The original Star Fox (or ‘Starwing’ if you're a Euro gamer) introduced a whole generation of Nintendo fans to the wonder of 3D visuals. The game was nothing short of a miracle and thanks to the revolutionary Super FX chip it produced graphics that were comparable to the primitive 3D arcade releases of the era.
However, when Nintendo decided to create a sequel for the N64, 3D was no longer a 'new' thing. The game had to have something else up its sleeve and thankfully Nintendo didn't disappoint. Star Fox 64 ('Lylat Wars' in Europe) remains one of the most beloved N64 releases, it was almost faultless in its execution.
Playing as Fox McCloud you must pilot the Arwing craft through several on-rails levels of shoot-em-up action. The action is thick and furious, but thankfully the Arwing craft handles like a dream and is very manoeuvrable. In addition to the usual up, down, left, right movements you can also slap on the air-brakes to negotiate obstacles around you, boost to get through a closing door or do a loop to evade enemy fire. Perhaps the most fondly remembered technique is the barrel roll which your wingman Slippy the Toad encourages you to do in the first mission, this allows you to deflect enemy fire.
In addition to the on-rails areas there are some free-roaming areas which give you total control. On some occasions you can also drive vehicles such as a submarine or tank just to mix things up. No one could accuse this game of not offering enough variety! There are multiple routes to the final boss which you can take, it’s worth trying to find them all just to see how many surprises you can find.
You have three wingmen to help you throughout the missions, and in turn need your help. They often pop up on your HUD offering tips or making humorous comments. Ensuring they stay alive is important to your progress and also helps you win medals which you need to unlock hidden extras in the game.
Unlike the SNES original your anthropomorphic wingmen buddies speak properly this time, rather than the garbled alien sounding language some might remember from before. The voice acting is of a surprisingly good quality, and the dialogue is very witty.
The icing on an already delicious cake is there is also a four player competitive modes too, a "point match" in which the player must shoot down an opponent at least five times, a "battle royal" in which the last player not shot down wins, and a time trial to destroy enemy fighters.
Translation to the Virtual Console brings some problems however - like many N64 titles, the original game was built around the machines innovative controller. Wii owners will have to use the GameCube pad to get the closest control setup, but the Classic Controller isn’t that bad to use either really. The original game came with a rumble pak add-on for the N64 controller, sadly you will have to live without this on the Virtual Console.
Star Fox 64 is a game which no self respecting retro lover should not be without. It ranks among the finest of games ever created for the N64 and as such it is a steal for just 1000 Wii points. There is so much variety, action and fun on offer it is hard to see who this game could not appeal to. Miss this at your peril.