Game Over Online ~ Star X

GameOver Game Reviews - Star X (c) BAM! Entertainment, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Star X (c) BAM! Entertainment
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 60%
Date Published Wednesday, June 12th, 2002 at 08:22 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Star X is a title that will have a good chance living on as an under-appreciated cult favorite. In this day and age, when the GBA sees more platform titles and remakes of old console games, it's refreshing to see something technically new. It certainly has the pretense to do so with its stirring visuals and fast-paced gameplay. You take control of a spacecraft and guide it through nearly two-dozen missions against an alien race bent on, to take a quotation from a recent film, "aggressive negotiations."

In a title like this though, the story is really not all that important, or so I hoped to believe. Star X raises the bar on the GBA by incorporating a 3D engine capable of rendering some pretty impressive graphics. I must admit, I didn't have a SNES to remember Star Fox from, so I'll take a page from the first space simulations I was exposed to, namely LucasArts' X-Wing title. That game pumped out Goraud shaded polygons even on ancient (80286) computer. It was a sight to behold and finally, fans of Star Wars could participate in the epic battles that so far could only be seen on television, played in arcades or read about in books. Although here it's only flat shaded polygons, I'm sure Star X will have that kind of liberating experience for Star Fox fans.

All good games are created with two essential ingredients: technical achievement in audio-visuals and the other nebulous factor which people call gameplay, fun factor, wow factor or whatever you want to call it. It's what compels you to play the game and put time into it, instead of sitting back just to look at the visuals. Star X, unfortunately, only possesses one of these characteristics. First off, it's marred by some shoddy controls and these are exasperated in the later levels because you require precise, accurate ones to finish levels. Instead, the ship you fly has about as much control and accuracy as a car missing its power steering fluid.

Secondly, it's missing one of the quintessential things that made X-Wing a revered game. It had an engrossing storyline, letting you participate in epic battles that you heard of in the movies and create some of your own. In Star X, it's wave after wave of enemy ships with no letting up. I'm sure Star Fox did not get its name by having you hunt down fifty odd ships per level only to beat a boss ship at the end. Surely, the developers could have included some scripted sequences, friendly AI or some tighter missions to the game itself. Quite frankly, that alone would have made Star X a game of a different calibre. As it is now, it only hobbles on the fact that it has fast 3D visuals and other games don't.

Even the technical components of Star X have shortcomings. I'm not necessarily pointing at the visuals but basic things like font legibility. For a password-saved game and a device that lacks basic backlight, the cryptic letters for your passwords are horrible to take down. And while the game may have thrilling looks, it doesn't sound all too well. Eventually, you'll get the feeling the only thing you'll hear are laser blasts. It's difficult if not impossible to discern which ones hit you. All explosions, whether on you or on the enemy are the same. The smart bomb, likewise, emits no particular sound so when dropped, all you hear are more explosion sounds so you don't know whether the bomb released actually hit a target, anything, or even dropped for that matter if you're continually shooting lasers like I did.

With that said, it appears like so much time was spent by the developers on the visuals that they may have ignored the precepts of developing a good game. Perhaps they were so engrossed with tweaking the engine for performance that they forgot to do things like basic sound effects. For now, this feels like a great technology demo. It wows and dazzles for a good ten minutes. After that, you'll be wondering if that's all it can do.

There's no going back for the GBA now: Star X proves that much better things are to come for this handheld. I am sure now I will get a barrage of mail pointing to the revolutionary nature of this product. They will cite things like how this is a technical revolution, like THX 1138 before Star Wars. But without solid music, sound and most importantly, a compelling raison d'etre for this beautiful world to exist (and for you to sink money to play it), it's a game like the women you find in trendy boutiques downtown: all looks, great looks at that, but no heart at all.


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