Do you remember the heavily memed term “do a barrel Roll!”? Do you … well you can probably guess this is the game that comes from.
First up, just like the SNES game from before, Sgathaich: Star Fox (Starwing), in the UK we got a different name for exactly the same reason. So over here Star Fox 64 was called Lylat Wars. However, for the sake of simplicity I shall be referring to it as Star Fox 64.
Star Fox 64 is essentially a retelling of the plot of the original game. You play as Fox McCloud (no word on if he’s meant to be Scottish, definitely doesn’t have the accent) head of Star Fox team as they work to stop the forces of the evil rogue scientist Andross. The opening of the plot is told at the start of the main game mode. How Andross was banished, how Fox’s father James McCloud was betrayed by team mate Pigma and how Cornaria is currently under attack by Andross’s fortress.
The game has 3 main modes. The main Game that will have you fly through several levels to get to the Planet Venom and take on Andross himself, a handy training mode to help you learn controls and a VS mode for up to 4 players.
While in the original game you would pick one of 3 routes at the start. In 64 the route you take will be decided by your actions. Maybe it’s going through a secret path, one of your team mates got shot down and you need to rescue them or something else. This causes the route you take to go between 3 different difficulty levels each with different planets or astrological bodies. For example if you save Falco in the first level, he will show you that flying through the water arches on Cornaria (first level) leads you to a different boss fight that leads you though the harder path. If you don’t you fight a big robot boss and your next level is on the easy path in an asteroid belt. There is a medium path but it only starts with the 3rd level and only last 3 levels. Last level is always either easy or hard path (and hard is the true ending).
The levels can be quite varied. While most are front facing on rails shooters with you piloting the iconic Arwing. Some allow All Range mode with puts you into an arena that you can freely fly about. Dog fights with the enemy team Star Wolf will happen in these modes. Other levels may have you pilot the Landmaster Tank and take on enemies from the ground, and one will even see you in control of a submarine.
The levels are themselves very versatile. From settings ranging from city battles, enemy bases, enemy armadas and even the Star of the system. Resulting in space battles, aerial battles, dog fights against enemy aces and even a level heavily inspired by Independence Day, often topping off against some epic boss encounters.
Each level also has a medal to earn if you get a high enough score and none of your team mates getting shot down. Earn one on the final level on hard path earns you a bonus of a different vehicle on VS mode. And get a medal on every level unlocks the expert mode (which is a harder version of the main story, with Fox now wearing sunglasses like his dad used to). And get a medal on the final level of the hard path on that, you unlock the ability to have your pilot in VS mode fight on foot with a massive bazooka.
Main game mode is very replayable, it only takes around 50 minutes. But with the incentive of getting Medals as well as the multiple different routes it’s made to be played over and over. The game also plays very smoothly, so once you learn the controls from training mode you can easily leap into main over and over, or if you have friends try and gun each other down. It’s worth noting this was the first game to incorporate use of the rumble pack on the N64 controller. So, if you have ever played a game where the controller started shaking to show some effect, this is where that started for Nintendo.
So if you can hunt down a copy on a working N64, or have the Switch expansion, and have just under an hour to burn, get some fun arcade style action ready. You will remember the first time you fought a giant brain in space…. look it’s been over 20 years; I’m not hiding spoilers for that long.