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Star Fox Command Package Art

Star Fox Command

Our pal Star Fox has been through some turbulent times since the stellar Star Fox 64. After two GameCube games, which got mixed reactions from fans, Nintendo wisely decided to keep Fox in the Arwing with Star Fox Command for DS. Fans shouldn't expect a complete return to the days of old, though; this time there's slightly more to it than blowing everything out of the sky; but donít worry, there's not too much more.


The graphics are better than what SNES could display, but don't quite reach 64 levels. Terrain looks nice, but the environments end up feeling sparse; perhaps it's the dense fog that covers many of the areas, or that many levels lack a sufficient amount of enemies to destroy. The ship and enemy models do the job, but aside from some creative bosses, seem average on the whole. One would think that in the midst of battle, dodging enemy fire while barrel rolling and blasting twin lasers would render visuals irrelevant as long as they kept up. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough of those moments to ignore the fact that the graphics seem to just hit par. It's nothing bad, but just unusual for Star Fox, let alone Nintendo.


It seems like ages since a steady stream of memorable tunes came out of Nintendo, and Command doesn't do anything to break that chain. To be fair, the music is always appropriate, never distracting, and sometimes it's downright decent. Despite this, it doesnít reach beyond forgettable. The same goes for the trademark Star Fox sounds; a lot of these bits and pieces have been heard before, including the return of non-descript warbling in place of voice acting. In a suspicious coincidence, a new Banjo-Kazooie has just been announced on another system.


While the majority of action in Command takes place in the familiar dogfights the series is known for, a light strategy element splits up the action. Taking a page from Advance Wars, Fox and Co. plan out their attacks on a basic map displaying terrain, enemy ships and bases. A certain fog of war exists, blocking certain areas from view of the player. A finite amount is allowed to be cleared via the touchscreen each turn (Hint: draw lines, don't scribble). With one or more ships at his disposal, Fox plots his course to destroy all the bases and enemies within a limited amount of turns.

When an Arwing or one of its many variants comes into contact with hostile forces, the meat of the game commences. Flying around in 3D arenas similar to a few of the boss fights from Star Fox 64, the player is almost always given the task of destroying the targeted enemies within the time limit, which the game refers to as fuel. Defeating optional enemies and flying through the series trademark silver hoops will net power-ups like extra fuel or health. The missions vary a little when it's time to run after a missile that's targeting the Great Fox, destroy an enemy base or defeat a boss, but it really boils down to a series of time trials against often-unique foes.

Branching paths are another series staple that make a return in Command. As usual, the actual game length is short, but replays are encouraged with several alternate endings and a sizeable amount of levels not available during the first playthrough. Missions are broken up by a good deal of story, which mostly consists of talking heads and sometimes laughably-melodramatic dialogue. Many will most likely want to skip these scenes, as the awkward relationship banter between Fox and Krystal is not anywhere near as entertaining as making things explode.

While the gameplay seems firmly wedged in Star Fox lore, the controls are something that only the DS can offer. Players are required to use the stylus to steer and aim their ships, while tapping the top of the screen increases the throttle and tapping the bottom slows things down. Bombs can also be dropped by dragging them out of a slot on the touch screen and onto a desired part on the map. These controls may take a few minutes to get used to, but seasoned wingmen will be flying high like Maverick and Iceman in no time. Overall, the control scheme works (aside from an occasional but acute case of Metroid Prime Hunters Cramp Syndrome), but it seems a bit unnecessary; without any alternative control scheme, the stylus controls seem forced onto a game that doesn't require them.


Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection has succeeded in yet again making a basic online game fun to play but restricting it to a few base modes and tying it to the abhorrable Friend Codes. As it sounds, Command's online dogfights are simple free-for-alls. Even the strategy elements are thrown out the window here. That said, the core versus gameplay is surprisingly fun. Once a characterís ship is blown out of the sky, a star floats as an instant tombstone for the deceased. Collecting this icon will add a point to your tally of points, the goal of each game being to get the most; the fun part lies in stealing foes' hard-earned points by snaking--no, not that kind--in at the last second. It's just too bad there arenít more modes. Nintendo games have incredible potential for online play, but Command, like so many other online DS games, really only has that potential to its name.


Star Fox Command isn't quite a return-to-form for the series; it's best to think of it as a good few steps on the road to recovery. Itís interesting to note that Nintendo-- or the people they hire-- are actually trying something new with each Fox game, and yet all fans seem to want is the franchise to devolve into a simple, elegant shooter from the days of yore. In that respect, Command takes one step forward and two steps back. While return of the Arwing as the only playable part of the game is an important move, the shoehorn of the DS control scheme onto a game that doesn't need them harkens back to the days before games like Kirby Canvas Curse and Nintendogs, when developers hadn't yet learned to use stylus input as anything other than a gimmick. It doesn't cripple the game, but it certainly doesn't do it any favors. Gamers have a lot of options if they want to blow stuff up; if Nintendo would once again remove all obstacles between them and their sacred task, they just might find that they can have a wingman any time.

final score 7/10

Staff Avatar Tristan Cooper
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"Get out the umbrellas..."

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