My imported copy of Starfox Command arrived yesterday, so after a few hours of playing it, I thought I'd give my initial impressions. I'll firstly begin by giving a brief history of the feelings I had before I got to play the game.
When I first heard that a Starfox game was coming to the DS, I was very excited indeed. The original Starfox (Starwing in the UK) was one of my favourite games for the SNES, and indeed I bought the console package that came with the game. After the likes of Starfox Adventures and Assault, the screenshots showed me that the game was going back to it's roots. I don't mind telling you that I was excited. When I heard that you would be able to play multiplayer over WiFi, I was even more so. Multiplayer on Lylat Wars on the N64 was great fun, and with the WiFi, this game was going to be good. I pre-ordered it as soon as I could.
Then I read a preview and found out that the control of the ship would be via the touch screen. I have to say I was slightly disappointed at this. Even though using the stylus is meant to give you more control over the Arwing, I was hoping control would be via the D-pad. It seemed to me that they were just using the touch screen for the sake of it. I was prepared, however, to give them the benefit of the doubt.
I also read that Starfox DS was now called Starfox Command, and that it was so-called because of a large tactical element. "Hmmm, interesting", I thought to myself, stroking my chin in a quizzical manner. This intrigued me. The game was said to have elements of Advance Wars-esque turn based strategy. As a fan of these types of games, I welcomed it, even though the screenshots didn't overly thrill me.
Now I have the game, I'm able to fully comment on these features. I'll first mention the graphics, which are pretty impressive. I don't think that they are pushing the DS to the limits, but they are colourful and smooth, which is always good. The sound too, is a good standard - the music is catchy and clear, and the sound effects come over well on the DS's little speakers. There's even an option to record your own voice onto the cart, so that when Fox and his pals speak to you, they talk to you in your voice (well an altered version anyway).
Now the controls and I state that my fears have come to fruition. I find using the stylus a cumbersome method of controlling the ship. Even though it gives you 360 degrees of movement, the other aspects of control are hampered because of this. The boost, brake, barrel roll, bombs, u-turn, and loop-the-loop are all controlled by the stylus, and I find it difficult to carry out all these smoothly. In order to barrel-roll, for example, you have to swipe the stylus left to right rapidly. When you're attack an enemy head on, it's hard to use the roll to deflect the shots, and keep the target in your sites. It doesn't help that the radar is displayed on the touch-screen. I found myself trying to guide the ship by pointing it in the direction of the target as displayed on the radar, rather than the action screen. I find this a little confusing. The same can be said of the boost and brake system, by which you have to double tap the top part of the screen to boost, and the bottom screen to brake. When you’re concentrating on flying the ship on the top screen, I found that looking down to make sure you were tapping the right part of the touch-screen annoying, and often ended up doing the opposite of what I wanted to do.
To drop a bomb is also and frustratingly long-winded procedure. There are two ways of doing this; the first is that you tap the bomb icon, then tap the area on the radar that you wish to drop the bomb (useful for air-support type attacks on bosses), and the other method is double tapping the bomb icon to drop the bomb where you are. I found it a chore to take my eyes of the ship, to find the bomb icon.
Controlling the ship will probably get easier, and more natural the longer I play the game, but right now I wished they kept it how it was on the SNES. It feels much slower, and I don’t feel able to do dramatic, fast manoeuvres as easily as other versions. This is very obvious when you come to the first boss, and you have to dogfight with 3 other ships.
The one-player game play of Starfox Command is interesting to say the least. Each mission is a mix of the turn based strategy, and flight-sim action. At the beginning of each mission you are presented with a map, and the object of the mission is to destroy all enemies and capture the enemy mothership. To destroy the enemy you have to move your ship icon onto theirs, and then the action changes to the actually flying element of the game. In this you have to destroy a certain number of a particular type
of enemy (usually only 2 or 3 – in the early stages anyway). This is…well dull. Once you’ve destroyed those enemies and obtained their “cores”, the level ends, and you get taken back to the map. There are other enemies to engage, but although you can get bonuses by destroying them, this does use up time, and you only have a limited amount of this to clear the map, and defeat the boss. The clock only counts down in the action sequences, but you only have a certain number of turns to complete the map.
The strategic elements are a good addition, however. There’s a novel use of the stylus for example, which is used to clear away the “fog of war” on the map screen (you can only clear a certain amount each turn). The action parts are lacking, however. Granted I’ve only played the first few levels, but just as I’m getting into it, the flying stops, and the strategy begins.
What I do like is the variety of ships. Throughout the game you get to pilot many different types of ship, each with their own display and characteristics. I haven’t had a chance to find out whether you can select these on the multiplayer option, as I’ve only had one WiFi game.
Which leads me nicely onto the WiFi gaming. I tried last night to connect, but I guess as the game has only just come out, I didn’t actually find anyone to play with
. I tried again this morning, and managed to find three other people to play a quick game of “Battle Royale”. There are two types of WiFi game: the random dogfight (and you can select whether you want to fly against 1, 2, or 3 other pilots) and Battle Royale, which is only 4 pilots. In Battle Royale, the object of the game is to collect stars. Every time a ship is shot down, a star appears in it’s place. Whoever flies through this star collects it, and whoever has the most stars at the end of the game, wins. To me this sounds a bit unfair, as you can potentially shoot down all the others, and yet end up with no stars.
When I did play it, however, it’s actually quite good fun. It allows for the weaker fighters to compete, but also leads to exciting chases to get the stars. The controls actually seemed to work better, and the ship handled very well. You all get the same ship (in a different colour), and I was able to get a few “kills” without too much of a problem. I would have like to have seen the ability to battle against bots (as you can do in Metroid Prime Hunters), but hopefully more and more people get it so the WiFi aspect won’t get dull!
So all in all, my first impressions were not that good, until I played the multiplayer. I am disappointed by the controls, but the WiFi game showed me that they are not all bad, and I’m sure I’ll get used to them. The one player game is disappointing due to the lack of actual flying, but the multiplayer so far is good.
Gameplay footage can be found here
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