Lylat Wars (known as Star Fox 64 in the USA) is one of the N64’s standout titles. It cemented Star Fox as one of Nintendo’s key franchises, gave the world the Rumble Pak and provided hours of fun to millions of people. Once again though, I have never played it. So, like my Goldeneye review, this review will not be influenced by nostalgia. Which means I can legitimately say this.
Lylat Wars is bloody awesome.
The game focuses on you, Fox McCloud and his team as you fight to save the Lylat System from the evil Andross and his minions. As you fight your way through the system you'll tackle Andross’ minions as well as your rivals, Star Wolf and his motley crew of pilots. Each character is fully voice acted, there are a few cutscenes to split the missions up and, all in all, Star Fox is presented quite cinematically for the N64 and it has a cool, yet simple story.
Gameplay is straightforward but is this game’s big selling point. Missions are split between on rails sections and free to control sections. Each style of play handles brilliantly. The on rails sections are intense and the free flying ones make for some breath taking dogfights. The tricks you can do (like the meme worthy barrel roll) really make you feel like a badass pilot and the mix of simple laser shots, charged shots and bombs give you more than enough ways to take out your opponents. Enemies range from huge mechs, simple ships, skiing robots (Nintendo!) and everything else in between. The levels feature plenty of health and ammo but there are still plenty of times when the boos fights and dogfights, particularly with Star Wolf, can be too hard to handle. The game is intense but never unfair. Even today the controls hold up superbly and with the Rumble Pak on the fighting really feels great. Something modern gamers should bear in mind is that you can’t save the game. You have to get through as much of it as possible in one sitting. I thought this would be a problem for my modern habits at first but I actually love it. It makes the game a race against time and it makes for great fun if you want to see how far you can get in one go. Still though, some may find this too hardcore to handle. You have been warned.
Graphically the game isn't too bad either. Sure it doesn't meet today’s standards but the polygonal character and ship models all look cool, the enemies are all distinctive and well designed and the environments are well populated and interesting. The only real graphical issue is the occasional framerate drops that can occur with large explosions. This can cause unfair deaths because the game could lag and send you flying straight into a rock or building or enemy. Still, this doesn't happen too often and when the game is this fun it can be overlooked with surprising ease.
Sound wise this game really excels, it is fully voice acted and the actors actually do a respectable job! The ships sound cool, the weapons sound great and the soundtrack gets you suitably pumped for war.
All things considered its easy to see why Lylat Wars is considered a must have game and it really makes me wish Nintendo would just announce Starfox U already! Get to it!