Star Fox (1993) Retro Review: Nintendo's 90s Favorite shooter game

Photo: MobyGames
Once again, we take a trip back in time and look at an amazing retro-game, the Original Star Fox. Do you remember it?

Have you ever done a real barrel roll on Star Fox? If yes, then you were a real fan of the original Starfox.

The Classic Star Fox was a revolutionary game when it was released back in the early ‘90s, providing complete three-dimensional, polygonal graphics, which were only seen in arcade games. The ability of the game to render the polygons and shading that gave the illusion of three-dimensional depth was an excellent stride that Nintendo made in the gaming industry back then.

Let’s look at the background of Star Fox.

Understanding the Background of Star Fox video game

Star Fox is a 1993 rail shooter game co-developed by Nintendo EAD and Argonaut Software and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).

The game follows Fox McCloud and other Star Fox squad as they defend their planet Corneria against Andross's attack. The classic release of this game sold more than 4 million copies back in the 90s.

Star Fox was the second 3D game of Nintendo following X’s 1992 release for Game Boy. It was Nintendo’s first game to use polygonal graphics. It was the first to use the Super FX graphics acceleration co-processor powered by GSU-1. The dynamic presentation of 3-dimensional polygon models in consoles video games was still fresh and rare.

The series was rebooted in 1997 with Star Fox 64 on the Nintendo 64, then rebooted ass Star Fox 64 3D on the Nintendo 3DS, and in 2016 it was reimagined as Star Fox Zero on the Wii U.

In September 2017, Nintendo released Star Fox to the world again as part of the Super NES classic version, with its previously-unreleased star-Fox two sequels.

Later on, in September 2019, the Nintendo Switch was used exclusively by Star Fox to subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online and 19 other SNES games.

Star Fox Gameplay

The game is a third-person and first-person 3D rail shooter. The player must maneuver the Fox, an Arwing, through varying environments while different enemies (ships, robots, monsters, etc.) attack them.

Different powerups are put on the stage to support the player. At the end of each step, the player receives a score based on how many enemies were killed and how well the player protected his co-workers.

There is a boss at the end of each stage that the player must conquer before reaching the next level.

Arwing control includes thrusters and Arwing retro rockets to allow the player t accelerate or slow down momentarily. These can be used to tackle enemy attacks and other obstacles. The loss of shielding energy gradually causes damage until the craft is destroyed.

The game also has a little detection of local damage: if the ship’s wings clip against obstacles or over the ground, they fall, affect the handling, and remove the ability to upgrade weapons.

The level of difficulty for every level in Star Fox is also set especially. The majority of scrolling shooters allow the players to set their difficulty by selecting a choice. For example, Simple, Standard, and Hard.

The choice typically affects the number of lives a player has, the number of enemies in the game, the speed of opponents, etc. In comparison, the player is given three routes to travel through and Lylat System at the beginning of Star Fox. Each route corresponds to a particular difficulty, but each route has its own unique level set.

This gives Star Fox a little more play value than other scrolling shooter games, in which each time the game is played, has a fixed number of levels. All three routes include the planet Corneria (on the first level) and Venom (on the last level), but depending on the direction, they all have varying versions.

At each stage, three computer-controlled wingmen accompany the player: Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad, and Falco Lambardi. At a number of pre-scribed stages, one flies into the player's view, sometimes pursues or is pursued, and asks for help. Ignoring the plea of a wingman may cause him to sustain harm or can even be shot down.

They cannot be destroyed (although they complain if they are hit) by the player’s lasers. Regardless of their survival, wingmen do not attend boss combat but rejoin the player before their next level. A player can choose to help, as this will allow them to involve those enemies not defeated by the player and help the player succeed, making it easier to reach a maximum score at a specific stage.

At the end of each level, additional pints will also be awarded depending on each wingman's health. If a wingman is shot down, the rest of the game won’t resume.

Star Fox Video Game Plot

This game is played in a fictional Lylat solar system in which anthropomorphic animals, including foxes, frogs, birds, rabbits, and apes, reside. It includes the planets Corneria and Venom, which are good and evil respectively.

In the game, Andros, an evil scientist, escaped from Corneria to the world of Venom and declared war on the latter, causing a large army to wreak havoc on the Lylat system. General Pepper, commander of Corneria’s defense force, dispatches a prototypical fighter aircraft to know as The Arwing.

But without time to prepare pilots for the new fighters, he calls Star Fox’s elite mercenary squad to beat Andross. In the game, Fox McCloud, who is the leader of the team, gets assistance from Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, and Slippy Toad.

How the Star Fox video game came to be.

In the early years of NES and SNES, Nintendo collaborated closely with Argonaut. They created an NES prototype, initially known as the NESGlider and inspired by their previous 8bit game Starglider, and ported this prototype to SNES.

Programmer Jex San told Nintendo that this was as good as possible if they could not build custom hardware to make SNES 3D better.

The Super FX was so much more potent than the normal processor SNES that the development team would occasionally joke about as being a box to keep the chip. Argonaut did a lot of the basic programming for the engine, while the designs of the characters and the artwork.

Takaya Imamura designed the characters, and Haime Hirasawa composed the music for the game. Nintendo proposed the “arcade-style shooting” feature in the game, and Argonaut introduced the concept of using spaceships.

Three amazing facts about the Classic Star Fox (Original).

Star Fox was a fantastic game with its anthropomorphic animals embracing epic fantasy in space. Some aspects of how the game was created are equally shocking.

Here are some facts about the game that blew our minds back in the ‘90s:

1. Star Fox was created for the Game Boy as an unauthorized 3D demo.

While Shigeru Miyamoto is generally referred to as Star Fox’s “Maker,” the game didn’t start its existence in the Nintendo office in Kyoto, Japan, it all began with a little, scrappy London developer named Argonaut Software.

At the time, Argonaut had designed games for the British PCs for a long time and appeared to be a very talented and young programmer.

When the original Game Boy reached Europe in 1990, the Argonaut kids did not waste much time violating the security of the system’s copyright but then began to mess with the hardware. Unbelievably, they developed a 3D engine that was just a bit higher in specification than those of 10 Tiger Electronics games.

Instead of boasting about their skills, Argonaut wanted to show Nintendo their demo. Surprisingly, Nintendo didn’t throw the ma lawsuit. Instead, they invited Jez San, found of the Argonaut, the leading programmers, Dylan Cuthbert, Giles Goddard, and Krister Wombell, to learn how to make 3D games for Nintendo. This original 3D demo of Game Boy would transform into X, a Japanese exclusive shooter, and 3D experiments of Argonaut with Super Nintendo would lead to Star Fox directly.

Star Fox would never have existed if a bunch of British children did not fully exceed their limits. A typical illustration of kids not honoring their elders!
Photo: RedBull

2. Classic British puppet adventures like Thunderbirds inspired the Star Fox universe.

Although Argonaut created the tech behind Star Fox, a group led by Shigeru Miyamoto created the gameplay and characters. Many different things inspired the Star Fox universe – for example, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Shinto Shrines – but it was perhaps influenced mostly by classical British puppet shows like Thunderbird, which Miyamoto enjoyed as a boy.

Have you ever wondered why the Star Fox and Star Fox 64 characters robotically flap their mouths when they speak and with unnatural animations when they run? Well, it is because they should be puppets. The Fox on the cover of the original Star Fox is indeed a true marionette.

Strangely enough, the beginning of each Thunderbird episode was filmed in “Supermarionation.”

3. Almost all-American Super Nintendo had the Super FX chip.

Fox did not come out until halfway through the life of SNES, but Nintendo's 3D experiments with Argonaut began well in advance of the SNES (or super Famicon, was it had been know in Japan).

Sadly, in some aspects, the SNES was much less 3D capable than the Game Boy. Nintendo had not designed polygon hardware.

The only way 3D works on the SNES was to build a new chip, which improved the processing power of the devices. Although Argonaut did not have much hardware development experience, the Super FX chip, the first proper Graphics processing unit, came into being.

Since the Super FX chi was developed before SNES came to light, Nintendo seriously considered its inclusion in any console but finally decided that packaging it in the cartridge of games that used it would be more cost-effective. It’s impossible to say that Nintendo took the right turn, but the 16-bit age would have been very different if all the SNES games had access to Super FX power straightaway.

Then in Came the Star Fox 2: The SNES Game that the ‘90s Kids Missed!

Star Fox 2 was inevitable in 1995. After Nintendo’s state-of-the-art Space Fighter game designed by the British team. He promised that the Star Fox 2 would be the game to beat the Super Nintendo. And then it disappeared!

Until today when Nintendo shocked everyone by saying that the follow-up of Argonaut Games will be available in SNES Classic for the first time. Then why did Star Fox 2 remain for over two decades in Nintendo’s vault? Both are crude by modern standards!

And in fact, Star Fox was more of a tech demo than a full game. Nintendo has been able to get around the SNES limitation using the Super FX chip, a graphic booster, built into every game’s cartridge. It was one of the
most advanced games on the market at its time, and worked on the second game began almost immediately.

The aim was to live up to the promise of the first game by complete follow-up that enhanced the gameplay, extended the plot, and demonstrated the power of Super FX. The game was over and was positively struck by electronics shows and Nintendo fans by the beginning of 1995. And then, unexpectedly, the plug was pulled out of nowhere.

What happened? Star Fox 2 suffered from changing times and tastes. Nintendo worked on the Nintendo 64, which turned former ally Sony into a competitor with Playstation and Sega upcoming Saturn. The Playstation and the Satur were totally unlike Nintendo’s consoles at the time, regardless of their faults.

Both came packed with advanced processing power and actual 3D games, and advanced graphics. Although the 16-bit requirement was unbelievable, Star Fox was outpaced by the competition.

Star Fox 2 was gone, although the Nintendo 64 had a new game produced in the franchise. But fans didn’t just let it go. The games have been there for years technically but in a barely playable condition. Fans spent untold hours trying to reconstruct the game based on the different versions of code that have leaked over the years, translating the dialog and patching bugs, and trying to fix the game that they hear so much about.

It was a surprise when Nintendo decided to revamp the game. It is was a welcome gesture. The history of video games is complicated enough to compile, but a reboot of such a game will give the fans a feel of how fun it was to play the games.

To have a feel of the nostalgia of Star Fox, all you have to do is to get a SNES Classic.

Other Star Fox Releases

  • Star Fox (original classic release 1993)

  • Star Fox 64, Star Fox 3D. – also called Lylat Wars.

  • Star Fox Adventures

  • Star Fox Assault

  • Star Fox Command

  • Star Fox Zero

  • Star Fox 2 (Described above)

Star Fox Games that were Cancelled.

  • Star Fox: Virtual Boy

  • Star Fox Arcade

  • Star Fox Warriors

Some Star Fox Spin-offs

  • Star Fox – Nelsonic Game Watch

  • Star Fox Guard

Other Related titles

  • Super Smash Bros. Series

  • WarioWare Series

  • Super Mario Maker

  • Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Star Fox related TV Series

  • Star Fox Zero – The Battle Begins

  • Star Fox: Farewell, beloved Falco

  • Japanese Comics.

  • Lylat War Comic

  • Nintendo Power Comics.

Final Word

Star Fox is undeniably one of the old classic games that require a reboot. It should be adapted to the current consoles like the PS5 and Xbox X&S that are yet to be released.

Did you play Star Fox back in the days? If yes, how do you rate it?


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