Star Fox and Metroid are the unloved middle children of the Nintendo Family. Frequently they get pawned off to some other developer with mixed results, sure we got the glory of Metroid Prime but we also got the horror of Starfox Adventures, and also Metroid: Other M. It’s been about seven years since we got a NEW Star Fox game, Star Fox 64 for the 3DS doesn’t count since it’s just a remake. So were left with a DS game that does a few neat things but ultimately pales in comparison to older games. So What went so wrong?
First lets roll back a bit. Star Fox 1 was an old SNES game that showcased the systems 3d capabilities. Back then it was impressive, not so much in hindsight. But the game did do well enough and earned its self a modest fan base and rightfully so! Miyamoto’s love and care was apparent in the game and he drew heavy inspiration from old puppet TV Shows like Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds inspiration would stick with the series into the 64 version where the characters facial animations moved like puppets. There was a cancelled sequel on the SNES first though that was nearly released but cancelled at the last minute. The game though played extremely similar to Star Fox Command with a couple changes, things like a few different characters and a different game play mode where your Arwing would transform into a walking mech. More on that later.
To me the most important game in the series was Star Fox 64. Somehow everyone I knew who had a Nintendo 64 also had Star Fox. EVERYONE. People who barely played it or generally only had sports games had Star Fox. The game was pure gold and as a launch title it really showed off the system. And what really makes it so great is how much of it instantly comes to mind when you think of it. Because its easier to do it as a list I’ll just peel off as many great things I can think of:
- Each level had a unique and memorable look, enemies and great music. If you remember something from Star Fox you can easily remember which level it was in.
- Each character had a cliched but consistent and memorable. Fox was the hero, Peppy was the encouraging old veteran, Falco was the cocky jerk, and slippy was the tech kid. And that was just your team. Wolf was your evil rival, Leon was the smarmy elitist, Andrew the sneering relative of the enemy, and Pigma the traitor. Sure the voice acting wasn’t top notch but judging by the internet memes the game spawned the cornball lines stuck with us.
- The game had multiple paths but you weren’t locked in if you were good. In fact, you could really challenge yourself by taking the easiest path up to certain levels which had warps to the hardest levels. Performing well on certain levels would come back and effect later levels like Bill or Kat coming to help you, Star Wolf returning, bosses would cause different outcomes depending on how long you took to beat them.
What’s sad is the next two games weren’t half the game Star Fox 64 was. the next game didn’t come around until the Gamecube and wasn’t even a flying game. Starfox Adventures was a poor mans Zelda that was originally a Rare Ware game that Nintendo just had reskinned to be Starfox. Some things were there, like the bad voice acting, but it wasn’t the same. It was dull and a chore to play and is where Krystal the blue fox girl comes from, a character who would prove to be a point of contention for the rest of the series. After that we got another rails shooter like 64 but gone were the different paths or the charm. The only thing the game did right was the multiplayer but even that was a bust since some characters were over powered and the matches were often unbalanced. Which brings us to its next and final entry, Starfox Command.
I mentioned earlier that Command drew a lot from the cancelled Starfox 2. The game is split between a semi-tactics game of directing your crew to fight incoming fighters and missiles and flying segments. Unfortunately the worlds are pretty bland and have none of the memorable parts that 64 had. You weren’t doing levels as a shooter on rail,s you were just flying around all range mode levels shooting down groups of brain dead disposable fighters, and the occasional bland boss fight. The closest you get to the old stuff is chasing missiles that gets really boring and tedious real fast. The levels serve more as fluff between the games 9 branching paths in story. The paths do have somewhat different levels and fights but are ultimately indistinguishable outside of the cut scenes. I guess the storys are neat but the characters look very different now, and by that I mean really boring and ugly looking. The damn SNES pixel pictures looked better than these Poser model-grade monstrosities. I guess the games a bit of a triumph in how different the story can play out, but the game play is a slog, made worse by the uncomfortable DS controls. You use the stylus to aim and barrel roll which can really suck in a fight when your hand blocks half the screen.
Overall, I somewhat enjoyed the game but it still wasn’t living up to the bar set by 64. Star Fox, like Lando Calrissian, has forgotten who it was. And after 3 subpar games maybe they will realize what made it so great. On rails shooters need not be a dead genre. 64 did it right with all the paths and variables and secrets galore. And if all else fails there’s multiplayer. Dogfights have been a blast since the Air Force was created! Thanks Walt Disney!
There have been murmurs of a Star Fox game coming to the WiiU and even though the last several games have been disappointments I have high hopes. There’s a lot of untapped potential in the series still. And Nintendo barely needs to worry about the advertising, weirdos on Deviantart will be sure to floor the internet with plenty of disturbing images celebrating the games return. I can barely wait.
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Kimo is a contemptuous old coot. With experience in video games dating back to 1988 and a schizophrenic range of games he boasts an impressive range of knowledge of gamings best, and worst. Dwelling in the desolate wastes of the American Midwest he brings to Z1Gaming a perspective that looks for positive qualities in even the worst games.