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Patch93

So I recently went back and played Star Fox Assault for the first time in 10 years

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Patch93

My god, this game has aged like milk.  It's absolutely stunning when you revisit a certain game that you enjoyed in your youth to discover problems that completely flew over your head as a child. 

The level design is horrendous, 80% of the game is running around in arenas recycled from multiplayer hunting down targets with atrocious enemy placement. I lost track of how many times I died on Sauria trying to destroy a hatcher while being continuously being ganged up on by enemies. It's blatantly obvious that these maps were not built with single player in mind. The Aparoid Homeworld is a clear example. Literally some random man-made looking arena "base" that there is no way in hell the Aparoids would be able to build floating over the tunnel's entrance. The controls and on-foot physics are barely tolerable, Fox just slides around like he's on ice. Dual stick can only improve things so much. I also have a hard time getting the camera in the right position when I need to shoot a specific target.

The cutscenes and dialogue are awful. Outside of FMVs, everyone speaks with this really shitty filter as if they're talking in a bathroom. This would be fine if this were limited to radio chatter, but it extends to everything including the briefings where everyone is in the same room. The animation is pretty bad too, everyone flails their body around when they speak and often vanish before they even finish what they're saying. The Japanese version has better animation for briefings but still has this problem for everything else in-game. It looked like they were trying to emulate the puppet aesthetic of SF64, which admittedly would be okay if characters like Fox and Falco didn't look like generic grimdark third person shooter hero wannabes. The voice acting isn't the worst I've heard, but the actors at many times don't sound really interested in what they're saying. Fox in particular suffers in this department, as his actor's performance sounds incredibly wooden.

I'm not a fan of how the Arwing handles in this game. The developers did not do enough research on how the Arwing's physics worked in the EAD trilogy. When you crashed into objects in the first three games, you felt that shit. Not only did the screen flash a bright red indicating that your ship took damage, but there was this painful crunching sound (or in the case of 64, a giant WHAM). Here, your ship just lightly bounces off the object and doesn't even make any noise. Barrel rolls protecting the ship from missiles is completely asinine. I don't understand why Namco had rolling and banking on the left shoulder button instead of both shoulder buttons like previously. It's cool that they took advantage of the pressure sensitivity of the Gamecube's controller shoulder buttons, but the way they did it makes it frustrating to bank on your side when you need to slip through a tight space. It's even less logical that they put the brake on the right shoulder button instead of the X button like the Wii VC release of SF64 did. I also don't like the fact that you'll keep boosting or braking after pressing the button once until the meter completely depletes or if you press the button again, it feels like a huge step back from the way SF2 and SF64 handled it, where you would stop boosting/braking as soon as you would let go of the button. Nova Bombs suck ass, they make this really cheap, badly textured sphere that doesn't feel nearly as effective or satisfying as before. Not only is the blast radius increase slow as molasses, but most of the time it won't even reach the enemies you want to destroy.

Furthermore, the game as a whole seems really unpolished. This is something I would expect out of a 3D Sonic game from 1999-2006 rather than something with Nintendo quality. Cutscenes during levels never transition into each other naturally, the screen goes blank before one starts up making them feel disconnected. It doesn't help that some levels like Sauria and the Aparoid Homeworld will start out of nowhere with no introductory cutscene. Characters constantly repeat certain lines of dialogue or shout lines that don't fit the situation. Krystal shouts "OKAY, GOT THEM!" more times than your teammates in 64 do when they're being chased in Sector Z. There's even one point during the Cornerian Orbital Gate mission where Peppy will speak in a CDF soldier's voice, and NO, I'm NOT making that shit up. It's like the programmers didn't even proofread their code when making this.

The sound mixing is terrible and gets even worse when multiple explosions occur at once. I had to turn down the volume during the first boss battle with Andrew because the explosions were too damn loud. The explosions themselves are just lens flare effects replacing the object that got destroyed. The worst in my opinion occurs during the FMV when Peppy sacrifices himself to help the Star Fox team get inside the Aparoid tunnel. It's like the animation team threw a GIF that was edited in through Adobe After Effects over the exploding Great Fox. The game is also way too short. Hell, it's even shorter than I remember it being. That would be fine if it were like the EAD trilogy which gave you alternate paths with different stages to choose from, thus encouraging you to replay the game, but Assault attempts to take a more traditional approach with it's structure and the short length really doesn't cut it. 

All in all, I don't hate this game, in fact there are many things that I like about it such as the fully orchestrated soundtrack, being able to come to a complete stop while braking in the Arwing, the character development with Peppy and Wolf, the introduction of Panther to the series, and the little world building that Corneria gets with it's billboards and various establishments. However, all the issues I encountered prevent me from putting this game anywhere above mediocre at best. It honestly baffles me how some people hold Star Fox Assault on such a high pedestal. I find it hilariously ironic that this game's fanboys argue that the fans of the EAD trilogy are blinded by nostalgia, when they themselves are oblivious to this game's flaws for practically the exact same reason. I mean sure yeah, the first three games may have not aged that gracefully either (especially the SNES games), but at least I still had more fun and enjoyment out of them than I did with this game. Playing through this game's single player campaign feels more like a chore than anything else.

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ArwingFan

Nice review. I felt that 95% of the effort went into the multiplayer and the single player campaign was just a last minute afterthought. But even then the multiplayer has its problems such as the physics, balance issues, and running off cliffs to unlock everything. Not to mention the story, while I liked some things about it (such as Andrew reclaiming his uncle's throne), but overall it felt shaky and rushed (Pigma was handled very poorly, Krystal didn't bring anything to the table, etc.) Also the S flags are impossible to find unless you have a guide or stumble on them by blind luck.

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Patch93

It was an afterthought. Originally the game was only going to be a multiplayer party game, but after the arcade game project got scrapped, they had to make a single player campaign for Assault to make up for it. It explains why the game feels rushed as it is.

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The Undying Nephalim

I think Assault was probably the victim of being rushed out before it was complete. There was less than two years spent developing the game before it released and it shows. The game feels like a multiplayer beta with wonky controls and rough, incomplete animations. The skeleton for something great is there, but it's clearly incomplete and needs way more time in development.

I think what's unfortunate about Assault is that a lot of ideas that show up are really awesome (which is why I think the game has a cult following), just really poorly executed. Insect like machine Borgs that consume technology? Awesome idea! Too bad they run into walls and have less personality than a cardboard zombie. A Starfox game that lets you jump out of the Arwing and use an arsenal of weapons? That sounds sweet.... too bad the controls are horrible and I can barely aim properly. A narrative driven Starfox game? That could be really cool..... oh wait the dialog is horrible (bypassing evolution by stealing souls.... what was the writer(s) smoking?!)

It's almost the opposite of Starfox Adventures, which was a collection of really stupid and baffling ideas that ended up being incredibly polished and worked well on a technical level. 

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Pgpaw3
2 hours ago, The Undying Nephalim said:

I think Assault was probably the victim of being rushed out before it was complete. There was less than two years spent developing the game before it released and it shows.

That's not actually entirely true. The game was first announced in 2002 for a 2003 release, meaning work was already well underway by the time of the announcement. However, the reception was poor when it was shown off, so they took it back to the drawing board and that eventually pushed the release back to 2005.

One theory I have is that it did need more time, especially since they had to cut and redo a whole bunch of work, and the reason it got released when it did was because if they pushed it back again they thought they might be told to just port it over to the upcoming Wii, which would require even more work. That is just speculation on my part but is a possibility, although I admit an unlikely one.

Don't get me wrong, I still have great fun when I play Assault, but it does have some glaring flaws.

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fanfictiondreamer

It makes me feel better to see that Starfox Assault was not the greatest game in the world. It have felt out of place from not be into like and move on to this game during it's time because I still love Starfox Adventures. I guess the reason why I was into Starfox Adventures was because I was traumatized by my 8th grade homeroom teacher being a jerk to me. As for when this game was being released, the only traumatic incident for me at this time was the thought of me having to transition from my favorite game to its sequel. It felt good to know that this game didn't really mean that much to me and that I didn't have to like this extensively. I was able to portray something like this in my story.

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LoneWolf

I agree with most of these points at least partially; I just replayed Assault last year and whilst I still love the game to death there's definitely some nitpicks.

You're right on it that the level design is shit. I wanted to hang myself during the on-foot section of the Aparoid Homeworld.

The audio (at least voice and SFX) is messy but I'd almost crack that up to the GCN's storage capabilities (it sounds like they compressed the dynamic range on the voice tracks, probably to make space for the music tracks).

I do actually like the way the Arwing flies though. It feels precise and tight to me, but that's mostly preferential.

The game is short as shit. There's no way around that. It needs to be at least 5 times as long.

Beyond that, I have a really heavy nostalgia for the game that prevents me from ripping on it too hard. I've had too much fun to really be able to say that it's not a good game. In fact, it's up there with 64 and Zero for my favorites of the series. The entire thing is really memorable and the writing isn't awful, definitely cheesy but it's not really erring on bad. Feels like the really hokey space opera I want StarFox to be.

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Patch93
Quote

The audio (at least voice and SFX) is messy but I'd almost crack that up to the GCN's storage capabilities (it sounds like they compressed the dynamic range on the voice tracks, probably to make space for the music tracks).

That's not really excusable. Most GCN games that have redbook music with high quality SFX and voice bytes have little trouble with sound mixing. I would honestly blame it more on poor code optimization than anything else.

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