Star Fox is Foxy
One of the most beloved Nintendo franchises out there is already 23 years old. Star Fox was hyped up to be the new face of gaming. The game is allegedly the first game to be played with a Super FX chip that could be stuck inside SNES game cartridges. The FX chip allows a game to have some basic polygonal graphics that was not possible on any system back then. It was also the second 3D Nintendo-developed game, behind 1992’s X.
Star Fox, also known as Starwing in Europe, was many a gamer’s first 3D experience. The implementation of SNES’ game enhancing chips was not new. Super Mario Kart was boosted by DSP in 1992, but the Super FX chip took enhancement to another level.
Presented as an epic sci-fi space shooter that you can only see on arcade places or expensive PCs, Star Fox looked incredible the first time anyone saw it. It blew the 90’s kids away. Being able to play a fully polygonal game right on your SNES was a game changer that Nintendo hoped would help extend the life of the SNES for several more years.
The game takes place in a fictional solar system called the Lylat system. It is inhabited by humanoid animal races. It contains the planets Corneria and Venom, representing good and evil, respectively.
Andross, a scientist, has fled to Planet Venom after being banished from Planet Corneria. He then declared war on Corneria and unleashed an enormous army to wreak havoc on the Lylat System. General Pepper, the commanding officer of Corneria’s defense force, dispatches a prototype high-performance fighter aircraft called the “Arwing.” However, without time to train pilots for the new fighters, he summons the elite mercenary team Star Fox. The team was led by McCloud with the help of his teammates Falco, Peppy and Slippy. You’ll see what happens when you let forest animals go to war in space.
A True Sci-Fi Shooter
The game starts immediately to a Star-Wars-like opening that shows off some of those glorious polygons in the form of a warship sent by the evil Andross. He looks down on Fox McCloud’s home planet.
Once you press Start, you’re given a few controller setups to choose from. There’s a tutorial on how to navigate your ship around. Once you’re confident in your piloting skills, it’s off to the map screen. You can select from three different paths. All paths have five to six stages, with each one being harder than the last. From there you’ll get a quick briefing by some weird dog colonel. Then it’s off to battle the worst that Andross can throw at you.
Star Fox nailed the formula for a great shooter game. It mixes classic gaming mechanics with tried and tested shooter playability. Flying through a checkpoint ring of stars to boost health, collecting invincibility shields, and saving nova bombs for boss battles are all present.
The game possesses certain unique elements that differentiate it from the standard scrolling shooter. Most scrolling shooters force the player forward at a constant speed. This is also true for Star Fox, but there are thrusters and retro-rockets on the Arwing that allows players to temporarily speed up and slow down. There are various power-ups to help you through the game, and you get to choose your own pathway. But be careful, certain routes are more difficult than others.
I think the maneuverability of the fighter is spot on. I especially like the way you can roll left and right to dodge oncoming traffic. There is also a satisfying crunch when destroying almost everything in the game. The boss fights are epic. You really have to see the final boss to believe it. Star Fox tears everything 16-bit a new one.
More Star Fox Please!
Star Fox was probably the best known of a fairly small amount of games that ever used the FX chip. The chip’s cost was too high to really catch on. Even Star Fox’s own SNES sequel was canceled due to cost and development factors and the looming launch of the Nintendo 64. However, Star Fox has been re-imagined in three reboots for the Nintendo 64, 3DS and WiiU. And finally, on June 26, Nintendo announced that they will include Star Fox 2 on the upcoming release of the Super NES Classic Edition.
Dust off your old SNES and drive the Arwing again. You’re seeing 3D polygons on your 16-bit console and that’s no trick.