128-Bit, 16-Bit, 64-Bit, Franchise features, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Starfox

Ah… Those sacred days of unboxing a new console. Is there anything better in life? If you answered “no” then you should seriously get yourself a girlfriend. But hot bother between the sheets not withstanding, new consoles are ace! One of my favorite memories was unwrapping my girlfriends ti… oh, wait. Ahem. One of my favorite memories was unwrapping my brand new Super Nintendo on Christmas day. The game bundled with the console? None other than epic space shooter Starfox (or Starwing as it was called in the UK back then).

"Incoming Enemy." Still sends chills down the spine!

“Incoming Enemy.” Still sends chills down the spine!

Lest we forget, Starfox was a completely unique game when it was released. 3D graphics of this caliber had never been seen on a home console before. To get all the visual splendor up on screen, Nintendo created a new in-cartridge addition called the Super FX chip. It was mindblowing back in the day. The graphics of the future… Today! The game itself was an on-rails arcade shooter. You had your default lasers and superbombs to fire with (power-ups for which could be collected in-level) and barrel rolls, knife rolls, braking and boosting to evade with. Bar being able to switch to an in-cockpit view during space sequences, that was pretty much it. Simple, addictive arcade goodness. The game’s highlights included giant screen filling bosses, branching paths in the hubworld, a shitload of secrets to uncover and a cast of colorful characters (and yes, we all hate that bastard Slippy Toad). Of course, the game wasn’t quite perfect. Firstly, it was very short; you could finish the entire thing in under an hour and there wasn’t much replay value after you’d seen everything. It could also be said that Andross made for a particularly bland final boss (a bunch of squares assembled into the shape of a face. How uninspired is that?). But although it also hasn’t aged so well (what early 3D games have?), it was still an unmissable title back in the day.

Fox loved to shoot down traffic copters over the freeway.

Fox loved to shoot down traffic copters over the freeway.

Starfox was a very successful game on the SNES, so a sequel was duly commissioned on the N64. Starfox 64 (or Lylat Wars in the UK) mostly kept the on-rails formula intact but did offer up a few innovations. Most interesting among these was the free roam sequences, where Fox and company would switch the wing formations on their ships (that sounds familiar) and the ‘rails’ would be ditched in favor of sweet, free-form dogfighting. They also added extremely slow ground based tank sections, which nobody liked and are best forgotten about. So too for the disappointing multiplayer dogfight mode. In theory, 4 player competitive action sounds like a good idea but it actually developed into a lot of flying around aimlessly, trying to shoot targets that were almost impossible to hit. In a word; boring. Add to that the fact that the already annoying Slippy Toad had, like, a five year old ‘actor’ voicing him (shut the FUCK up Slippy!!) and the title starts to look more and more like a scarred successor. Whilst that is a little unfair (it was, in fact,a very solid action game), the 64 bit iteration didn’t quite make it into the same league the SNES original.

I seem to have some Zelda in my Starfox.

Hmm… I seem to have some Zelda in my Starfox.

The next game in the Starfox series was Starfox Adventures on the Nintendo Gamecube. This was the last game made by Rare for Nintendo before they left for Microsoft and became absolutely redundant. But actually, Rare were already starting to become redundant before they even left Nintendo. Sure, they had made the amazing likes of 007Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Banjo Kazooie but their last game before Starfox Adventures was the underwhelming Jet Force Gemini. That was a game that looked great but had awkward controls and was boring to play. And so it was with Starfox Adventures too. Heck, the game wasn’t even supposed to be a Starfox title! It was originally developed as a new IP called Dinosaur Planet before Nintendo wrangled Rare into switching it over to the Starfox franchise. Hence, here we have a game that plays nothing like the first few titles and seemingly has nothing to do with the license save for a few grafted on character skins.  The gameplay itself was a mishmash of very typical Zelda tropes. Starfox Adventures took it’s place in line with a million other mediocre Ocarina of Time copycats. Simply put, it was soulless to play and an obvious indicator that Rare’s creative fire had all but been extinguished. It isn’t a game that anyone remembers when compiling a ‘best-on-Gamecube’ list and neither will it ever appear on a ‘best games that Rare made’ list. Despite being graphically stunning, it merely ended up as a poor man’s adventure game.

After Starfox Adventures, the series slipped further into despair with Starfox Assault, a lukewarm retread of the on-rails shooter formula and the pointless DS strategy game Starfox Command. A brief ray of sunshine was flashed momentarily by way of Starfox64 3D on the 3DS, which let us all briefly revisit the days when the Starfox brand actually meant something. Who knows what’s next for Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Falco Lambardi and Slippy Toad. Can Nintendo ever truly resurrect the franchise in a relevant way? My money’s on the “Slippy Toad Rendition” game, where we finally get to waterboard that motherfucker. I’d buy that for a dollar!

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64-Bit, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Body Harvest

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Does anyone remember Body Harvest for the N64?

Body Harvest was a third person shooter before third person shooters really existed. It was also an open world game before open world games really existed. So, you could say that Body Harvest was something of a trailblazer in videogames. Yet it seems to be completely left out of conversations that relate to gaming innovation and inspiration. That’s unfair, don’t you think? Especially when DMA, the studio that made it, morphed into Rockstar and subsequently made the iconic Grand Theft Auto III.

Awkward aiming mechanics ahoy!

Awkward aiming mechanics ahoy!

Body Harvest was an unbelievably ambitious title for Nintendo’s 64-bit box. As well as bringing new-fangled third person shooter and open world mechanics to the table, the game also let you drive any vehicle you could see. These ranged from jeeps to tanks to airplanes to hovercrafts. That was a big deal back in the N64 days and nothing like it had ever really been seen before in a console game. Added to that were the game’s adventure elements. There were switches to be pulled, bridges to be lowered and random NPCs to talk to. If that wasn’t enough, the game featured a time-traveling plot that took you to a bunch of distinct locations in different time zones. Again… Unbelievably ambitious!

How much does the Body Harvest hero look like Samus from Metroid?

How much does the Body Harvest hero look like Samus from Metroid?

What was the biggest fault of the N64? Non CD soundtracks? Nope. The horrible C-buttons or tiny D-pad that made it impossible to play fighting games? guess again. The lack of a Metroid title? BINGO! The N64 had no outing for the orange suited heroine. Now… The main character from Body Harvest wears an orange power-suit. He comes down from space in a ship that lands on the planet just like Samus’s. He fights big goo spitting aliens and has an annoying ship’s computer telling him what to do. Smells like Metroid to me! It’s not, of course, but Body Harvest was the closest thing we ever got on the N64. Which is obviously awesome by default. *Metroid fanboy alert*

Tanks for the memory!

Tanks for the memory!

Now, all this ass kissing aside, Body Harvest also had a fair few problems. It had a pretty awkward control scheme, for example. You had to aim with R, move the targeting reticule with the stick and press Z to fire. That’s a bit of a handful in itself, but you also couldn’t move while firing. And it got much worse while in a vehicle. Another issue was the amount of “shield walls” in the game. These acted like the proverbial invisible walls, hindering progress and keeping areas out of reach. The only difference is that they were visible. Highly visible, in fact, glowing like bright blue beacons in the sky… And they were fucking EVERYWHERE. During the later stages of the game, I swear you couldn’t walk two feet without bumping into one. Man that irritated me so much back in the day!

Those bloody shield walls!

Those bloody shield walls!

Still, these annoyances aside, Body Harvest deserves it’s place in videogame history. Ahead of the curve in every sense, it was pretty much a dry run for GTAIII and a true trend setter. So it’s a real shame that it just won’t run right on N64 emulators. Not that I would ever stoop to such depraved and obviously illegal practices. Butter wouldn’t melt in the Chuchu’s mouth. Honest.

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