The last time gamers got a taste of Nintendo's Star Fox games was the GameCube'swhich, while not a disappointing game, didn't add a lot to the series. Thankfully the latest addition, Star Fox Command on Nintendo DS, is a welcome addition. It's an experience that is not only enjoyable, but also adds a new spin to the franchise.
For those new to the series, Star Fox Command puts you in the pilot seat as Fox McCloud, leader of the Star Fox squadron and defender of the Lylat solar system. Star Fox Command is a space shooter at heart, with most of the gameplay being a series of dogfights between the Star Fox squadron and a new foe in the Star Fox universe--the Anglar Emperor and his forces.
Where Star Fox Command takes a different route from previous instalments is the strategy element thrown into the game. As the name suggests, Star Fox Command lets you pick your fights without following a strictly linear method. Before each battle a tactical map shows you a view of the overall battlefield with all friendly members and enemy forces. The challenging part is ensuring that you defeat all enemies in the limited turns that you have. Failing to do so results in your Arwing fighter running out of fuel (weak excuse, huh?) and the enemy advancing without resistance, thus destroying your mother ship--the Great Fox--and ending your adventure.
Only Fox McCloud is playable at the beginning, but as you progress through the game other characters are unlocked--including old favourites Slippy, Falco and Krystal. On finishing the game, extra characters and routes that your missions can take will be unlocked. This adds a new dimension to the gameplay and means you'll want to come back and replay again and again, with multiple endings possible.
Fox has had a makeover for his DS debut and looks fantastic. Staying true to the visual style of previous Star Fox games, Command has bright, detailed graphics and is one of the best-looking DS games to date. The frame rate never loses a beat, despite plenty of enemies onscreen. While cute like many other Nintendo mascots, the characters look great--especially in the briefings between missions where the story progresses.
One cool feature is the ability to record your voice and replace the characters default voice patterns with one based on your own. By default they speak an unrecognisable jumble of sounds which, when merged with your own, tends to have a weird accent that sounds reminiscent of yours. A machine voice pattern is also available if you don't like the sound of your pseudo-accent.
Star Fox's soundtrack is to be expected--dramatic in parts, fun and bright in others and, overall, works with the tone of the game, complementing the action onscreen. It doesn't make the game and neither does it detract from the experience. Sound effects are pretty forgettable but do the job.
Despite all the great aspect of the game, many of the individual battles felt all too brief. All enemies in any one fire fight are controlled by a number of predetermined enemy ships. By destroying them--and collecting their cores--all other enemies are neutralised. Thus, in a battle with 20-odd enemies, if you target the correct ones (which are identified before the match) it can be over in a minute or two. It makes the purpose of the battles--to eliminate all threats--a bit laughable as downing a few enemies somehow stops the rest in their tracks. Think the Trade Federation's droid army in Star Wars and you've got the idea.
The game supports play over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection with up to four simultaneous players. While trying to enter an existing game proved to be a challenge at times (most likely due to the fact that the game hadn't been released at the time of review), playing online was a blast. Multiple maps, character choices (all with different strengths and weaknesses) and upgrades mix things up a bit. A system ranks all online players from Z - A. Progression through that ranking depends on the results in online matches you've played in.