Star Fox Command - Nintendo DS review

Nintendo’s touchscreen packing DS continues to wallop Sony’s PSP on the sales front and its gaming line up is looking better than ever. Try playing New Super Mario Bros and you’ll feel that same boundless joy you experienced way way back when playing Super Mario World on the SNES.

It’s no surprise then to find 3D space shooter Star Fox – also known as Lylat Wars in Europe – finally making it over to the DS with not so imaginatively titled Star Fox Command.

There’s more than just blasting this time round. Nintendo has thrown a layer of strategy into the mix to get you scratching your head on the bus. So can this new title – starring Fox McCloud, naturally – still cut it?

The early Star Fox titles are well worth looking up for the hectic space action and sublime visuals. Just give Star Fox Adventure on the Gamecube a miss.

This DS release breaks with the past. Instead of level after level of blast 'em up thrills, each mission contains a smartly implemented strategy mode.

You now have to play against the clock and have only a limited number of turns to complete your goal. Run out of either and its game over. Get shot by an enemy and its hasta la vista too. There’s a lot to get your head around.

So pick up your trusty stylus and get drawing. First, draw a line from your ship to your intended destination and you’ll fly there automatically. You’ll then drop out of strategy mode into the battle proper where the stylus can be used to fly your ship around, dodge missiles and fire off a few retaliatory volleys.

The stylus control works astonishingly well. Dragging and drawing can, err, drag in many DS titles, but here it’s an ideal control method. Despite having enemies, turns and a time limit on your plate, you’ll soon be facing down an end of level boss.

The 3D graphics are spectacular too and easily up there with the best Nintendo’s nipper has to offer. There’s no annoying slowdowns either, even with the mother of all battles going on.

So we’re cruising for five stars then? Well, not quite. Despite the great execution, Star Fox Command can’t hold a candle to previous games in the series. The levels are all very similar – fly a bit, fight a bit, shoot down a missile, bag a boss character – so the early excitement will turn to tedium pretty sharpish.

The subtle and humorous storylines of earlier titles have gone too. We’re left with an alarmingly unimaginative and boredom inducing script that feels like its been knocked up on someone’s tea break. Unlocking new dialogue is one of the biggest reasons to keep playing, but why bother when you’re presented with stilted garbage?

Verdict

This Fox isn’t the sprightly young upstart he once was. The odd new trick and stylus control method has helped, but Nintendo seems to have forgotten what made Star Fox great in the first place.

A fair attempt, but not the dazzler we should have had.