In the early days of Nintendo’s gaming domination, there were a few major staples that defined the Nintendo generation. Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid were well-known household names, but in 1993 with the release of the Super Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto would deliver another brand new creation to the franchise. The realm of the Lylat system and the anthropomorphic team known as StarFox would burst onto the scene. Fans were intrigued by this rail shooting game, and soon enough were immersed within the galaxy alongside Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Slippy Toad, and Peppy Hare as they saved the universe from the evil antics of Andross. This will be a four-part article, as we delve into the history of all the Star Fox games, promotions, appearances, and spin-off games.
StarFox is a sci-fi space shooter where players pilot Fox McCloud’s Arwing, his signature ship, through stages taking down hordes of enemies and obstacles to either destroy a big baddie at the end or establish communication with ally factions. These games were usually in a third-person perspective, but players were given the option to fly in first person mode to truly make it feel they were within the world. Some games even offered multiplayer, though these options were typically arena battles rather than cooperative missions. Let’s look at how Star Fox jumped into the scene and how it currently fares to this date.
1993: StarFox (StarWing)
Star Fox (or Star Wing in Australia and Europe) gave games a new look, introducing 3D graphics when the market was currently dominated by 2D. By utilizing a special chip known as the SuperFX chip, the SNES was able to deliver a 3D polygonal graphics setting which was unheard of at the time. Players would travel through a set path of five levels which would lead to the final boss. There are three variations of the path depending on what option was selected. Each path would have different variations of not only the levels but also the ending. Regardless of what path is chosen, the main objective is to destroy Andross, who was hellbent on destroying the Lylat System for his own personal gains.
Overall reception for StarFox was positive. Critics and gamers praised the pseudo-3d graphics and Entertainment Weekly boldly claimed that it was enough to simulate virtual reality. Regardless, the StarFox franchise cemented itself into Nintendo’s library. Contests were held in retail stores for special pins, posters, and other goodies. Nintendo Power would also hold their own form of contests as well as publish a running StarFox comic series. Just how far could this franchise go? Development for a second title, StarFox 2, was nearly completed. However, Nintendo had a very difficult decision to make. The Nintendo 64 was near completion, with enhanced 3D graphics and a strong starting library. Nintendo came to the conclusion that StarFox 2 would not sell as well as they would expect, and it was ultimately canceled.
1997: StarFox 64 (Lylat Wars)
The cancellation of StarFox 2 was not a hard blow to Nintendo as they were able to focus their assets into a more fleshed out environment. With new hardware came new opportunities, and none were wasted. Featuring voice acting, a smooth 3D environment, multiplayer functions, and (for the first time ever) a Rumble Pak, StarFox 64 (or Lylat Wars for the PAL version) would storm its way into the market. Players once again assumed the role of Fox in his Arwing to blast through many stages via the air, land, and, in one area, the ocean. Paths were no longer chosen but instead discovered by either taking out certain enemies or flying through specific obstacles. Players were also given more background for the characters including the history of Fox’s father James, the intent of Andross, and the future of the StarFox team.
Critics gave StarFox 64 overwhelmingly positive reviews for its innovation towards the system, and fans have dubbed it one of the greatest games ever made (sitting up there with games like Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy 7). While the hype was at its peak, the series would wind up going into a dormant state for quite some time. This would spark the question, “Will there be another game like this?” When the GameCube launched in 2001 the rise of Metroid and Mario would dominate, but there was no word on a new StarFox game. This, in turn, would begin the decline of the franchise and leave fans confused. In the next article, we will look into how Star Fox was pushed into the GameCube era on a whim, and the divide it would cause between fans