of games have had good design born from their mechanical limits, such as the dark art look of Majora's Mask. However, the aparoids lack any kind of solid design. They're... polygons with panel lines and hexagons formed into vaguely bug-shaped figures. You often can't make heads or tails of them, and they have a variety of different looks that are never expanded on. Some have legs, some have wheels, some have both, some are mechanical, some or organic, some are a mix, its all just a mess. We see no rhyme or reason behind them other than "robot bugs", and we don't even know WHY they're bugs. Or robots. If they even are one or the other. Nor do we see any progression in their design: in this level alone we see crawling bugs, small blue spider like bugs, bugs with wheels for back legs and guns on them, some kind of massive tick-looking thing... its a mess. It's all just a big fat mess.

The boss is utterly pathetic. He gives a cool light show with effectiveless lasers and missles firing at your teammates as they in turn effectivelessly fire back at him. He has a giant weakpoint im his underside that you blast a few times to make him fall down, then you hover onto the top and wait for its crown to open up for no given reason so you can blast it away. After a few blasts it tries to missle you off from underneath and if you barrel roll you'll fall off, so just drive in a circle to stay out of harm. Do this a few times and that's it, it dies. Exciting. FUN FACT: if your tank is destroyed, Fox won't die with it; rather he is ejected completely unharmed (sans any damage his HP took when the tank got hurt... because that makes sense for a completely protected pilot to take damge when his vehicle's shields are taking damage) and Peppy teleports you down a new one. This can go on forever, you will never run out of Landmasters. Ever. This actually applies to any all range mode level with vehicles: if the vehicles are destroyed, you just get a new one no problem. Where does the Greatfox store all these damn things??

So the boss is trashed and we get even more plotholes. The SOS signal has stopped sending, and it is revealed the one who sent it was Pigma.

What the hell was Pigma doing here? No, really, what? This is a CORNERIAN MILITARY BASE. Pigma is a CRIMINAL OUTLAW. Why is he here? Later in the game we find out Pigma is working with the Aparoids, but that clearly isn't the case at THIS moment, because Pigma 1: sent the signal and 2: thanked Fox for helping him out and 3: steals the Core Memory from the dead boss carcass. While you could say him sending the signal was part of the trap, it still leaves the other two issues unresolved; nevermind the fact that it begs the question of if the trap was for Starfox specifically or for any idiot who unfortunately came across it. This is another one of Assault's HUGE problems: it seems to want to try and tell this huge dramatic, involving narrative, but it doesn't think anything out ahead of time. Characters are just thrown in with very little rhyme, reason, respect or regard to their natures, simplistic as they may be, and plotholes form by the dozens. There seems to be the vague, vain attempt to maintain SF64's minmalist storytelling while trying to somehow also make it bigger and it is of course impossible to do and results in a MESS. SF64's minimalist story worked BECAUSE IT WAS MINIMALIST; it didn't TRY to make these big huge plot twists or explain things. It had a simple pemise with a simple solution: Andross is invading, he's an asshole, go kick his hairy ape ass. Assault comes across like a bad fanfiction by comparison.

So Pigma fucks off with the Core Memory and Fox gives the underperformance of the decade (No, stop, Pigma! Dang! Seriously this is the best they can do with Fox and Pigma, the latter of which is responsible for the death of the former's father?). And that's it. Fox returns to the Greatfox (off camera) and the mission ends. Hoooo boy, what a mess this level is. To recap, the narrative takes a turn from "rough" to "completely inside out". A lot of oppurtunity in the level is missed out as well. Where the hell is BILL? SERIOUSLY? Bill is Fox's bestie, and this could've been his base! But not only is Bill nowhere to be seen, but no mention of him is made at all of any sort - its like he doesn't even exist. The level design is awful, being a huge worthless open arena of a level with nothing to do in it but shoot badguys to make more badguys appear so you can kill them to make the boss appear. Perhaps the only good grace is the music, being an alright if overblown remix of SF64's Katina music. This is genuinely the lowest point in the game, for me. To reach a low so quickly is a horrible sign, but the plus side is things can only go up from here, no matter how small the ups are.

SARGASSO: HOSTILITIES REVISITED

So while I did say that Katina is the absolute worst level of the game and it can only go up from there, I failed to mention that the climb up is extremely slow. Sargasso probably ranks in as the second worst mission in the game, comitting many of the same sins that Katina did but to a lesser and slighty more directed degree. We'll address the game design problems as we reach them, but for now we have another briefing to check out.

So at the end of the last mission Pigma fucked off with the Aparoid core memory... for... no real given reason, really. He says he'll "be rich" but he doesn't even know what the fuck it is, and selling it to say Corneria would only be indirectly helping the heroes out. Herpaderp. Either way, he apparently flees to a region of space near what I assume is Titania given the red planet with the rings in the background known as "Sargasso", and is a known criminal hideout. They approach a space station/colony and are hailed by an uppity spastice ape who calls them all idiots and that this colony belongs to "Lord O'Donnel", obviously referring to our eyepatched edgy counterpart to Fox, Wolf. It would seem that since Starfox 64 that Wolf has gone up in the world if he's the big boss of an entire space station full of redshirts to boss around. A shame nothing is explored or done with this idea after this level.

Anyway, Fox tells the redshirt ape that he's here for Pigma and doesn't want any trouble, but because he's an idiot he tells them to his face they're Starfox. The redshirt denies knowing anything about Pigma and because Starfox is now there they're "not going to let them go anywhere" and bust them up. The briefing then just rushes through the rest: Slippy interrupts with an e-mail from his dad saying Pigma's stolen Core Memory could totally have the location of the Aparoid homeworld, and ROB announces that battleships are warping in, and Fox suddenly decides to wage a war of attrition to destroy "transfer gateways" INSIDE the station even though the obvious and immediate danger would be the warping in battleships OUTSIDE the station. So he takes Slippy with him inside the station to trash the place while Falco and Krystal deal with the battleships.

This briefing confuses me. It started out with a cool idea: Fox barging in on Wolf's turf looking for Pigma and finding out he has this huge massive space station now, but... why stay there? Ok, I can assume that Fox figures the redshirts are lying about not knowing about Pigma because Pigma was a part of Starwolf, but the game never really says that. It implies it, sure, but the writing is all chopped up and sloppy because of Slippy's sudden and random interruption. Also, how exactly does the redshirt plan to keep Fox from going anywhere? They're in SPACE. In a SPACESHIP. Fox could very easily just fuckoff and leave if he wanted. Instead of all this dumb shit about "transfer devices" which are just reskinned aparoid hatchers anyway, why not have the Sargasso Station trap the Greatfox in a tractor beam? Why not have the battleships attack the Greatfox? We don't even SEE the Greatfox in this level, which is the weirdest thing of all! This whole "massive battle" level is stupid because 1: it exists only because of poorly written communication; and I don't mean intentionally written for a misunderstanding to lead to a fight, I mean the communication between the characters is poorly written; and 2: it doesn't mean anything! The Sargasso thugs literally have NOTHING on Starfox, and the only danger Starfox is put into is the danger they put themSELVES into.

So we get a little cutscene of Fox and Slippy docking their Arwings inside the station... with absolutely no resistence at all. Seriously, they KNOW Fox is there. They WANT to kick his ass. Why does the station have no defenses, no alarms, no nothing for when Fox approaches and enters? We don't even see redshirts scrambling to get into position to attack Fox once he gets out. A battleship shows up and Krystal points it out to Falco, and they make way to attack it, thus starting the level.

Before ranting about the level design, let's talk again about aesthetic. I actually kind of LIKE the art for Sargasso as a whole. The ape redshirts have this cool retro-ish 1980s thug look about them with visors over their eyes like the mutants from Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns", wearing leather brown jackets and generally looking like punks. The Sargasso station itself has a weird but unoffensive if boxy design that looks decidedly more used-future lowfi than Starfox's sleek high flying aesthetic which I generally prefer. Inside the station we have a lot of cool useless details: panel lines, glowing lights, all kinds of high-tech shit... and what appears to be a stupidly exposed reactor core of sorts right in the middle of the hangar.

It isn't all good, though. The redshirts in the level don't look as they appeared in the briefing, wearing instead these ugly bulky spacesuits that don't look like anything. There's some weird design clash with the lowfi look of the station as a whole and the more hifi look of certain assets such as the elevator on the top floor and all the glowy stuff. Furthermore, the level's layout is just.... bizzare. Speaking not from a gameplay standpoint, but a world building one - the hideout's design makes little sense. It's essentially a fuckton of ramps and railingless catwalks that go nowhere. There's no rooms save for this little area at the top that sort of looks like a control room? Its difficult to say. For such a massive, cool looking area, it does not feel alive at all.

The level itself is the same basic principle as Katina: mindlessly wander through an area that feels more like it was intended for a multiplayer arena match shooting enemy-spawning targets, only this time its verticle space and not wide open space. This level also introduces the other new mechanic in Assault: the "Invasion Meter". In the upper lefthand corner of the screen is a purple bar that slowly fills up, representing the total strength of the enemy forces in the area. In theory this could present an interesting sort of time limit to completing a mission before you are overwhelmed by enemies, one you can to a degree manage by taking down key targets. In practice it is at best ignorable and at worst a distraction from your objectives to go out of your way to get into your Arwing and engage in some boring ass all range mode fighting for a few minutes.

Seriously, that is all the Invasion Meter ever does: distract from the main mission of the level rather than enhance it. In Sargasso, Fox is targetting teleporters INSIDE the station. Ignoring however stupid that is (which I've previously addressed anyway), destroying these devices do NOTHING to affect the progress of the Invasion Meter as it only represents the overwhelming numbers of enemies OUTSIDE the station in SPACE. The only way to lower the meter is to stop what you're doing, backtrack through the ridiculous maze that is the Sargasso station (or more likely just jump off the nearest ledge because there's no damn fall damage), get in the Arwing, and blow up some enemy ships. This is not fun. This is not well synergized. This is derailment. It isn't like the Arwing is any fun to control either, as I've mentioned before in the Fortuna portion of this rant, in fact it is even worse in All-Range Mode because now your turns feel even fatter and more sluggish. Doing loops and U-turns are equally floaty. To top it all off, aside from temporarily reducing the meter, taking the fight to space does NOTHING - killing battleships does not reduce the rate they respawn, or the numbers, or anything. There's no teleporters or warp gates or what have you either to destroy to turn the odds in your favor, they will just endlessly spawn so long as you are fit to drag out the level.

So after mindlessly blasting through who knows how many dozens of men effortlessly and avoiding idioticly placed obstacles such as machines that endlessly spit out EXPLODING BARRELS for no good given reason, you destroy all the transfer devices which cues the second half of the level. Funny enough, no matter how full the Invasion Meter is when you complete the level, once you destroy that last transfer device all the enemy space fighters just fuck off. So following that jolly bit of mass violence, we get another cutscene where Wolf FINALLY shows up and is rightfully pissed at Fox barging into his house and trashing all his stuff and killing all his minions. The real kicker here is Fox says he "isn't here to fight" and "just wants Wolf to hand over Pigma" even though his entirely battle strategy here consisted of invading the entire station and subjugating everyone inside. Asshole!

Starwolf's introduction brings back Wolf, now sporting biker leather and spikey shoulderpads, and Leon who wears a nondescript ugly purple jumpsuit for no good reason. Both of their voices are completely different, though for Wolf its still a good voice, but Leon sounds horrendous. Supposedly he always had this kind of voice in Japanese, but I don't give a shit about that he sounds like he ate glass shards and his English SF64 voice was fantastic. We're also introduced to Panther Caroso, another one of the few good things to come out of Assault. Panther has this whole Latin Lover thing going on with a smooth, deep, sultry voice which purrs at every given oppurtunity, and his incessant hitting on Krystal much to every teenage fanboy's anger and my cheap ammusement.

Seriously though, Panther is a good character addition to the series. Despite my misgivings about removing Pigma and Andrew from Starwolf (probably to make Starwolf seem more "cool" I guess), Panther fits in rather nicely. His design is cool, sporting a stylish "ace pilot" kind of astronaut suit with gaudy gold embroidery all over which suits his character, and he does something all good shallow characters do in a shallow game: leave an impression. He has a niche, he sticks to that niche, and he's recognizable for that niche. Furthermore, he stays consistant throughout his appearances in the game, which is more than what I can say for other characters... save for, ammusingly, his introductory lines. "All who see my rose meet death" and "Make me mad and your life is as good as gone" are hilariously morbid and violent against Panther's otherwise suave and charismatic presentation.

So you hustle back to your Arwing and brace yourself for the worst dogfight in the history of video games! Seriously, the sweet Spanish styled remix of the Starwolf fight music is the ONLY good thing going on here. In Starfox 64, Starwolf would attack Starfox on a one to one ratio: Wolf targets Fox, Leon targets Falco, Pigma targets Peppy, and Andrew targets Slippy. Keyword here: targets. As in, actually pursues, and fires at them. In Assault Starwolf is down one man, but Slippy stays on foot inside the station so you'd think it would be Fox to Wolf, Falco to Leon, and newcomer Panther to newcomer Krystal, right? Well, yes and no. They do fly AROUND their counterpart characters, to be sure... but that's it. Aside from Wolf firing at you when you get to close to him, Leon and Panther will NEVER fire at Falco or Krystal. When Those two DO get pursued in the dogfight, it is by RANDOM, GENERIC SHIPS. Leon and Panther literally do NOTHING. Neither do Krystal and Falco for that matter - in SF64, if you broke the chase off your wingmate in a Starwolf fight, they would return the favor and take a few shots back at their counterpart. This is not so here. Both Starfox and Starwolf fly useless around until you shoot all of Starwolf down. Even Wolf won't chase you beyond his aggro zone, where as in SF64 he RELENTLESSLY pursued you across the entire battlefield.

So you beat the pants off Starwolf and feel a little more empty inside for it, and another cutscene plays where Wolf calls off the fight for... reasons. Fox gets sassy and demands Wolf hand over Pigma even though this makes the third time he's been told Pigma isn't here. Krystal finally asks the million dollar question of "WELL IF HE ISN'T HERE THEN WHERE IS HE", to which Panther finally realizes that she is a female and thus homes in on her like a fly to honey and tries to mack the moves on her. Falco calls him an idiot, Panther tells him to shutup, and then helpfully informs Starfox that the communication record will point Pigma's trail towards Fichina, so I guess he did drop by at some time and was chased away. Wolf then gets grumpy and tells Fox that STARWOLF WILL TAKE THEM DOWN ONE DAY and then the three of them lightspeed away... even though Sargasso Station is his base. Where is he going? Who cares, this game sure doesn't!

Sargasso is a terrible damn level, only marginally better than Katina by virtue of just having overall less horrible things in it. You aren't TECHNICALLY railroaded into a terrible vehicle section as you randomly wander around an empty sandbox to kill arbitrary targets, and said arbitrary targets have some relevent importance. Sargasso is a much more interesting level to look at than Katina, though no less irritating to navigate, and Starwolf's boss fight is so utterly empty and soulless I can't even think of proper words to express my dislike for it. When an 8 year old Nintendo 64 game provides not only a better dogfighting experience than your state of the art Gamecube game not once but THREE times, something has gone HORRIBLY wrong. Still, Sargasso looks cool and Panther is a solid addition to the cast, so there's that at least.

FICHINA: INTO THE STORM

Fichina is where we finally see some real improvement in the game, but it isn't much and the first half of the level is hard-pressed to let go of the aimless open sandbox design that Katina and Sargasso had. Fortunately, it gets better.

The briefing is... actually good, for the most part! Falco mentions the planet is snowy and cold, but Fox mentions a climate control center that makes the planet "habitable". Whether this means it totally wrecks the ecosystem to go from frozen to temperate, or merely makes it warm enough to support life (like the pine trees we see in the level) while still being a "cold" climate is never expanded upon. Either way, the control center has been knocked out of comission and it seems to be Pigma's doing to lay a trap or slow Starfox down. The blizzard is too strong for the Arwings to fly through, so Fox goes down with the tank to get in close to power the control center back up. This is a good briefing. It tells you what's going on, it tells you what's going to happen, and it doesn't fuck around with trying to cram as much plot hole inducing shit as possible in its time limit. I could say I wished for more characterization and personality from Fox in this briefing, but honestly I'll take what I can get and this is the first briefing in the game to at least succeed at being a briefing and not a headache.

In the following cutscene we see Fox looking over the control center with some fancy hightech binoculars which he rather nonchalantly throws away into the snow when he's done with for some reason. ROB informs Fox that the center is protected by a barrier shield that prevents entry. With time on the short side, Fox decides he'll have to shut down the shield by trashing the center's power generators... which still seems a bit extreme, I mean surely those generators power more than just the shield right? Either way Fox assures Peppy he won't "go overboard" and the mission begins. There's a tank mere feet away from where Fox starts at, and the entire first part of this mission is intended to be played inside it as you will be facing enemies that are just too numerous or too tough to face on foot.

Unfortunately this first part of Fichina is just like Katina: drive around the tank and shoot whatever gets in your way until you destroy your arbitrary targets, but it is done significantly better here at least. Namely, the targets are integrated into the map layout, being power generators and not just randomly placed enemies on the map. However, Fichina's map layout is HUGE and still much of it is wasted as many of the nooks, cranies and caverns have nothing of interest or purpose besides being filled to the eyeballs with aparoids to blast. The amount of enemies to smash is quite ludicrous, I've had my combo meter reach up to over 160 without ever missing a beat and I'm pretty sure it can go higher still with some diligent bug hunting. Either way, after all three generators are shut down, the shield drops and you can access the control center. The tank won't fit inside, so you have to get out on foot and enter.

You enter the center and another cutscene plays. Fox reactivates the settings and the blizzard magically fucks off, but Pigma rigged the sentry bots to attack should such a thing happen. Falco tells Fox to hold on and he'll be there to help as soon as he can. Behold! The first gameplay variation of any kind in the game! Its kind of awkward, but its a start. You basically have to fight off waves of increasingly larger sentry bots until Falco arrives, with better weapons spawning in to help you out as you do so. The bots themselves can't be hurt unless they're just about to attack you, so there's some chicken play involved. Overall the experience is clumsy, but at least its a change of pace from what Katina and Sargasso were doing.

So Falco arrives and blasts all the sentry bots from above with his Arwing's cannons (the control center lacks a roof... for some reason), and then.... crashes his Arwing INSIDE the control center and tells Fox to hop aboard. For an ace pilot... that seemed really out of place for Falco. Slippy, sure, but Falco? He could've easily landed outside and asked Fox to get on there. Either way, for the first time in the GAME Fox and Falco have something that resembles CHARACTER BANTER, with Fox taking the piss out of Falco's dumbass landing followed by Falco telling Fox not to fall off his Arwing, wherein Fox quips back at Falco to worry more about not getting shot down. If only the whole game at least tried to match this scene, the writing would almost be tolerable. So Fox somehow glues himself to the wing of Falco's Arwing and the third and best part of the level begins, the wing riding portion.

Wing riding is rail-shooting at its purest form. No dodging and weaving an Arwing through obstacles here, just an endless ammo plasma cannon and tons of enemies to shoot in patterns as they try and attack Falco's arwing. It's simplistic and repetitive, but enjoyable all the same. There are clumps of aparoids on the ground that are defenseless against your attacks, which you use to buff up your combo meter and string the kills together. You also have to save Slippy, which is about as stupid as can be given you're just riding on a wing. Falco doesn't actually do anything besides fly aimlessly in circles until Peppy transports down an Arwing for Fox, which really makes me wonder what the point of flying around on Falco's wing even was.

When Peppy transports an Arwing to Fox, another cutscene plays where Slippy reveals the security robots from earlier were controlled by the Aparoids, revealing their honestly pretty damn obvious ability to infect machines. Why is this such a weird surprise to anyone? Most of them LOOK like robots already! They have wheels and guns and shit! Pigma then shows up out of nowhere and reveals he is the one pulling all the strings... somehow... for some reason. He wakes up an aparoid that takes control of a piece of the control center's engineering which stands up... on two spindly little legs somehow. ROB announces that due to the aparoid infesting the machinery the control center is going to melt down or whatever, so the obvious solution is to SHOOT THE SHIT out of it, of course. Pigma fucks off yet again, which really doesn't make sense. Peppy says if they don't stop the corrupted machinery, the center will melt down and they'll never stop the blizzards again, but... couldn't Corneria just build another one if they really had to? I mean they built the first one during the blizzards, obviously. Second of all, defeating the boss doesn't fix the machinery, it just topples it the fuck over like dead weight, so it still needs to be repaired anyway!

The boss fight self is another pathetically easy one. Weird looking trash mobs spawn from the boss which you shoot to stock up your nova bombs, then when it opens up its hatches you just chug them down there and watch the HP bar drop like a stone. There's a time limit but it is by FAR too generous, granting you 7 minutes to drop a boss that goes down in under 2. You pop two bombs in and it drops. We get an ending cutscene loaded with tons of pseduophilosophical bullshit! Falco is apparently amazed that you can be turned on by your allies... you know, like what Pigma did to James? Betrayal and backstabbery is not a strange alien concept, Falco. You being a gang member should know that of all people. Peppy muses that machines are just machines and those with weak wills are easily swayed to evil, to which Fox parrots to himself as if he's actually having an introspective thought. We then cut to Pigma who apparently sleeps at the wheel and becomes indoctrinated by the Aparoids, even though he says he won't turn a profit by submitting to them. So, if Pigma knew they would try and control him, what the fuck is he doing working for them? What IS this great profit he can get from working with the Aparoids? Ugggggggggh.

Fichina isn't that good of a level truth be told, but it is a significant step up from the last two. The tank portion is mercifully short, and wing riding, while utterly stupid, is mostly fun. The boss is a joke, but he goes by so fast you hardly notice or care. The story continues to be as vapid as before, for a bunch of characters going on their 30s, most of the Starfox team muses like a bunch of freshman high schoolers. I know it's a family friendly game and all, but this is the most lazy fakedeep writing I've seen in a long while. Nothing they say actually accomplishes anything, there's no character development or change to be had from their musing, its just regurgitated cliche tripe that sounds more meaningful than it really is. The whole issue of Pigma continues to be stupid too, creating more questions than it answers. Why is Pigma pulling the strings? What is the profit he has to gain from selling out all of Lylat to robot bugs? Why is he doing that at all if he doesn't WANT to obey them? How did he even get caught up in all this? None of this is, or ever will be answered. They simply picked Pigma as a throwaway antagonist because he wasn't "cool" and completely flanderized his character so they could railroad him to his death, and its a sad shameful waste of a character for it.

On the bright side, the next level is the best one in the entire game and is honest to god legitimately good. If only the whole game were like this one level.

ASTEROID BELT: THE APAROID MENACE

Of all the levels in Assault, I actually and honestly genuinely like this one almost entirely. It covers everything a good sequel game should do: take pre-existing ideas, and expand upon them creatively for a new and enriching experience. Assault's general problems aside (the controls and the bad line reading), this is a damn good level. Mostly. It still has problems, but hey, nothing is perfect. Let's take a look.

The briefing is practically nonexistant. ROB says Pigma fled to the asteroid belt, so Falco talks some shit about how Pigma can run but he can't hide. Fox once again shows he can at least try to have a personality by quipping at Falco's gang member past, and Peppy seems confident that this time they'll bag Pigma for sure. That's it. I'm honestly dissapointed this briefing wasn't longer, they actually seemed to give a shit about characterization here! That's Assault for you, the moment it tries to be good, it only teases you with a taste of it. Moving on...

The asteroid belt is an on-rails level! And unlike Fortuna, it has SHIT TO DO! You're thrown right into the action without wasting any time: asteroids come hurling at you, and... you see bits of destroyed Wolfens for some reason. Slippy quips about them being destroyed, Krystal's macguffin powers detect that they abandoned ship... but, why were they even here? Once again Assault manages to amaze me by neglecting even the most simple and basic of storytelling abilities. Why was Starwolf here? Were they looking for Pigma? Did they want to help? Were they just unlucky and in the wrong place at the wrong time? This is so annoying, Assault is littered like a California freeway with leftover debris of forgotten plot threads.

As you proceed through the space rocks, Aparoids come out to play from behind them, making them challenging to spot and fire at as they use the asteroids for cover. This doesn't feel cheap, though, it actually provides some much needed excitement that the game has been sorely lacking. Falco gets chased early on as well, and again the challenge is saving him while the asteroids get in your way. You're then assaulted by HUGE waves of clumped together fighters which give you only a small window of oppurtunity to destroy before they fly off and attack you. If you helped Falco, he'll toss you a bomb to help as well. Again the challenge is the hands of the player's ability, and not fake restrictions or obstructions. Your ability to do well is based soley in your capacity to fly and fight well.

The asteroids lighten up for a moment, and you're pursued by weird... things that cling to the Arwing and need to be reflected off with rolling. Afterwards you re-enter the asteroids, some of which have been rigged with rockets to hurl them at you as projectiles. After that assault (hurrhurr) comes a field of asteroids with laser projectors built onto them that spin, creating an obstacle course during which Krystal is chased. This marks the one and only time Fox reacts to someone being chased: he rather poorly stammers Krystal's name after she cries for help. You weave through some indestructible asteroids, Krystal drops you a health ring if you saved her, and the second part of the level comes into view: a massive under construction space station.

The station is COOL. The asteroid belt was fun to play but nothing really special visually, but this is where Assault realizes some of the potential it could have had. DOZENS of fighters come out to greet you both in formations and individually, and there are a lot of defense turrets that fire at you as well. As you scale up the side of the station, more fighters come in droves leading to some damn frantic action as Falco gets chased for a second time. Too bad they keep flanderizing his character. "Sorry to show you such bad flying", bleh. An enemy explodes out of the wall, being the Andrew Fleet Prototype from the Fortuna level. How it got there is anyone's guess, but the aparoids have taken it over. Sadly it goes down easily, a wasted oppurtunity for a miniboss fight. You traverse a long empty stretch, Slippy gets chased, and you enter the main gate of the station where it is flooded with even more fighters and turrets.

The airlocks seal ahead of the team, so Peppy directs them to an opening in the wall on the left, where you come out inside some sort of aparoid assembly line, with giant claws and cranes to avoid while blasting at land based aparoids crawling around on the inside. Once you navigate that, you dive down inside a maintainence tunnel filled with even more turrets. At the end is a cutscene revealing the boss of the level, Pigma.

Oh, Pigma, what have they done to yoooou? In the cutscene we see a horribly mutated Pigma become engulfed by a massive aparoid cluster, which is encased inside of a giant machine body. Fox attempts to speak with it, and it spits out regurgitated Star Trek Borg "you will be assimilated" junk. After seeing words don't work, Fox commands the team to attack. Sadly for as much as I liked the level, Pigma's boss fight is just a shallow rehash of the Gorgon from SF64's Area 6 with less abilities and less difficulty. His arms open up to fire rockets, will punch at you, and throw asteroids to avoid. You shoot them when they're open and his face plate opens up, showing... his face, which you shoot. He shoots missles at you, and sometimes a giant laser beam from his mouth, but he has no other tricks. After he dies, the mission ends with an eerily silent cutscene.

Despite the lackluster boss and derpy writing, I love this level. If the whole game was as well made as this level, I could have overlooked its smaller problems and even considered the game fairly good! Sadly, it is not meant to be. Level design aside, there's little else going on here of note: the story is nonexistant both in the briefing and in the level itself, simply creating more questions without answers such as Starwolf's random unexplained presence. Pigma gets killed off in the most ignoble of ways, and noone seems to remark or care about it either. Oh well, after this mission we get another FMV that leads into the next level.

SAURIA: REUNION

This FMV is the second time we get to see the bridge of the Greatfox, and it gives us a much better look at it than the opening FMV from Fortuna. It... its not good looking. There's an arrangement of seats obviously intended for the Starfox team to sit in, and a giant monitor that displays incoming information for briefings. Just beyond that screen though is just.... a long expanse of empty space. Furthermore, there's pretty much nothing in the bridge besides what I mentioned: chairs, screens, and a lot of white. Egh. The bridge of the Greatfox in Adventures was much better than this, it had character and felt much larger and open, with better use of its space and little details like the computer monitors and the jukebox. General Pepper congratulates Starfox for FINALLY getting that damn core memory, and says they will begin planning an invasion of the Aparoid homeworld to kick the shit out of the queen aparoid, who apparently makes all of them all by herself. He's interrupted by Krystal who says she suddenly detects cries of agony from Sauria. They must be in danger! Better go save their butts!

Ok, hold the goddamn phone for a minute. The whole game since Katina has been a wild goose chase after Pigma. Remember when I mentioned the Katina loading screen, how it said ALL communication across Lylat had gone dark? What happened to that? Did the other planets fight off the aparoids all on their lonesome? I know it was only mentioned on the loading screen but what the hell? Why interrupt the flow of the story like this with Sauria? We've only visited Fortuna, Katina, and Fichina as far as planets go: Zoness, Aquas, MacBeth, Titania and Venom are all untouched. There's no explanation for what becomes of those worlds, for better or worse. So Starfox just fucks off out of Lylat to go to the asscrack end of it to help Sauria out without any regard for the other planets that may or may not be dead husks now. Good job.

So, the briefing! Slippy points out the dinosaurs of Sauria are being "aparoidized", and Peppy muses on this being how they multiply. We see more hatchers have covered the surface of Sauria, or at least this vaugely defined area of it, which of course creates more aparoids even though they can just teleport in from fucking nowhere anyway. So of course, the strategy is to kill all the bloody hatchers, AGAIN! Because fuck mission variety, we can just recycle resources over and over again. Fox and Krystal decide to take the ground, Falco and Slippy take the skies... even though while both Krystal and Slippy are only modest pilots, Slippy is far tougher on foot and is a pro with a tank. Derpaderp. Krystal then gives a very mood-inappropriate quip about "a mission together at last", to which Fox equally inappropriately responds with a nervous schoolboy stammer. FFS Fox you're almost 30 goddammit, and have you both suddenly forgotten the HORRIBLE DEATHS of all the dinosaurs you saw on screen? Is now REALLY the time for passive-aggressive FLIRTING? And to top it all off, Krystal FOLDS HER ARMS and TURNS HER HEAD AWAY from Fox as if his thick-skulled emotionally dead response was some great offense to her. Remember what I said about inconsistant mood in this game? Yeah, this scene practically PERSONIFIES it. Falco butts in to ask them what the FUCK they're doing and tells them to move their asses, and the mission begins.

Ok, before we talk about the mission, something NEW is bugging me now. In this briefing, we see dinosaurs covered in nondescript blue and purple aparoid spooge and it is called "aparoidization". Later in the game, we will see Cornerian foot soldiers who have also been "aparoidized". Furthermore, in previous levels we've seen the aparoids take control of various things, such as the Andrew Fleet Prototype, and the Fichina security droids. Where am I going with this? Well, aside from the DROVES of aparoids you shoot the ever loving shit out of, both Katina and Fichina, levels with ESTABLISHED, ACKNOWLEDGED Cornerian populations, mostly military or science personel, are GHOST TOWNS. I mean that in the most literal sense: there's NOTHING in these levels besides aparoids. What happened to the people in these installations? Were they all just on vacation? The game shows it isn't afraid to have Fox kill the hell out of infested people, nor is it afraid to show people in the stages of mid-mutation... so why are Katina and Fichina so empty? Why is nothing SAID about them being so empty? There's a whole freakin' army base with noone in there but aparoids and noone says ANYTHING besides some quips like "if there are survivors they'll be the only witnesses", but fuck there isn't even evidence that anyone as even here to GET KILLED. Just another example of Assault's inconsistant and lazy design in both game and narrative design.

So. Sauria. It's a big drop in fun after the tight paced excitement of the asteroid belt, bringing back the horrible "run around like a jackass" sandbox from Katina, this time with the added "fun" of Sargasso's pace disrupting invasion counter. Once again you automatically win once all the arbitrary enemy spawners are destroyed, regardless of the status of the Invasion Meter; furthermore the Invasion Meter is again just for aerial units: disrupting your efforts on ground to go to the sky to shoot enemies down. Aerial battles have become a huge pain now, as Sauria introduces a handful of new flying aparoid enemies, which are far more aggressive than anything you might have had to fight in Sargasso, the last all range Arwing mission. Flying aparoids fly RIGHT up your ass CONSTANTLY and take these sluggish pot shots at you, but more likely they're intent on flying INTO you because their pathfinding is so horrible.

Fox starts dead center in the map, without even a cutscene this time to show us how we got there. To Sauria's credit the level is actually very large and INTERESTINGLY designed, however because it follows the same design philosophy as Katina and Sargasso and Fichina, there's nothing to DO with this interesting design. There's a ton of caves and caverns (one of which emulates the magic caves from Adventures... though its loaded with weapons for some reason), fortified ruins, temples, and natural landscapes such as cliffs, rivers, and waterfalls, and not a damn single one of them has a purpose beyond "there might be a hatcher in here". And depending on your difficulty, you may not even need to see the entirety of the level anyway. Talk about wasted space and effort. You have access to the tank as well on Sauria, but it is effectively useless as its slow speed and clumsy controls make it difficult to navigate the enclosed areas where hatchers are located, nor is it very effective at shooting down enemy craft compared to the Arwing. Also, did I mention Falco and Slippy both get chased in this level as well, further adding to the distractions? Nothing is more hair pulling horrible than being on the opposite end of your Arwing inside a cave and having to hear "FOX HELP ME PLS". The dialogue is all over the place otherwise: Krystal jumps between "righteously enraged" to "whimsically wondering how big Tricky is now". Peppy chimes in with how if they save Sauria, you'll get to see Tricky again, with much the same whimsical tone of voice. It's one thing to be worried about a friend in need, but... yaknow, people are DYING out here. The mood inconsistancy bug bites again!

Despite the Aparoids infesting the dinosaurs and there being a handful of new enemy designs, none of them are dinosaur-inspired. You just fight the same old boring aparoids you faught in previous levels: the wheel guys, the bug guys, the shielded bigger bug guys, the fat tick looking fuckers. One enemy IS inspired by Sauria... and it looks like a Bomb Plant Seed. It explodes if you go near it. That's it. Honestly, there isn't much more to say about Sauria as a level: it's just kind of there. Narratively, its a distraction from the plot, an excuse to pull Starfox out of Lylat so the Aparoids can fuck shit up off camera. Gameplay wise its trying to feel like this big huge planetary battle with the tank and the arwing both at your fingertips, but it just dumps you in the middle of nowhere and puts some red dots on your map to go find and kill. Krystal being on foot does nothing: she hangs around the eastern temple of the map and shoots whatever enemies that are there, but some difficulties don't even have a hatcher there. She's more useless than Slippy was in Sargasso. There isn't even a BOSS at the end of the level. Like, really, how did you miss out on a chance for an aparoid-ized Redeye? Sheesh.

So the level ends and we get yet ANOTHER FMV. Fox and Krystal go looking for Tricky, with all the Aparoids all nice and dead without any collateral damage of any kind! Tricky then crushes Fox to death and the game is over! Nah, I'm kidding. It is a dumb bit of humor though, especially after how serious the last level was meant to be. We get a fade cut, Fox and Krystal are riding on Tricky's back, Ticky remarks about how Fox is HERE TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT even though they're already all gone. He wants to come with Fox back to Lylat to help, but Fox insists he stay here and help his people. I guess the Aparoids killed his parents? Either way, Tricky remarks that Fox should come back on his honeymoon, and we get some cringe worthy awkwardness from Fox about it. Krystal just laughs because she's not allowed to have a personality or input in a conversation that technically regards her. The FMV ends, and we lead right into the next level, Corneria, rather abruptly.

Sauria sucks! The whole level is just Katina with the Invasion Meter slapped on and the ability to fly the Arwing rather pointlessly around. I really can't say much else ABOUT it, because there isn't much to SAY. It's a gorgeous looking level that doesn't do anything with its size or design. There's only one objective: kill hatchers. Even Katina had... other dumb things to kill besides hatchers. Narratively its just an out of the way distraction, with little in the way of lead in OR lead out. There isn't even a boss fight. If Katina is the worst level, being little more than an unfinished beta, then Sauria probably takes the prize as the most unrealized.

CORNERIA: WAR COMES HOME

So Corneria picks up right where Sauria left off... without any sort of cutscene or anything to show Starfox is back in Lylat. Just poof, cringey FMV ends and then a briefing starts. General Pepper drops the heat that while Starfox was fucking around with the dinosaurs, a shitload of aparoids showed up and wrecked Corneria's SHIT. Wow, who'd have imagined? I guess they got tired of eating all those other planets that noone gave a damn about. So Pepper tells the team that certain aparoids are disrupting radar and communications across Corneria, which is just really inconvenient. His communication link is then disrupted and lost, and Fox goes down to the surface to take out the radar jammers on foot.

Praise where it is due, this is the first and ONLY level to really show how bad aparoids can fuck shit up: buildings are broken, there's smoke and fire everywhere, infested soldiers walk the streets, missles are hitting the city from the sky, etc. It's really impressive. Sadly, Corneria itself looks like ass, foregoing the previously established argicultural highlands and fancy white buildings for this ugly pseudo-cyberpunk artificial island that is literally a BOX in the middle of NOWHERE in some nameless ocean. There are some cool tidbits though: a ton of the buildings have things like movie posters and restraunt advetisements and other GOOD pieces of world building that other levels like Sargasso were previously lacking. There are roads and high rises, a lot of work was done to make it look like a city, if downscaled for game purposes. Just a shame it looks ugly as sin.

So, the goal is to smash radar jamming aparoids. They're made of indestructium, though, so nothing phases them. Nothing that is, except for the sniper rifle of all things, because looking at them directly with the sniper scope makes them... open their eyes and expose their vulnerable insides. Yeah, they shoot a laser at you too, but... yeah. That's essentially all there is to the level: like Sauria the area is massive but unless you're playng on Gold Mode almost all of the space is wasted. You just run around looking for targets to kill, except now you only have a vague estimation of where the targets are and not an exact spot. Your wingmates get chased as per fuckin' usual and this time you don't have ANY vehicles to help with: good lucking frantically looking for a goddamn rocket launcher if you don't have one because your buddies are the most incompetant air support EVER. The dialogue in this mission at least tries to be mood appropriate: everyone talks about how horrible the destruction is and worries for General Pepper and not stupid whimsical bullshit.

After all the jammers go down, Peppy sends Fox down an Arwing. When he reaches it, however, it gets trashed by an unforseen aparoid flyby (glad to know your team is looking out for you, right?) and Fox suddenly finds himself surrounded. I love how this cutscene exemplifies the laziness of the effects in this game: the Arwing explodes, and by explodes I mean it just vanishes into thin air and is replaced with a flat colorful explosion graphic. Wolf then barges in unannounced to kick some ass, and Fox leaps off the roof to get out of the way, conveniently landing on the Wolfen and not dying in the process. He asks Wolf what he's doing here, Wolf tells him to stop giving the shippers ideas and help him kill shit, thus starting the second part of the level, another wing riding segment.

Starwolf is the golden gem of this entire section. Gameplay wise its exactly the same as Fichina, but where as Fichina had a distinct lack of colorful banter between Fox and Falco, alleged BFFs, here we get a TON of diction between Starwolf and Starfox. Panther especially gets to shine here: he mourns the lose of his favorite cafe, offers Krystal to ride on his wing like a SMOOTH OPERATOR which she apparently accepts so long as she's covering Fox, and he isn't even burned. Stride: unbroken. There's other good bits here, such as Falco and Leon arguing over Leon dissing Falco, Wolf in general being the most unphasable badass possible, and stuff like that. After killing enough aparoids, a cutscene plays where another enemy vessel comes running at the Wolfen at high speed. Awww, snap, its General Pepper's flagship! ... His "flagship" is a single man fighter. That transforms into a robot. General Pepper is a Veritech pilot? Or does Namco not know what the hell a "flagship" is? The answer should be obvious. Pepper begs for Fox to destroy him as to not lose himself to the Aparoids, and a boss fight starts.

So you fight this boss while wing riding, which means its the first boss in the game to be even a tiny little bit fun. Pepper's ship spins and flips, fires missles, sometimes tries to punch you, and sends out probes to fire at you. The idea is to basically shoot the shit out of him endlessly because if ANY of those attacks connect they actually do a substantial amount of damage, even on Bronze. Throughout the fight there's a lot of emotional punches thrown, and honestly they just piss me off. See, Pepper has hardly BEEN in the game up till now: he was in the Fortuna and Katina briefing, and the mid-game FMV and Corneria briefing. Newcomers to the series really won't know heads or tails of Pepper, so all this melodrama over DESTROY THE SHIP DESTROY MEEEE kind of falls on its face. Returning players of the series might get emotional, maybe, but I personally get more ANGRY than sad because making us have to fight an old man in a jetmech than sad at the potential loss of a character. The drama here is just shoehorned in to make the game seem darker than it really is: I keep complaining about mood, usually the game being too goofy, and this is why. You get to Corneria and suddenly people are extremely dour and somber, and General Pepper comes at your ass and everyone's on the edge of tears, and this is right after the level where goddamn Tricky pancaked Fox with a bellyflop.

Much how Pigma was thrown to the narrative wolves as a disposable antagonist, General Pepper is thrown to them as a cheap, unfulfilling emotional bitch slap. Newcomers won't care, old timers will feel cheated. There's a right and wrong way to do drama and tragedy. Comedy too, for that matter. Its a cycle of tension and release, which is lacking throughout Assault. There is no tension for Pepper's possible death: a tad bit of foreshadowing to be sure, but the game does not build up tension to this point, it merely throws it at you as shock value. Anyway, the boss fight eventually ends and Pepper's ship crashes. Peppy comes out of nowhere to catch his ship with his Arwing, which somehow keeps either of them from dying. Medical corps is contacted and it looks like General Pepper won't die after all, hooray. Wolf then gives Fox some vapid cliche advice and the mission ends. Woo.

Corneria is... okish. It's better than Sauria, perhaps a little moreso than Fichina, but that isn't saying too much. By this point Assault has more or less fallen into a routine: run around a sandbox level, kill a few important targets, maybe do a vehicle section somewhere in there. Corneria is run of the mill, with its only noteworthy elements being how damn detailed (if ugly) Corneria city is (there's even a movie poster for what I can only assume is about Katina during the Lylat War: "The End of Katina"), and the crappy cheap shot attempt at killing off General Pepper. Character banter isn't bad once Starwolf enters the scene as well.

ORBITAL GATE: INCOMING

Coming close to the end now. The Orbital Gate carries the somewhat odd distinction of being the only all-range mode level in Assault that ONLY utilizes the Arwing. We jump straight into the briefing once again (notice how it feels like there's just a huge chunk of story missing in between missions ever since Sauria?) where we're greeted by Beltino, who informs the heroes that they've finally located the Aparoid homeworld. Slippy is eager to bust some bug ass, but Beltino informs them that the only way to defeat their superior numbers if through a magic macguffin weapon he devised called the "Self-Destruct Program", a weird little bomb that somehow can induce apoptosis in all aparoids. Because they're somehow vulnerable to that, because they have cells SPECIFICALLY for just self destructing for some biological evolutionary fluke that makes no sense, nevermind that is not how apoptosis works in any reality. Apoptosis is basically just how old useless cells are broken down so newer, fresh cells can replace them. A viral infection can sometimes trigger apoptosis in healthy cells, but... you know what, it's Starfox, who gives a shit about real science? Our primary antagonist of the hero is a goddamn psychic ape head who explodes into a brain with laser eyes for fuck's sake (though seriously, a NECROSIS bomb would've probably made more "sense" but I guess they wanted to use the word apoptosis because it sounds like aparoid).

So after Beltino explains that he's unlocked all the secrets of the aparoid genetic code and has devised a weapon to give them all death-cancer, ROB informs the team that a large aparoid force is warping in to attack the gate. Question: Why didn't they trash the gate when they attacked Corneria? It's in orbit around there. I guess maybe it defended itself successfully, but like everything else in Assault, nothing is ever said one way or another about this kind of thing. Add another to the plothole pile! So Fox vows to defend the gate against the attack no matter what, and the level begins. Funny note about the loading screen here is it mentions a "federation" - is all of Lylat a federated body? Or Corneria? Its obviously just useless words thrown in to sound COOL AND SCIENCE FICTIONY but it makes you wonder.

Ok, the level itself. Nothing fancy at first, really, just fly around all-range mode and shoot aparoids while the boring ass music from the Fortuna space battle plays again. Curious to note is there are a ton of generic Corneria pilots in this level, and they react to certain things: saving them from a pursuing enemy causes them to compliment you; if they die they'll scream for their commander, stuff like that. Despite this, there's STILL no goddamn Bill to be seen, what the fuck, Namco? He's a freakin' captain of a dog squadron for fuck's sake. Maybe it was for the best, though, given how this game is going they probably would've tried to kill him off after completely writing him a new personality.

The first few minutes are just flying around shooting anything you see, while sometimes helping your wingmates: namely Slippy and Krystal. It's reminescent of Katina in Starfox 64, really, just a huge dogfight, though you're dealing with Assault's sluggish clumsy controls and holy good goddamn every aparoid fighter and their mom is gonna be firing a missle at your ass. After about two minutes of that, ROB alerts everyone that aparoid missles are warping in to collide with the gate, adding a bit of Sector Z to the mission as well. The first barrage are simple: just shoot them. Eventually a whole buttload will come all at once, and Starwolf shows up to help out (why they weren't helping out to begin with is beyond me), and with them a second wave of missles come with a gimmick: they have a forward shield that can't be shot through, so you have to fly around behind them and blast them from the rear. After you take out a few of those, another cutscene occurs where a gi-fricken-normous missle warps in aiming dead ahead at the gate, which essentially serves as the "boss" for this level. Much like the previous missles, this one can only be damaged from behind. As it takes damage, it loses parts and starts speeding up, increasing the urgency of the situation. Fortunately every other aparoid you blast in this level seems to drop a nova bomb so just load its ass full of those and you should be good.

Once the big missle falls, the mission ends. Beltino announces the self destruct program is now complete, and the crew readies up to activate the orbital gate to go to the aparoid homeworld. We get a nice fancy FMV of the gate being activated which is pretty cool and loaded with more technobabble than an episode of Star Trek. It's all very dramatic and tense and shit as the Greatfox leads the invasion into a strange, unusual world. Except for Falco, he's being a lazy shit in his chair. Beltino gives an okish speech about doing your best and not dying, and then the vessels go through. They come out the other side, and Krystal gives an empty quip about "ITS LOVELY I WASN'T EXPECTING THAT". Peppy remarks that the planet's size and mass are disproportionate, and SLIPPY, I repeat, the team nerd SLIPPY, asks what that MEANS. Turns out the aparoid homeworld has a giant ugly crater on one side of it. Because reasons. Fox even says, "Does that mean..." before trailing off as the FMV ends. Means what, Fox? Is there something significant about the crater? No? Didn't think so.

The Orbital Gate is a level held back primarily by two things: Assault's general gameplay controls (gaining and losing altitude is especially shallow in all range mode, I've noticed, nevermind all the other control problems I've mentioned before), and the fact it lacks an identity unique onto itself. The whole thing is just SF64's Katina with some Sector Z mixed in and Starwolf cameoing with very little lines. We miss a second chance to see Bill, which sucks too. Other than that, the level isn't too terrible: its a fucking change of pace from goddamn "kill X targets in a sandbox" levels... which golly gee, guess what the NEXT level is gonna be like? All in all, a forgettable mission that neither stands out in quality, excitement, or even in any negative way. It merely exists. The space station looked cool, though.

APAROID HOMEWORLD: BREACHING THE DEFENSES

So, this is the penultimate level of the game... unfortunately, it isn't anything special or unique: just the same old sandbox style "kill some hatchers" junk. Before we get to the meat and potatos of the level, we have a briefing to cover. So Starfox observes this tunnel/crater/whatever in the Aparoid homeworld's surface wherein all aparoids come out of. Peppy speculates that it can be used to access the interior of the planet to find the queen, but everytime the aparoids come out, a shield goes up after them keeping invaders out. ROB detects generators for the shield and displays them on the screen, and Fox then blatantly lies. "If the past is any indication, there will be hatchers along with those generators". I'm sorry, what? This is the first time we've ever had to deal with aparoid shield generators of any kind in the game, so I dunno what the hell Fox is talking about. The real kicker is you don't even destroy any "shield generators", you destroy only hatchers, which either double as or are unexplainably linked to these "generators". The laziness by this point is truly just astounding.

So the loading screen continues Assault's trend of telling, not showing, as it mentions the Cornerian armada is waging a huge aerial battle over the aparoid world while Starfox takes to the ground. Well, Fox and for some reason Krystal do, anyway. Seriously, why is Krystal on foot here? No reason is given, nor is any mention made of it in the briefing or otherwise. Falco is the only party member who hasn't assisted Fox on foot, yet Krystal gets two chances. Hell, given Starfox is apparently taking this whole ground op on their own, why isn't everyone on foot? Or spice it up some, put Slippy in the tank... whatever. Krystal isn't even placed anywhere important, she's just dropped off on the northeast side of the map in an area you don't even have to go to on easier difficulties, where she just endlessly shoots her crappy blaster at one of the most impervious enemies in the GAME. For the second to final level this sure just feels like just another level. Again we're denied a cutscene of how Fox even landed on this weird aparoid base, the level just starts with him there in the center. With the aerial battle such a big deal, wouldn't a cutscene of a dropoff or landing been warranted?

Either way, lets get into the level itself. The aparoid base is HUGE, perhaps one of the largest levels in the game. It is symmetrical, which is a first actually. Both halves mirror each other geometrically, though things such as hazards and enemy and item layouts are not. There's a lot of up and down space as well, the level making heavy use of multiple floors per area to separate the hatchers. Annoyingly, you're only prompted to explore the entire level if you play on gold mode; on Silver only 3 of the 4 corners are used and on Bronze its only two. You have access to both the tank and the Arwing here, but the Arwing is mostly for traveling quickly around the fatass base and the tank is too large to fit into any of the areas where most of the enemies are, so its fuck all useless. At least the music is cool, being a very manic, fast paced tune that actually fits the expected mood of the situation quite well, and being one of Assault's only truly good and memorable original works.

Navigating this level is a nightmare with just a 2D map. You can't tell if a threat is upstairs or down, so you'll be backtracking a lot. Furthermore, the strange and weird abstract architecture, while cool to look at and definitely alien, makes it difficult to tell where you are or where you've been. Getting lost is common, and on higher difficulties this is a fucking pain due to needing to constantly be killing enemies for the combo meter. Occasionally when you do find a hatcher, the hatcher itself has a shield protecting it. To reiterate: a hatcher, which is also a shield generator apparently, has its own shield which has its own generators nearby. Generatorception. Also I love how this place should apparently be some kind of hive but still needs generators to respawn enemies. If you kill everything you come across the level becomes eeriely empty, fast.

As you fight through the level, Peppy occasionally updates you on the fleet battle, which is apparently going south fast if a retreat is ordered after losing only 20% of the fleet. Ok, yeah, 20% is a lot, but this is kind of an end of all life in Lylat deal: if the fleet fails there won't BE a Lylat to retreat to. Durrrr. Other gems of dialogue are mostly based around Krystal: she supposedly reacts to how low her HP drops (though she can never die) but also to if there are any enemies near her. This results in hilarious moments where Krystal can go from crying for help at being overpowered, to telling Fox she doesn't need help within seconds of each other. While no enemies are even around. It's dumb.

So after you take out all those hatchers, MORE hatchers appear! Literally just appear out of nowhere, on the bottomside of the base, which you can only access with your Arwing. Falco and Slippy also finally get chased around here, and more often than not they will be ABOVE the base, not below it, so going out of your way to locate them for a rescue is irritating. There really isn't much else to say here: you're just shooting hatchers with the Arwing and sometimes not to save wingmates. Peppy's radioed messages become more frantic and hopeless, which is hilarious as even though the skybox is extremely detailed, you don't see ANY hints of the massive space battle the Cornerian fleet is engaging in. Go figure. Once all the hatchers are gone, the mission ends. No big bad vanguard of the aparoids boss to fight for you, just the most horrible melodramatic cutscene in the game. Oooooh booooy.

The best part of this FMV is it really shows how out place and obviously forced the "base"'s position is on the aparoid world surface. It's just stupidly floating there as this tiny little symmetrical arena map over this huge technicolor deathworld. Anyway, despite the fact we JUST LITERALLY destroyed the means of which the aparoids can create their stupid shield to keep anything from flying into their giant gaping asshole of a hive access... they do just that, and form a shield to keep to keep Starfox from flying into their giant gaping asshole of a hive access.

You know, this is the WORST kind of "twist", where it renders everything you just did as a player moot and invalid, for no reason other than drama. Now, there are ways to undermine a player's efforts to create good drama yes, but they do not involve "but actually" type situations like this. This kind of bullshit takes the victory out of the hands of the players, and shows clear cut evidence that the narrative of the game was not designed around the GAMEPLAY of the game. Its frustrating, its hokey, and the worst part yet is it only happens to perpetrate the most horrible melodrama the game has to throw at us yet.

Ooooooooooooh boooooooooy. This is it. Peppy's sacrifice scene. First of all: fuck Assault for trying to throw away a beloved character like this. Really. Fuck off. Now that I got that out of the way, let's really look at this. So, the Greatfox comes barreling out of the sky, covered in aparoids and on fire. ROB warns that the ship can not survive any more damage. Peppy says FUCK THE POLICE and directs all the Greatfox's power to the forward guns and BLOWS THE SHIT out of the shield and the aparoid base floating over it. Now, as cool as all this is, here's a question: why the FUCK were we on the ground trashing hatchers to begin with, if we could've just obliterated the whole damn base? Just bring the Greatfox down, give it cover while it charges, and fucking shoot the base. Pretty sure it would've destroyed the hatchers if the whole friggen base exploded.

Second of all, HOW did the Greatfox get so damaged, so fast? Now, yes, in the level there is a chance you will hear a foreshadowing transmission of Peppy expressing gratitude to everyone for having been his friend, but that's it, and it isn't even a guaranteed listen. Furthermore, Peppy still seems capable of resupplying and rearming the Arwings digitally as evidenced on the mission complete screen. Nextly, assuming Peppy kept this secret on purpose, why the fuck didn't ROB say anything? His whole purpose is to evaluate situations, provide cover, and tell when the Greatfox is about to get fucked. Did Peppy turn him off just to preserve his melodrama? Fuck off.

So Peppy fucking battering rams the shield with the Greatfox and breaks it soooooomehow and demands the team press onward before it rises up again. Fox tells everyone to get it together and not let his sacrifice bein in vain and they move onward. The Greatfox then explodes in a blinding flash as the shield reforms around it. Here's the deal, guys. Peppy is an IMPORTANT fucking character. I mean, I know Starfox isn't the deepest puddle around and all, but Peppy is essentially Fox's surrogate father character, as well as the heart of the team. To just suddenly try and boot him off in a shallow, stupid "heroic sacrifice" that could've been avoided easily if the writers didn't all have peanuts for brains is beyong insulting. The death of a character, unless your story is heavily steeped in realism or shock value, requires special attention as to make sure that death is fitting thematically and purposefully. When a death like Peppy's occurs, one brought forth by stupidity and/or the writer just deciding someone NEEDS TO DIE TODAY for no purpose other than cheap shock value, no one is left happy. So in summation: the invasion of the base was pointless because the Greatfox could've just nuked that shit; the Greatfox took an impossibly high amount of damage between the mission summary screen and now, somehow; 3: if the Greatfox WAS in danger previously, ROB should have alerted for help. Three different ways Peppy's sacrifice could have been avoided, and all from one scene. Buh.

The aparoid homeworld.... its a doozy. Long, elaborate, but ultimately pointless and exhausting for the most part. A boring "total war" style level that at its core is really just a slightly longer Sauria with more technicolor. A strange art direction does little good if the direction is ugly, and just like Sauria hardly anything in this strange and weird cool landscape is used for anything in the actual game. Unlike Sauria, though, you can't even appreciate the level as a landscape simply because the whole place can be describd as "colorful ramps" - much how Sargasso was lacking some much needed livelihood and felt more like just a warehouse with bunch of dudes dumped into it, so too the aparoid base feel like a flashy colorful stage that does not look or feel like it serves a function beyond its meta-purpose of being a place for Fox to run around and shoot things. Topping this off with all the bullshit-in-a-can from the FMV at the end and the aparoid base is a decidedly sour experience, not a good way to build up your finale. Fortunately, the final level is better.

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Robert Monroe

HOMEWORLD CORE: THE FINAL BATTLE

We'e finally here, the last stretch of this pain in the ass game. There's no briefing, which is sensible given the Greatfox just fricken exploded and all. Instead the level loads up right after Peppy's idiot sacrifice FMV plays, and we're treated to a cutscene to establish the situation at current. Fox informs Falco they have uninvited guests following them... and its Starwolf! ... How? No, really, how? We saw the shield close up SECONDS after the Greatfox exploded. Did Starfwolf really sneak in right after Fox and we not see it? Did they find another way in and create yet ANOTHER way to render Peppy's sacrifice wasted and moot? Bah. So Leon calls us idots and wonders how Starfox has survived this long (I wonder that myself), Panther macks the moves on Krystal who doesn't seem to mind now, and Wolf and Fox... chuckle about barely survivng? Peppy just fucking exploded, can't your remorse last longer than the extent of the FMV it fucking happened in? Slippy quips that 7 ships is better than 4 at least, and the two teams fly into the depths of the core and the mission begins.

This level is.... its hard to define. There's a large mix of good and bad elements here at work, so let's take it from the top and discuss the good. First of all, the music. It isn't the best Starfox has done, but like the previous level before it, it sets the mood quite well with its manic and tense sound. Its memorable and serves its function. The design of the level is... alright. The misison is on rails, so like Meteo we have a TON of things flying at you in a hectic manner to blast, along with a variety of strange obstacles to avoid. The whole level is bizzare as hell and its cool... or, it would be cool, except its difficult to tell enemies apart from the background and thus not crash into them or get shot. This is where the bad starts: along with enemies being difficult to differentiate from the background, Assault's stiff controls do not do you any favors here. Banking into a turn sends you flying across the screen as I've said before, but when you're trying to make a sharp turn to squeeze past moving obstacles you'll find yourself just slamming into them or the wall instead, taking unnecessary damage. Furthermore, the level sometimes goes overboard with the hectic nature of the attacks, and being overwhelmed by swarms of missles, colliding enemy ships, lasers, and everything else is common. Often times I find myself just rolling wildly and blasting laser fire at the screen blindly in hopes of hitting everything.

To the mission's credit we do not only get good cross-team banter, but actually get to see them help out fighting the aparoid defenses and not just show up to get chased. Wolf, Leon and Panther all show up to do so as well, and while it may just be empty puppeting to make them look like they're "helping" it does a lot to help for immersion. Wingmates still get chased, which is frustrating given the overly manic nature of the level and a relatively small window of oppurtunity to actually assist them before they take damage. Enemies also come from behind, but they're not meant to be looped around, rather they try to get in front of you to attack, but more often than not they just succeed in colliding into you. The lack of starting bombs is really obnoxious here - there's several occasions where you just can NOT shoot everything coming at you, from ahead or behind. Its overwhelming and there's absolutely nothing that can be done about it, as there are only two bombs in the misson.

So after traversing that nightmare of an obstacle course, a flood of... I'm not sure what, but they have Falco bewildered, appear. I think these particular aparoids are invulnerable, but fuck if this game is gonna start conveying anything helpful at THIS point. Either way, Starwolf draw their attention and distract them, leaving the final stretch for the Queen Aparoid open for Starfox. They reach the queen and we get a cutscene that goes... absolutely nowhere. The queen attempts to talk Fox down using the memories of things the aparoids have absorbed - Pigma, Pepper, Peppy, and James (rather ammusingly this accounts for the entire original Starfox team). Since Pepper isn't dead and Peppy cheats death at the end, and James never touched an aparoid, I guess she's mooching all of this off of Pigma. Whatever, it doesn't matter because Slippy rather hilariously breaks the illusion (not that there was much of one to begin with) by calling the queen's trick out. Fox re-steels himself after taking a moment to remember Wolf's cliche as hell advice, and decides to attack the queen. The hell was the point of this? The queen's illusion is laughable, because all it does is use voices. Now if it like... mutated to look like Peppy in his Arwing or something, that might've gone somewhere, but eh. Furthermore, milking James as a source of "development" in Fox when he is almost 30 years old feels silly. The lines themselves aren't awful - "My father would never tell me to give up!" - its writing that is better fitting a character coming into maturity, not one who should already be mature. This isn't to say Fox can't develop as an adult - just that his development should be appropriate FOR an adult... not that this scene was really any kind of development anyway.

So, the queen. Let's once more talk about aesthetics... I actually like the ROOM she's in. It's eerie looking and somehow peaceful feeling, with this strange mercurial like liquid in the bottom. The queen herself though is... I don't even know. She follows the same design pattern of being a random blob of polygons and pointy shapes arranged into a vague shape of something. She looks kind of like a giant silver pinecone with a vaguely mask-ish looking face. Her "arms" open up and reveals "armor" underneath, which you just casually blast away. Ammusingly enough, if you have hyper lasers you can almost kill the queen before she even begins her attack cycle. Once the armor is gone she has this giant obvious red fuck-me spot that you blast and that's really it. It doesn't even attack directly - merely summons very slow moving bugs (literally bugs) from the silver goo to attack you, and then after a while it'll regenerate its armor and the cycle repeats. Absolutely underwhelming. Another cutscene, Fox fires the self-destruct program WHICH LOOKS LITERALLY LIKE A GIANT PILL into this gaping hole, and the queen explodes. It doesn't die, though, and she just starts burrowing into the silver goo shit and tries to surpress the program to create an anti-body. So, Fox's reaction is to fly after that bitch and SHOOT HER SOME MORE, that'll definitely work the second time, right?

Soooo, the Queen, round tow. It's gorgon from Starfox 64. Ripping it off for Pigma wasn't enough, so they did it twice! That's... honestly it. Shoot the obvious weak spots, kill the arms, shoot the core, watch out for the death laser that makes a HILARIOUSLY cheesy sound effect (I almost kind of like it). Sometimes your wingmates try to "help" and get close, so you have to stop shooting the queen to shoot these weird mines instead, but its just a waste of your damn time. A weird note here is Krystal of all people is the most vocal character in this entire fight - she constantly talks about how they can't let up now, how the queen is AFRAID (insert Starship Troopers joke here), and DO OR DIE time. Its honestly a bit jarring. After you kill the queen's giant... dragon head neck thing, she turns into ANOTHER core, this one just flails around and shoots green AoEs that are a pain in the ass to fly through given the queen is jumping like goddamn Mexican jumping beans and the Arwing's controls being ass, and prompts Fox to say the most cringe line in the GAME (an accomplishment to be sure), "HERE I COME YOU EVIL SPACE HAG". I think that line really summarizes the whole game: a shallow parody of what people THOUGHT was good about SF64. So you blast the queen core until it drops dead and gives you a piddly +20 for your efforts, and we come to the end of the game.

Honestly, the ending is its own big bag of shit, so it's gonna need its own article for it. We'll call it quits for the level.

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Robert Monroe

ENDING

An FMV plays, and the queen explodes into a vibrant neon-green blob. Starfox pauses to admire their genocide bomb in action as the whole planet starts to explode around them, but they're pretty damn chill about the whole thing. Fox then delivers yet ANOTHER piece of writing that from now till the end of recorded history will fucking baffle scholars, "She tried to bypass evolution by stealing souls, but you have to be born with one."

What. The fuck. Does this even mean. Assault's head is SO far up its own ass its seeing out its own eyes. I've pissed and moaned about this fake-deep attempt at narrative before, but this really just takes the goddamn cake. At least when Fox mused about WEAK WILLS and TURNED TO EVIL he was thinking about goddamn Pigma, which while shallow makes SENSE. This fucking line here sounds more like some kind of mangled engrish. It may seem I'm overreacting to a single line in a bad game, but its less the line and moreso what the line represents. We know NOTHING about the Aparoids. We learn NOTHING about them throughout the entire game - where they came from, what they want, how they go about doing things - nothing. Fucking Andross in SF64 had more development than this, and his was literally just "I'm pissed because Corneria exiled me so fuck those assholes I'm gonna wage war on them". The aparoids though? Literally just bugs. Their whole shtick is Starship Troopers arachnids meets the Borg but they lack even an attemptat ripping off what those entities stood for: the aparoids merely EXIST, and then they DIE, and just like that its over. How the fuck am I supposed to care about what any of this is for if the game gives me NOTHING to care about, and then it tries to act like it did with a hokey throw away line.

Soooo Fox tells everyone put the pedal to the metal and escape, and we are somehow DENIED a kickass planetary escape level where we dodge falling debris and shit as we're instead treated to a slow melodic reprise of the Starfox theme and canned cast shots of the main characters. The screen fades to black, and the credits roll. However, the credits also show something of an epilogue for every level in the game, detailing the damage to the area and other information. First is Fortuna: Andrew's army is rekt'd, and their old base will be used to rebuild damaged areas. Katina apparently suffered damage to ALL its bases (we keep flip-flopping on this subject it seems), but the civilian populace was largely untouched. Starwolf's pirate base is apparently in upheaval due to Starwolf's questionable survival(?!) leavin a power vaccuum and it must be "monitored", though why Corneria doesn't just occupy the damn thing themselves instead of letting the criminals regain control is anyone's guess. Fichina's climate control center is broke as all hell (I guess shooting bombs into the machinery wasn't such a good idea after all) and needs to be improved all around, including security. At least someone learned a lesson from this.

For the base in Meteo, Corneria just defers dealing with it to a later date, having more important issues to deal with. Sauria's civilian population apparently also avoided harm, but their soldiers got utterly trashed. To boot, their historic ruins were also ruined and so an aid effort is being organized. Corneria however is completely trashed, to the point where the governing authority of the world has been relocated to the orbital gate for the time being. Between Corneria, Katina, and Sauria, we have THREE major population zones that we SAW take extensive damage and are in need of repair. While I'm glad the game ACKNOWLEDGES that destruction (its arguably the most mature thing Assault does, honestly), we only see it through these tiny text blurbs that the credits roll over - if not for the wonders of Youtube, I'd have a hard time reading them for this review. Why couldn't we have had cutscenes to show these things being done? Instead the aftermath of our huge, galaxy-shaking event is relegated to a foot note, which feels lazy and tacked on. A funny note is that the governing body of Corneria is NOT the pre-existing one (implying they were killed in the Aparoid attack), so the temporary government is under "military supervision". This ammuses me because a common fan theory is that Corneria is a sort of benevolent militarized dictatorship and this martial law seems to support it. As for the Aparoid homeworld invasion fleet, they took "A+" levels of damage despite Peppy retreating at only "20%" losses, but what the hell by this point. They're going to regroup and return to Corneria and Starfox gets a big fat paycheck that could've gone to relief efforts instead, hooray for war profiteering!

So after the crammed in credits epilogue the ending FMV resumes with the Aparoid Homeworld exploding all flashy like with Starfox flying through the debris. Krystal decides to kill the mood by reminding us of the "casualties", which apparently include Starwolf even though all they did was play chicken with some dumb bugs. I guess they died when the planet exploded, which would be Starfox's fault, but Command later confirms they're not dead so pft. Slippy observes a blinking light in the distance, and MOTHER OF ALL FUCKING ASSPULLS, IT'S GODDAMN PEPPY, DECIDEDLY NOT DEAD.

Just... I don't know how to feel about this. On the one hand, Peppy's sacrifice scene, as I detailed before, was a horribly written slab of melodramatic crap. Yet at the same time, Peppy surviving completely undermines the drama they were attempting to go for. This here is another one of Assault's fatal flaws: fear of committment. Like it fucks with the narrative so many times, fucks with the level design, fucks with the mood and atmosphere, Assault can't DECIDE what it wants to be - its dramatic, then is goofy. It kills people off, but then brings them back. Now I know this whole "survived all along" thing is a common corny cliche in fiction and I know Starfox is the fucking Prince of Corny Cliched Writting, but the problem is Assault doesn't seem to make up its fucking mind if it wants to STAY that way or not. We jump between corny and hokey Starfox standard to really shitty shallow attempts at Assault TRYING and FAILING to be dramatic, and this stupid epilogue is the goddamn cherry on top of it all. Furthermore, HOW the fuck did Peppy survive? We SAW him in the bridge. We saw the bridge of the Greatfox EXPLODE. There was not even a tiny possible way for him to survive - he just does at the whims of the story. I'm glad his death was unwritten because Peppy is too important of a character to waste, but GODDAMN if this doesn't still make me mad for how foolish it is.

And to top it all off, Fox implies he knew Peppy was alive all along from the beginning? B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T. How could he? Really, HOW could he have known? There was no communications - did Fox and Peppy plan this heart-breaking idiot sacrifice behind everyone's back? For WHAT REASON? This just further compounds how STUPID Peppy's sacrifice was to begin with - and makes Fox look like a total fucking doucher to boot. If it was planned, why would Fox have been so upset when he tried to sacrificed himself. Was he just acting out the part? ARGH, this stupid cutscene is the last part of the goddamn story and all it does is stack up a dozen needless idiot questions that could've easily been avoided with Fox just being grateful and happy his goddamn surrogate father figure isn't fucking bugsquat. So after that bit Fox muses that Pepper is alright as well (which we already knew anyway as the game says he's in a hospital) and Starwolf is probably alive too (to the surprise of fucking noone and honestly I feel a bit cheated Starwolf isn't in the ending with Starfox to get more of their actually good banter), and then asks for everyone's attention so he can say thank you for no real reason. Well I know why I'm thankful, because the game is finally over. Fuck this stupid insepid plothole ridden piece of shit and everything about it.

That's the end of the game, but not the end of the review. Coming next is a brief look over of the multiplayer and a closing summary. Thanks for your reading so far and stick around for the last bits.

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      "Does your robot need help, Andross?" asked Wolf.
      "Yes, the uncanny assistance of your repulsive face!" said Andross,
      picking up a discombobulated Phantron and throwing the train wreck of an excuse for an automaton directly
      at Wolf. Wolf fell over.
      "Get it off me, get it off me" yelled Wolf, rolling on the floor. Andross rolled his eyes, and pushed a button activating Phantron's torture device.
      Phantron began inserting excruciatingly sharp electronic needles into Wolf's body.
      "Aaaaaugh. You're horrible, emperor. Horrible!" said Wolf.
      "Haha, yes, I know" said Andross with a proud pompus glare.
      "Get your insipid machine off me" said Wolf. Leon laughed.
      "Don't get your flipping fur all frazzled. I think he likes you. My, this is fun to watch" said Leon.
      "Leon, get the robot off of Wolf" said Andross. Leon was deriving sick pleasure from watching Wolf suffer, as usual.
      "Leon! You obey the me! The emperor! You fight for the emperor, you live for the emperor, you are a soldier for the emperor, remember?" yelled Andross.
      "Yes, Master, sorry. Here Wolf, let me help you" said Leon, pulling the robot off of Wolf's face.
      "There, there!" said Leon wiping Wolf's face clean with a napkin from his delectable Planet Borgalort cold beef sandwich, that he was munching on.
      "Gentlemen, are you finished? Good. I'll handle the presentation from here onwards. As we were saying, the Star Fox team is still not out of commission. They continue to do their dirty work all across the universe, making it increasingly and relentlessly difficult for us to pursue our goals of interplanetary domination and conquest. The galaxy will never know true might, leadership, and power until we eradicate them and those who approve of their reckless ways. Be aware that the Galactic Federation knows full well that I intend to use some of the populace here on Venom as scientific research projects to create super soldiers for my army, on a strictly voluntary basis of course. I did not want to resort to such methods but your repeated failures have led me to wonder about my own convictions and now I see full well that you two are incapable, incompetant, and downright lousy!You will be sent out my air lock chamber soon if you fail your next mission. Go destroy Star Fox. Seek out, kill, and destroy, and don't come back here until every last Cornerian is brought to me" ordered Andross.
      "Your majesty, every single Cornerian? Beamed to your mothership? What for? Are you lonely?" asked Wolf.
      "A good soldier doesn't question," said Andross, rubbing his palms together in a contemplative fashion. "Destroy Star Fox and round up every last Cornerian citizen and bring them all to me. Use the Space Dynamics multi-billion dollar Galactic Sweeper Beaming Device I have installed on your ship to do so. This is an order. You do it if you value Venom, and if you value your life!" said Andross with an evil grin.
      Back with the good guys:
      "It's all fixed up, Falco" said Fox.
      "That's great and all, but Katt Monroe was supposed to be here an hour ago, and I can't find my cell phone to call her with" replied Falco.
      "Well, that's a problem I guess. But, then again, Peppy's a veteran in need of care and I have to get him his spagetti and meatballs" replied Fox.
      "It's ok, Fox. I'll just stick to this baloni sandwich I found in the fridge. It's an old salty dog, just like me" said Peppy, eating.
      "oh no!" said Falco, looking out the window with a look of horror. He saw his phone floating through space.
      "I'll go get that thing!" said Fox, putting on his uniform and racing to his Arwing. He saw a note that read the following:
      "You'll be shot down if you miss a beacon. Gone to watch Miss Laleethia Levanorsi sing Corneria the beautiful at Sargasso. Love, yours truly, SLOB64"
      "Slob64, my old derogatory nickname for Rob64. Ha. Anyway, I gotta get going"
      Later...
      Fox reached out of ship while wearing his protective suit and pulled the cellphone back in. He laughed as he read the texts that got Falco's
      feathers in a frantic fit.
      "Falco, you are such an idiot, such a card" said Fox chuckling. "But I forgive you, you loveable scamp!" he added.
      Back in the mothership, upstairs, we join a very kind-hearted bathing beauty in a serene spa-like room full of plant life and statues and meditation CD's scattered about!
      The beautiful and impeccable space princess, spa owner, pilot, book author, and well-known Cornerian philanthropist Miyu Lynx was
      upstairs in a bubbling and warm hot tub relaxing herself. She had just finished washing her legs with a sponge, watering her plants and had been listening to some really good beepy tech-ish music, if you follow. She took a deep breath, and exhaled, slowly sinking herself into the water.
      "Ahhhh, I love everyone and everything" said Miyu. Her pet bird Pindove squawked.
      "That's my girl. She loves everyone, and everything" said Pindove.
      "Yeah, yes, I sure do" said Miyu in a breathy voice.
      "Wait does that mean you love me too? For realz?" said Pindove, blushing.
      "Sure does, Pindove. I'd never eat you, cuz I'm just too sultry for poultry" said Miyu. She splashed her hands around in the water happily. Then she looked at her palms.
      "I have such incredible hands" said Miyu.
      "Hands. Yes. Incredible, maybe. But I'd say flawless and superior"
      "Ohhh, Pindove, I am the light, you are the darkness, the world is my seed crystal and Katina was so sublime before the emperor seized it" said Miyu.
      "Squawk! So sublime, so sublime" replied the bird.
      "I wish this day would never end. I shant ever be happier" said Miyu. Suddenly, her door broke down, and Falco raced through the room yelling in some ancient alien language. Miyu screamed.
      "Eeeeep!" shrieked Miyu.
      "Where is it?" yelled Falco.
      "Eep! Eeeeep!" Miyu screamed again. Falco raced from one end of the room to the other repeatedly, knocking his head against the wall as he did so,
      tossing plant pots to and fro.
      "Get out of here now, whatever you are, you bad intruder!" said Miyu, throwing a bar of soap at Falco.
      "Fa-Fa-Falckie? Falckie is that you?" asked Miyu. Falco took one look at the cute and sweet Miyu in her bikini.
      "Falckie, are you okay?" asked Miyu. Falco's eyes were widened, and his right eye was twitching repeatedly.
      "Falckie, it's okay Falckie, Falckie? Falckie?" asked Miyu. Miyu splashed water at Falco, causing Falco to go crazy and start looking in all directions
      like a chicken with its head cut off, frantically licking and biting his wings.
      "No need to get your feathers in a fluster, Falckie. Go back to your post okay, Falckie?" said Miyu. Falco's right eye just kept on twitching, and he finally unfroze his body and broke out of his darn near catatonic state and once again became madly energized, running from wall to wall, giving himself head injuries in the process, until finally he landed in the water, doing a cannonball and splashing nearly all of it out of the tub. As his feathers began feeling the bubbling, he squawked repeatedly, flapping his wings, struggling to swim around to get to the surface as more water flew out of the tub. Finally there was no more water, the room was a swimming pool, and Falco was flopping around like a fish while Miyu tried to reassure him that he was not a fish.
      "You can stop now," said Miyu. Falco looked like he was struggling to breathe, Miyu tossed a mint into Falco's mouth and he spit it out in her face.
      Miyu put a towel on and ran out of the room, racing down into the living room with Peppy.
      "He's lost it, Pepperoni. I was in a vane romantic wonderland until that bird went crazy and barged in while I was having the greatest moment of my life!" said Miyu.
      "Wha-what's that?" asked Peppy, who seemed to be in a television induced coma.
      "Oh no, not you too" said Miyu
      "Huh? Oh, Miyu. Help yourself, there's good stuff in the freezer, I'm just worried about Fox is all" said Peppy.
      "Worried about Foxy? Really? What's he up to, Gramps?" asked Miyu.
      "It's nothing. He's on a bit of a wild goose chase though, pumpkin.
      He's out in his Arwing chasing Falco's cell phone through outer space" said Peppy.
      "That...makes...sense" said Miyu in a sarcastic sassy tone.
      "It's all part of the sacred Cornerian duty" explained Peppy. Falco came flopping down the stairs, and landed on the floor face-up, opening and
      closing his beak repeatedly, and begging for water and pain killers. Then Fox came back in his Arwing, landed, came out, and ran into
      the living room.
      "Falco, I got your cell phone! Here ya go!" said Fox. Miyu pointed at the bird on the floor. Falco looked dead as a doornail. Fox could not believe his eyes.
      "Falco, are you okay?" asked Fox.
      "He'll be okay he just needs some good iced tea. Iced tea always helps. Fry him a pancake maybe" suggested Peppy.
      "No, don't fry him a pancake, Pepperoni's just messing with ya, he likes to do that, I should know, he and I are close!" said Miyu.
      "Well, I think he's probably okay. He was like this when we were room-mates back in the academy sometimes before finals" said Fox.
      "Yeah, it's just all this stress, I think" said Miyu.
      "We're gonna have to build a monument to him. He was a good feller!" said Peppy.
      "You mean like that monument we built for Slippy once when we thought he died? Cut it out Peppy!" said Fox.
      "Blur-blur-wing blabbit!" said Falco, speaking jibberish.
      "Wing blabbit? He's talking jibberish, that can't be good!" said Fox.
      Suddenly, a transmission appeared on screen:
      Fox, this is General Pepper. Andross is at it again, he's ordered the Star Wolf team to capture top secret Cornerian military equipment and
      sell it on the black market in order to aquire funds to build a doomsday device capable of beaming up every citizen of our planet into
      his mothership for some sort of purpose of which we know nothing about. You must head for Corneria at once, it is in grave danger.
      I promise your paycheck will be enough to pay the rent.
      "Oh my goodness, that's just what I needed to hear" said Fox. Miyu comforted Fox.
      "It'll be okay. We'll all get through this somehow" said Miyu. She glanced over at Falco.
      "Did he just burp?" asked Miyu.
      "Yes, I think he did," replied Fox. Miyu decided to hug Falco.
      "You poor poor innocent birdie you didn't deserve this! Foxy woxy found your phone, yes he did" said Miyu, kissing Falco's beak. Falco turned red, and began racing through the ship. Then Fox held up his phone, and threw it behind the sofa.
      "Go get it boy! Go get the phone!" said Fox. Falco chased after the phone like a hunting dog, and brought it to Miyu, looking up at her with
      intense approbation, honor, and respect.
      "Falckie, you've never really acted like THIS around me before!" said Miyu, biting her lower lip. She had only seen him behave this way around Katt or Fox.
      "Falco, cut it out. That's your phone, not hers! Snap out of it!" said Fox, snapping his fingers. As soon as Falco heard Fox's fingers snap, he came back to his senses. Then Fox relayed the message from General Pepper, Then Fox relayed the message from General Pepper. They weren't required for another hour or so, so Falco took a bath to relax.
      In Falco's tub:
      Falco was lathering his feathers when suddenly a giant machine arose from the water. It was the Blue Marine in its primitive state. Slippy
      had been testing it out in the hot tub, but this time it was on purpose to help Miyu get revenge on Falco.
      "Oh crud, jeez laweez, what the heck is that?" said Falco. The machine chased him, taking photos of his tail feathers as he ran. As Falco raced downstairs
      in a fit yet again, Miyu and Slippy laughed and high fived each other.
      "Put her there, you big bad bullfrog you!" said Miyu to Slippy.
      THIS STORY HAS TWO CHAPTERS! GO TO CHAPTER 2 NOW! Lol. Or get yourself a cup of coffee first.
      Pepper was seated in his office, chomping roughly on taffy and assorted candies. The walls were lined with
      quotes from many past Cornerian generals. He seemed rather cool and collected, but hiding underneath that
      exterior was a ferrocious commanding warrior hound with an incredible spirit. Pepper and Peppy often tossed back various strategies
      to one another, then relayed them to the rest of the team.
      "Good day, Peppy. I've worked out something that should prove to do well for the team's effort. If you have any questions, just ask" said Pepper.
      "Howdy. Well, alright then" said Peppy, seating himself directly opposite Pepper. Pepper slid over a piece of paper detailing the route he determined that the team should take.
      "What do you think? Does it meet your satisfaction?" asked Pepper.
      "Well, I'll tell ya one thing it meets sir, it meets mah eyeballs" replied Peppy.
      "Still working it out, I see. Have some taffy, good for what ails ya. In fact, one of these taffies before the toils of war saves us from gallons
      of blood on the battlefield, I swear by it to this day" said Pepper. Peppy unwrapped the taffy that the general gave to him and began chewing it while
      looking over the strategy.
      "Sir, I-I-I," Peppy could not finish his sentence.
      "Out with it you blasted bunny rabbit, what is it?" yelled Pepper, slamming the desk.
      "Well sir, it's just that I have an idea for a minor alteration to your plan" said Peppy.
      "What's wrong with it?" asked Pepper. Peppy pulled out a small crayon and began drawing over things, and then showed Pepper the piece of paper.
      "You think the team should go to Fortuna before Macbeth? You're mad!" said Pepper.
      "Listen sir, I know there's a lot of gigantic dinosaurs on Fortuna with helmets and shields and if we could conquer Macbeth first and take back that weapon Andross stole from your artillary base, we'd have a better chance against the dinosaurs. Also, think about it, it's a sneakier way to approach Venom, I happen to have stolen some of Andross's plans, and he's expecting the Star Fox team to take the first route, not the third" explained Peppy. Pepper looked over Peppy's new plan.
      "Bravo, sir. But hogwash. Are you blind, bunny boy? I wasn't planning on taking the team through the first route, in fact my spies
      fed Andross the phony intelligence that we were gonna go that way. Though I commend your sense of strategy, you're overlooking an important detail. We don't have enough fighters to
      deploy to free the rest of the galaxy. Also, if you look over my notes and blueprints you'll see that Fox will enter the black hole after
      setting out from the second route. Bottom line, we don't have enough fighters yet!" said Pepper.
      "Yes we do. I read in the Widow's Nebula that some members of Star Wolf have defected from Andross and are willing to help" said Peppy.
      "That's a bunch of hooey I don't believe it for a second" said Pepper, spitting his taffy in anger.
      "well, I see your point, General" said Peppy.
      "I should hope you do, sir. Content of character is very important to me. I've dealt with enough turncoats and traitors in my day" said Pepper.
      "What if I cloned myself into some kinda fancy souped up super weapon?" asked Peppy.
      "It is the unconquerable soul of a soldier, not the nature of the weapon he uses, that insures victory" replied Pepper.
      "Well I'll be, the unconquerable soul of a soldier, how bout that. Guess that's why we're outnumbered" said Peppy.
      "What did you say? Listen Peppy, my plan will work with some tweaking. The second wormhole in the Asteroid belt leads to a timeline in which
      our military is much more advanced" said Pepper.
      "I see. Well, maybe I'm just getting too old for this. How bout a corn dog and a cold beef sandwich?" asked Peppy.
      Peppy began devouring his corn dog ravenously.
      "Yeehaw, lord bless mah soul, this is the best meal I've ever eaten" said Peppy.
      "It may be your last. Eat heartily" said Pepper.
      "Well, I'm on my way now. Gotta go relay all this stuff to the team" said Peppy, getting into his Arwing.
      "Wait sir, I forgot to warn you of the warphole to Fichina on your way back to the Great Fox...oh well" said Pepper.
      As Peppy left, his only regret was that he failed to share his new chili recipe with the general.
      In a dark room, sitting at a table, the SF team planned their mission. Each member was sipping coffee and soda and enjoying themselves, for a while,
      then they began to wonder what was taking Peppy so long.
      "Where's the Pepster? I kinda miss him a little" said Miyu, pressing her nails against the table.
      "He's probably getting the map from the general. It should outline our course for this mission" replied Fox.
      "I think we should go the third route this time and take Andross by surprise" suggested Falco.
      "The last time we took the third route I had a disasterous experience with Wolf O' Donnel" replied Fox.
      "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that Fox. I really need to learn to shut my big beak" said Falco.
      "Yeah, ya do!" said Fox.
      "Ca-ca-ca-can I say something?" asked Slippy.
      "Sure, Slip!" said Fox, flipping a quarter in the air and making it land on his nose. He then began spinning it on his nose.
      "I just wanted to say that I'm glad we're all here and that we should be thankful we have each other" said Slippy.
      "Yay, hugs all around!" said Miyu. Falco groaned, but Fox just chuckled.
      "Anything else, Slippy?" asked Fox.
      "Well, I was just gonna agree that trying to one up Andross by taking the third route might not be the best idea, there
      are black holes and time warps and things on that third route" said Slippy, stuttering. Miyu sipped her soda.
      "Peppy's late, he's usually here by now to chart the course and show us where we're going" said Miyu.
      "You know how Peppy is," said Falco. "He's probably asleep in a luxury hotel on Eladard or something. Peppy is anything but his namesake!"
      "Don't trash Peppy. He's the smartest, most wise and considerate guy I've ever met in my life, second only to you, Falco!" said Fox in a sarcastic tone.
      "Bushy tail, you earned yourself a cold beef sandwich!" said Miyu, tossing Fox a sandwich.
      "Thanks Miyu, this is delicious!" said Fox, taking a huge bite out of his sandwich. Miyu snapped her fingers, and another sandwich fell into the room.
      "There was more where that came from. Who else wants some sandwiches?" asked Miyu.
      "I sa-sa-sa-sorta want one. With some ba-ba-ba-ba-barbecue sauce, that'd be nice" said Slippy.
      "So you want barbecue sauce manufactured by the sheep people of the Baa Baa Galaxy or what?" asked Falco
      Later, after much sandwich eating soda sipping fun...
      "Well, Peppy isn't coming apparently, I tried to communicate to him on the messenger and his screen went to static!" said Slippy. But Falco was playing cards with Robert, and Fox and Miyu were having too much fun feeding one another to pay attention to Slippy.
      "Pour me some more Ginger Basil Grapefruit spitzer, Miyu!" said Fox.
      "Coming right up, your majesty" said Miyu, pouring Fox's drink. Fox guzzled it down, as Miyu deposited a grape in his mouth. Then she poured more
      spitzer into his glass, and into her glass as they toasted.
      "Some cheese with it?" asked Miyu.
      "Cheese would be great, you know in case you didn't know I love cheese" replied Fox.
      "To a long long riveting romance" said Miyu putting on a pretend accent of some sort, as she and Fox toasted again.
      "I gotta hand it to you Miyu, you're great at arranging little get togethers like this!" said Fox. Falco could not stop chuckling, and Slippy was
      about to panic.
      "I don't arrange the get togethers mah lord. They arrange me, but then I get back at em and one up em with my devout sense of preperation and
      servitude to the cause!" said Miyu.
      "Yeah, well, you're the best Miyu. Say Falco, we should all get together like this more often" said Fox.
      But Falco was playing cards:
      "Two aces, Rob!" said Falco. Slippy thwacked Falco with a frying pan.
      "Tell Fox and Miyu to get their ba-ba-ba butts into high gear now!" said Slippy.
      "Oh, okay. Yeah, good point" said Falco.
      "Tell them, now! Peppy's screen is static, his ship might have been shot down for all we know" said Slippy.
      "Okay Slip. Say Fox, have you forgotten something Fox? This is not a get together. It sure as hell wasn't arranged by Miyu! And the fate of the galaxy is at stake here.
      Is there something about cheese and grapefruit spitzer that sends you two off the deep end or something?" asked Falco.
      "The deep has no end, it keeps unraveling itself with one more tangled web, each getting more tangled and intricately woven than the other" replied Miyu.
      "Hahaha, my sentiment exactly," replied Fox, slamming the table with his fist.
      "Oooh, careful Foxy. Careful!" said Miyu.
      "We're doomed!" said Slippy.
      "Not necessarily. I've got a bullhorn for these silly tipsy whipsies!" said Falco. Falco used his bullhorn.
      "YOW! Falco, what are you doing?" yelled Fox.
      "Trying to bring you back into reality. Things are actually pretty grim right now we don't know where Peppy is!" said Falco.
      "Alas, poor Peppy," said Miyu, leaning back and staring into her fancy glass.
      "Remember that one time when he didn't show up till morning?" asked Fox.
      "Yeah, I do actually. But we should probably go meet with the General on his ship and get an update just to be safe" said Falco.
      So the team got their act together and flew their Arwings to meet with General Pepper.
      "Hello team. All the intelligence data and indications are that Peppy has gotten himself stranded on
      Planet Fichina in the middle of a blistering snowstorm! He doesn't even have a coat!" said Pepper.
      "What do you suggest we do sir?" asked Fox.
      "I don't suggest. I give orders.
      I order Miyu and Slippy to head towards Fichina, while Fox and Falco go and take out the Attack Carrier that has invaded Cornerian airspace" said
      General Pepper. Fox gave a military salute to Pepper.
      "Yes sir, Pepper sir" said Fox. He and Falco raced to their Arwings. Miyu and Slippy hesitantly teamed up, and went to their respective ships.
      We join Miyu and Slippy:
      "So, Slippy, this might be our first mission together, huh?" said Miyu.
      "Blurbitt!" replied Slippy. Miyu moved the Crystal Stick into gear and steered the ship into Fichina.
      "Blurbitt, huh? I like that actually" said Miyu. Suddenly, something came over Slippy as they entered Fichina's foggy atmosphere.
      "You missed a gold ring!" yelled Slippy trying to take charge of the Arwing's control pad.
      "No I didn't, Slipster what the heck are you doing?" yelled Miyu. Slippy sent the ship hurtling towards the ground, and Miyu jumped out and grabbed
      Slippy with her in a parachute. They both hit the ground and watched their Arwing blow up into smithereens.
      "Slippy, what was that?" asked Miyu.
      "I think it's just my allergies" replied Slippy.
      "Oh, yeah, terrific, Slipknot. You do realize you just got yourself the pink slip from me" said Miyu.
      "Is that a reward?" asked Slippy.
      "No, it's um, like, the opposite?" said Miyu.
      "You mean I'm still a calf frog in your eyes? Even after the little trick I hel[ped you orchestrate?"
      "Oh, Slippy, I'm a lynx, you're a frog, you know?" said Miyu.
      "Fair point" conceded Slippy. Miyu held Slippy's hand and attempted to comfort him as they trudged forward into the snow towards the red dot
      on their radar.
      Later...
      A giant missile nearly hit Slippy and sent him flying off far far away.
      Miyu entered the base, shown as a little red "dot" on her GPS navigator. She zapped all the guards with her ray gun and freed Peppy who was in a giant
      cage.
      "Pepster Pops, you're alive!" said Miyu, hugging Peppy.
      "Yeah, well hold on a minute pumpkin puss, I gotta check my pulse. Yeah. I'm still alive" replied Peppy.
      "Peppy, we've gotta find a way off of this planet. Did the baddies take your Arwing?" asked Miyu.
      "Remind me what a-what a...Arwing, as you call it, what is that thing anyway?" asked Peppy.
      "Oh, Peppy. You know what an Arwing is. Let's get out of here and get lunch!" suggested Miyu.
      Miyu and Peppy went to the Fichina Diner.
      "Miyu and Peppy, your tables are ready!" said a voice. Miyu and Peppy raced to their tables. Peppy looked over the menu. The waitress came over.
      "Hi, my name is Bloomeelia Glowdentissa, I'll be serving you today, how can I help you?" asked a cat girl in a maids outfit.
      "I'll have mashed potatoes with gravy and some beans" said Peppy.
      "Fichina's finest! And how may I help you?" said Bloomeelia, glancing at Miyu.
      "Grapefruit," said Miyu. "Just...grapefruit!"
      "Good choice! My friend Rallassa almost exclusively orders grapefruit here every time! I'll be right back!" said Bloomeelia.
      "So, Miyu, I've been thinkin, you know I have this chili recipe I'm thinkin' about perfecting once the war is over" explained Peppy.
      "Oooh, that sounds heavenly. Do tell me more" said Miyu, batting her eyelashes and gazing into Peppy's eyes.
      "Yeah. I'm thinkin' it needs some good ol' fashioned old time Cornerian spices" said Peppy.
      "Can't have enough of those," said Miyu, filing her fingernails.
      "Yeah. Some thyme maybe. Meatballs!" yelled Peppy, slamming the table. Bloomeelia came back with the mashed potatoes and grapefruit.
      "Thank you kindly Miss" said Peppy.
      "Yes thank you, rock on!" said Miyu.
      "You too, funky soul sister!" said Bloomeelia.
      "Do you and her know each other?" asked Peppy.
      "I ran into her once back in Academy. She dropped out early on though to become a sorceress" said Miyu. Miyu pressed the grapefruit against her mouth and
      nose and buried her face in it, soaking in the divine goodness of the moment.
      "Anyway, so I've got this chili thing all planned out" said Peppy.
      "Is your rabbit friend okay?" asked Bloomeelia.
      "He gets like this. His memory is fried" replied Miyu.
      "Well, I'm a sorceress and if I know one thing about memory, doing a special thing you haven't done in years usually gets your memories
      jogging like biscuit fueled fiends!" said Bloomeelia.
      "That gives me an idea of how we'll get the Arwing back from that base!" said Miyu.
      Later...
      "Peppy, you know your Arwing is in there, just because it's heavily guarded doesn't mean we can't get in there" said Miyu.
      "So many guards. Course, there are those barrels over there" said Peppy.
      "Exactly," replied Miyu. "We're gonna have to do it"
      "Get who to do what?" asked Peppy.
      "We're gonna do a barrel roll gosh darn it! I've waited my whole life for this chance" said Miyu.
      "I'm too old, Miyu" yelled Peppy.
      "No you're not!" said Miyu.
      "I'm not?" asked Peppy.
      "No, I think you're as prepped, ready, and as peppy as you've ever been" said Miyu, pushing Peppy into a barrel. She got into the barrel with him.
      "This is a tight squeeze. Crammed in here, but not bad. Not bad at all actually" said Peppy. The two began rolling down the hill, and they sent most
      of the guards running home, flattening some, to a degree. The barrel finally smashed into a wall and broke open.
      And there...in the midst of all...was the Arwing of Peppy, inside the base. Miyu and Peppy raced into the base.
      "Well, we did it, we did a barrel roll together" said Peppy, brushing off his pants.
      "Oh, Peppy. What would Vivian Hare think?" asked Miyu.
      "Who?" said Peppy, confused.
      "Ugh, do we need to do another barrel roll?" yelled Miyu.
      "I don't know but it never pays to underestimate Star Fox, that's for sure" said Peppy. Peppy was about to get into his Arwing
      with Miyu and fly off into the
      sunset when suddenly the dome like base's doors automatically shut, and a vortex appeared.
      Wolf and Falco came out of it.
      "Well well, look what the monsoons brought in. You know it's rather fitting that it end like this, as this planet
      is now the headquarters of Emperor Andross's entire base of operations. I'm only telling you this because I'm confident
      we will defeat both of you" said Wolf, putting out a cigarrette. He held a ray gun up to Peppy and Miyu and proceeded
      to tie them up.
      "You'll never get away with this, Bird Man and Wolf" said Peppy.
      "Falcky's joined up with Wolf and Andross? What the heck is going on?" said Miyu.
      "That can't possibly be Falco, his feathers are too ruffled" said Peppy.
      "No, it's really me. Been tempted to do this for ages, Fox always tried to one up me, he
      thought he had the upper hand of the deck, but now I'm the ace of spades. I now know the truth, that
      Pepper's been playing you all for fools and has you all eating out of his paws like termites, he broke the deal
      he had with Andross, not the other way around" said Falco.
      "Oh please, next you're gonna tell me Fox Mcloud's father actually died of cheese addiction" said Peppy.
      "Yeah, I'm sure some guy named Ben Cheese had something to do with it" said Miyu.
      "Please don't hurt us!" said Miyu.
      "Sorry lady, this is just our duty" replied Wolf.
      "Yes, Andross knows what he's doing" said Falco.
      "You see what's happening here? The bird finally started using his brains. You two can make up for your shortcomings if you so desire, I'm
      perfectly willing to get you two on my side as well, though I doubt you'll take me up on the offer" said Wolf.
      "I'd rather be put in a zoo!" said Miyu.
      "I'd rather be forced to deliver candy door to door in a bunny outfit" said Peppy. Falco groaned. Wolf continued speaking.
      "Cornerians are going to soon be upgraded, and those who refuse will be immediately terminated" said Wolf.
      "Upgraded? You mean experimented on and treated like an animal, right? Not gonna happen Wolf" said Peppy. Wolf pulled
      out a remote and activated a trap door with a growing wormhole underneath. He used the remote to lower the pillar Miyu and Peppy were tied to further and further down, hoping they would fall victim to the wormhole wherein Andross would kill them. He began mocking them.
      "Hey, no sweat dear fellows. Trust your instincts, don't ever give up, hahaha" chuckled Wolf. Wolf then got in Peppy's Arwing with Falco and was just
      about to take off, when Miyu began chewing on the ropes with her sharp teeth. She cut Peppy free the same way, and grabbed
      on to him just as he was about to fall into the hole. They began blasting inside the Arwing, causing the entire machine
      to start flashing. Wolf and Falco evacuated the ship and it burst into flames.
      "Congratulations, you destroyed your own ship!" said Wolf.
      "Not so" said Peppy, texting Pepper on his phone. A vortex opened and a fresh new Arwing appeared.
      "What the heck?" asked Wolf.
      "It pays to eat out of Pepper's paws, Wolf. But it doesn't pay to eat out of the hands of Emperor Andross, who's
      about to get his just desserts by the way" said Peppy, getting into his Arwing.
      "Take me with you" said Miyu, gazing into Peppy's face with starstruck eyes.
      "No, I'd feel too bad if something happened to you" replied Peppy.
      "Please, Vivian Hare's dead, and I...love you" said Miyu.
      "Oh, alright, if it means that much to you, I'd rather die with you than anyone else" said Peppy. Peppy
      and Miyu got into the Arwing, and flew into the wormhole to meet up with Andross. Wolf and Falco
      got into a seperate ship and followed in pursuit.
      The Final Battle Begins:
      Sure enough, there was Andross, complete with his diabolical mechanically constructed new face and metal hands.
      "The lynx and the rabbit, I'm not used to this. Very well, I'll destroy you both just the same" said Andross, as he
      began attempting to send enourmas blocks of energy towards Peppy's Arwing. Peppy fired many shots into Andross's hands
      destroying both of them. Finally Andross attempted to suck the arwing into his mouth.
      "Peppy, what do you do in this situation? Remember? You DO A BARREL ROLL!" said Miyu.
      "Understood, my precious lynx!" said Peppy, who made the Arwing do many consecutive barrel rolls succesfully avoiding
      Andross's sinister clutches. Finally Peppy began blasting the flashing red eyes of Andross, and Andross's face-ship split
      into pieces, leaving only a box with a giant brain inside of it. Peppy fired a nova bomb at it and it exploded. Miyu kissed Peppy's cheek and Peppy
      felt very relieved to be back in the game, and also incredibly amazed and amused, as he had defeated Andross for the first
      time with no help from Fox whatsoever.
      "Fox probly still thinks Andross is on Venom" said Miyu jokingly.
      "Yeah" said Peppy. "We rock!"
      "What about Wolf and Falco though?" asked Miyu.
      "Just got a text from Pepper. They've been taken into custody. Falco was exposed to a brainwashing helmet.
      The effects will wear off soon enough" said Peppy.
      Later...
      We join Falco and Katt in their apartment.
      "I can't believe I fell for Andross's garbage" said Falco.
      "It's okay, chickie poo. Your feathers have been ruffled enough. Come lather my fur why don't you?" said Katt.
      "Gee thanks, I think I'll pass for now" said Falco.
      "So, are you gonna take me on that vacation to Fortuna in that delicate ship of yours?" asked Katt.
      "Yes, but don't call it delicate that diminishes its value. Let's go, Katt!" said Falco.
      The Conclusion:
      "Wow, Peppy, I'll never consider you an old timer again" said Fox.
      "Congratulations to you and Miyu!" said Slippy.
      "Next week we're getting married" said Peppy.
      "I think I'm gonna cry" said Slippy.
      "I'm gonna cut the cake now. Know what it says on it?" asked Fox.
      "What?" asked Peppy.
      PEPPY WANTS YOU
      TO DO A BARREL ROLL
    • TheRadFox987
      By TheRadFox987
      Greetings, fellow Cornerians I am here.