Review by LastStand
The birth of a genre
This game provided some of my first memories of my SNES. Christmas Eve, 1993. The only game system I owned at the time was a hand-me-down Atari 2600 from my older brother, which I loved to death (for some reason we sold it because the cord of the joystick snapped). That day, my rich uncle came over with Christmas gifts, unwrapped. He probably gave me more than just two gifts that year, I’m not sure, but the only two I remember are two SNES games: Hook (from that one Peter Pan movie) and Star Fox. Of course, I didn’t own an SNES at the time, so my mom asked me, “Will the games work on your Atari?” Of course she knew the answer; this was setting precedent to the fact that I would get and SNES, Super Mario World and Mario Paint the next day (also, for those of you who don’t know, SNES carts are twice as wide as Atari carts anyways). The first game I played was Star Fox, and of course I was dazzled by the graphics (who cares if they were polygons, they were better than Atari). The gameplay was so different from any of my Atari games that the only one I could even closely compare it with was Jet Fighter (a crappy 2-player only game). I played the game all day, and I was so captivated that I didn’t want to come to Christmas dinner that night.
From a historical perspective, Nintendo probably had no idea the magnitude of an impact this game would have on the gaming masses. Being the launch title for the new revolutionary Super FX chip (I believe), this game would be the first of its kind to allow for quasi-3D graphics. This game would end up not only being one of the only good Super FX games, but would be the launch of one of Nintendo’s most recent cover franchises. But enough of the history lesson, how does the game stack up?
I suppose the graphics do have their flaws, but in the context of the times in which the game came out, they were revolutionary. For the first time, gamers had the feeling that they were moving in a truly 3D world. Of course, you could only fly in a straight line, and the buildings were only big colored blocks with maybe a design on them, but finally gamers had the feeling that the environment had depth, something that was nonexistent previously. By today’s standards or even maybe by some last-gen SNES graphic standards, this game is crappy graphically, but nevertheless it was a pioneer. Descriptively, everything in the game is just a combination of polygons. Buildings look like a child’s building blocks. The Arwings look like a triangular prism with some pieces of colored construction paper jutting out the sides. Some enemies look like paper airplanes (in fact, in one of the secret levels, the enemies ARE paper airplanes :) ). Don’t be looking for textures. In fact, there are NO textures whatsoever. There is a bit of lighting effects, but mostly those don’t exist either. However, despite these little nuances, the game overall graphically is dazzling, at least for early 1993.
Unless you read the instruction booklet, you won’t even know there is much of a story. The only hints to a story you will know of is through the vague in-between-mission-transmissions from General Pepper. However, the instruction booklet gives much more of a story, although it’s not very impressive anyways. Fox McCloud is the son of James McCloud, a once-distinguished pilot who was killed in action. Fox is the leader of the Star Fox team, a mercenary team that is called upon by General Pepper to stop the attack on Corneria, counterattack Venom, and kill the evil scientist Andross. The story is very vague and unimpressive, but is still an effective motive for the events in the game.
There is only one thing I can say for this category: the music in this game rocks. No, for all you who have played SF64 and not this, the music from the original SF was not used in SF64, a shame in my opinion, for the tracks in this game are awesome. Personally, I can’t think of a single track in the game I don’t like, except for maybe Asteroid and Venom Orbit. My personal favorites are Space Armada and Corneria. Too bad they didn’t use these tracks in SF64. We can only hope that they maybe rehash them and put them in the new Star Fox 2 coming out for the GCN.
Sound is good, too. When you get hit by a very damaging attack, you actually shudder from the sound that follows. Laser attacks get followed by a little zap. The Arwing doesn’t make much noise other than the brake and boost (except on Macbeth, where the echo of the engine really gets on your nerves).
A genre is born.
Yes, Star Fox basically reinvented the fighter pilot genre and improved on it in every way imaginable. Forget any fighter pilot game made before. This game paved the way for everything like it to follow.
The game premise is simple: begin at point A, fly in a straight line to point B at a constant speed (while using a temporary brake or boost when necessary), fight a boss, then move on to the next level. This is one of those games where the gameplay is so simple, but the game is so great because it’s just so darned fun to play. I mean, what’s not to like about taking control of a fighter plane, killing a bunch of weaker enemies, and destroying the Big Bertha of them all at the end? That’s Star Fox. Your Arwing (the Star Fox fighter plane) has an energy bar at the bottom left of the screen that goes down every time it is hit by something. Everything has a certain damage assigned to it. For example, lasers don’t hurt much, but missiles and plasma blasts really hurt, and running into buildings or asteroids is extremely hazardous. Your Arwing is equipped with lasers and nova bombs. Enemies (with the exception of bosses) basically are extremely weak and take only a couple shots to kill. You begin with a single laser, then can upgrade to a double laser, then finally to a double plasma blast. Every time you die or have your wing damaged, though, you lose these upgrades and fall back to the single laser. You also carry nova bombs, which are found plentifully around the levels. These bombs basically destroy everything in your range of sight (with the exception of bosses). You can carry up to five bombs at a time, and you will rarely run out. Personally, I hardly ever use bombs because I think it’s fun to shoot enemies down with lasers, but bombs become really necessary when huge swarms of enemies press on you (like on Venom Orbit, where you will constantly be firing).
Bosses are very impressive. All, with the exception of one, are much larger than your Arwing. The mere sight of some of them scares the pants off you (Monarch Dodora still does that to me). The bosses all have a certain weak point, while the rest of their shell is impenetrable. The bosses have an energy bar like your Arwing, often twice or even three or four times the size of yours, which must be depleted for them to be defeated.
The game follows one of three paths: course 1 being the easiest and course 3 being the toughest. Courses 1 and 2 have six stages and course 3 has seven. Each course begins at Corneria and follows a path to Venom. Each level is different and follows some kind of motif. Although the path is linear, you won’t care because the levels are so fun.
There to accompany you is your team: Slippy Toad, Falco Lombardi, and Peppy Hare. These three do not have specific services like in SF64, but rather they help when it comes to your score. Unlike in SF64, SF uses a percentage system. If you get 100%, that means every enemy in the stage was destroyed and you get 10,000 points. You can actually get 100% without killing every enemy because what actually happens is your teammates behind you get the kills, which counts to the score. Therefore, if you have no teammates left (they all die), your chances of getting 100% are minimal. Your teammates, unlike in SF64, have four hits to death. An enemy gets on their tail, and it is your job to destroy the enemy before they hit your teammate, at which time their energy bar goes down by ¼. This energy is not replenishable, so you must keep your teammates alive at all costs. However, it is very easy to save your teammates, and shots from your own blaster do not harm them, so you should easily be able to go through a game without a single teammate dying.
Score-wise, you get 100 points for each percent point you get. You get an extra credit at 10,000 points, then at every 20,000 after that. This large number of credits means that after you get a tiny bit of experience you should be able to make it through the game without a game-over, but nevertheless you will lose lives occasionally. The game is a true classic in the eyes of nearly every gamer who has played it. Pure genius.
No multiplayer or all-range mode feature, though. That’s too bad.
Challenge: Above Average
This game is much more difficult than SF64. It is almost assured that if you play course 3, you will lose at least two lives, no matter how experienced you are. Trust me. This certainly is one of those controller-throwers. Expect a challenge.
Replay Value: 7/10
You may want to play to get 100% in every level (let me know if anyone on God’s earth ever gets 100% on Fortuna), but the game does not keep high scores, and there is no multiplayer feature. However, the game is so fun that you will be playing for a while.
-3 courses to play of increasing difficulty
-Never has a fighter pilot game been so fun
-Revolutionary polygon graphics
-Slippy’s “voice” is actually bearable!
-A good challenge
-Two secret levels
Crash and Burn:
-May be too hard for some casual gamers
-You pick a course and must follow it (it’s a linear game, unless you get one of the secret levels)
-Vague and unoriginal storyline
-No multiplayer mode
The Bottom Line:
This game will entertain and challenge you in every way possible. I sold it to a friend for five bucks, but I wanted to play it so bad a year later that I bought it back. If you can find it, go out and buy it, because you’ll want to play it through more than once. Certainly one of the top-15 SNES games.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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