I often feel as if video games double as a means to time travel. This is true of many things, like the hard strawberry candies that never fail to transport me back to my childhood, when my parents and I used to visit my great grandmother. Memories are a powerful thing that can make the past come alive with just the right trigger. And for me, video games are often that trigger, one such game being Star Fox Adventures. When I first got the game, it was kind of a big deal. But to understand why, some explanation is required.
You see, at this point in my life, I had only ever ventured outside of Nintendo territory during the occasional visit to a friend who owned not only a Sega Genesis and Dreamcast, but a PS1. There was something about the graphical style on the PS1 that really stuck with me, particularly a game that we played once that I’m pretty sure was Chrono Cross. (Having played the game myself a few years ago, old memories resurfaced when I found myself exploring a location I had seen ten years prior at my friend’s house.)
This probably sounds odd, but at the time, I felt like games like those I had seen on the PS1, and later on the PS2 through commercials for such games as Jak and Daxter and Kingdom Hearts, became a goal of mine that I strove to meet one day. Obviously, we all know graphics aren’t the only thing that’s important in gaming, but back when my most powerful console was a GameCube, the first time it became really apparent that Nintendo was starting to underperform compared to the competition, I yearned to play games that involved more “realistic” characters than stubby little Mario or a cell-shaded, cartoon version of Link.
And that is why, as bizarre as my reasoning might sound, I was positively thrilled the day I first started playing Star Fox Adventures. Basically, it looked like a PlayStation game to me, my current ideal of video game graphics. Honestly, this game is still one of the best looking games on the GameCube, and considering I was playing this game over a decade ago, it was all the more impressive to behold. The characters and environments looked amazing. The texture of Fox’s fur: mind-boggling. And for whatever reason, the simple fact that Fox (and Krystal) were proportioned a bit more like regular people was another bonus because it came that much closer to the aforementioned “ideal” I had in mind.
Aside from simply being a beauty to behold, I also had a lot of fun with the game, as it included a good number of decently challenging puzzles, making it feel more like The Legend of Zelda than a true Star Fox game. Ironic considering many people were unhappy that this game was nothing like Star Fox, but seeing as I was absolutely awful at the original Star Fox game on the SNES, this was good news indeed.
Of course, I did eventually venture out of Nintendo’s realm, with the purchase of my PS2 being one of the happiest and most monumental days of my gaming life. And when this happened, not only did I have far more impressive games to play, but I also just had more of them. And Star Fox Adventures became neglected, to the point that I probably played it no more than two times in a fifteen year period.
So when I revisited this iconic game from my youth not so very long ago, I was curious as to how it would stand up. It still looked pretty good, all things considered. The voice acting was just as annoying as I remembered. The puzzles were pretty easy, but at least a few made me think, even if just a little. And the Test of Fear brought to mind the time I visited a friend’s house many years ago and spent a good deal of time attempting to complete the challenge for him. I’ll never forget how he brought me a plate-full of snacks early into my endeavors as thanks.
Yep, all in all, I had a fun time with the game, but before I can go on, I must warn you, there are SPOILERS AHEAD!
Again, I can understand why many people didn’t like that this game was advertised as a Star Fox game when it was really more of a Zelda-style adventure. With this in mind, I can only wonder what people thought when it was revealed that the final boss was…you’re okay with spoilers, right?
Okay, so it’s revealed that Andross, the main villain from Star Fox, is the final boss of this game. Honestly, I felt this reveal was super out of place, considering that you don’t battle General Scales at all, despite him appearing to be the main villain of the game up until the very end. I mean, were most people happy to see the main Star Fox villain return, or was this just another moment where we were reminded that Star Fox characters were being forced into an unrelated game with no rhyme or reason for them being there? Nevertheless, I remember this part of the game being one of my favorites, despite the absurdity of battling a giant monkey head in space.
Wow, that sounds even sillier when I type it out.
Even so, the final boss fight against Andross has always been quite memorable for me. The battle is pretty epic, if not a little unnerving at times. (If the blank stare of the Krazoa statue wasn’t enough, you see Andross’ brain in the second half of the fight! His brain!) The music also goes a long way into making the battle that much more awesome. And darn it, I felt like Andross was one of the best looking things in an already graphically amazing game. Oh my gosh, just look at what the GameCube is capable of! It blows my mind! Help, my mind is literally exploding with amazement!
Overly dramatic exposition is dramatic.
So, how did the final boss stand up today? Well, I worked my way through the game, until I reached the scene right before Andross’ reveal. The battle begins, and…let me tell you, fifteen years had not diminished how excited I felt. I felt like a kid again. I felt the same level of astonishment as my child-self had all those years ago, when I was playing the best-looking game I currently owned and had just found myself facing a rather frightening foe.
And to top it off, now I was playing the game on a widescreen TV rather than that old square screen from ages past, at night (a time when my parents usually had control of the TV), with the lights off and sitting on the floor as I had once done in my youth (the GameCube controller cord didn’t reach the couch then and it doesn’t now…). Surrounded by darkness, the space battle felt all the more immersive, all the more real, and I think this was in large part to blame for a little bit of motion sickness as Fox flew his Arwing wildly around the screen in an effort to avoid Andross’ attacks.
I’m really not one to get motion sickness when playing games, but hoo boy, was that battle making me dizzy!
I had started this post by talking about how video games have the ability to transport us back in time. Well, playing this game again, and reliving one of my favorite gaming moments from my youth, put me back into the mindset of that child I once was. When video games could thrill me and ignite my imagination more so than they can now. Yes, I still love video games, and I still enjoy them as much now as I did then. But there was just something about childhood that added some mysterious special quality to everything we did that we tend to lose in adulthood.
Fifteen years have since passed. I live in a different house, in a different state, and I know entirely different people. I guess what I’m trying to say is…it’s a really surreal feeling when everything in your life is different, and it occurs to you that the only thing that has remained unchanged in that moment is the game you’re playing and how it makes you feel. Replaying this game, holding the very same controller in my hands that I had in my youth, made me feel as if a connection had been made to the past, a delicate thread that reminded me of child-like joy, a fleeting illusion that broke once the credits had finished rolling and the TV had been turned off for the night.
And sometimes, all it takes is fighting a giant monkey in space to rekindle those old feelings. Yeah. Life…is really weird sometimes.