Star Fox – SNES
Developer: Nintendo EAD (Programming aid provided by Argonaut Software)
Composer: Hajime Hirosawa
Release Date: June 3rd, 1993
Genre: Rail Shooter
Nerd Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Reviewed by: Earthboundmother
Star Fox for SNES could quite possibly be one of the moodiest, exciting, cinematic games ever released for the system. Fox turns 21 this upcoming June 3rd so I’m getting ready to sink some rings and do a barrel roll into some “Nova Bombs” with my Teamies. Let’s have a proper toast, shall we? Or, better yet… a Nintendo Power hour? Get ready for a brawl crawl through the Lylat System, friends. Rail Shooter right here for ya.
From the second the satisfying “click” of the power switch is heard and the Nintendo logo in chilling, sleek lettering slides onto the screen, you’re engaged; an ominously low synth alerts any player immediately that they have happened upon something…ominous.
Moments later, a huge multi-turreted vessel is seen skulking through the atmosphere above a bright blue planet, dozens of small ships swarming around it in all their frenetic polygonal glory.
Thus, we have the very thrilling opening to an incredibly solid, stage based rail shooter with controls so surgically accurate, precision can be wielded at will. My original SNES controller finally slipped its track pad so it can no longer keep up with me on our jaunts. I’m a goddamn mad scientist when it comes to this game but unfortunately I can’t really break out my chemistry set like I used to with my faithful controller being reduced to loving strolls through RPGs for the rest of its retirement. However, for Fox’s 21st, I figured a very special guest star was in order. F.Y.I., when a Super Nintendo controller squeals with glee, you can’t hear it unless you’ve been wielding it for over two decades (or, ya know. Life).
The story is brazenly sci-fi, which is even reflected in the retro/intospective 80’s synths lining the backbone of the entire soundtrack; you are Fox McCloud, Leader of a hot shot team of pilots including hothead Falco Lombardi, mentor Peppy Hare and the ever panicky, Slippy Toad.
Sgt. Pepper calls the Star Fox Team to arms to protect the Planet of Corneria and the rest of the Lylat System from the evil tyranny of Andross, the ape (yes, ape) responsible for the disappearance of Fox’s father. The cast of characters are all of alien origin but resemble mammals and amphibians from earth; the plucky cast sports military type uniforms and the Star Fox Team itself pilots elegantly designed space fighters called Arwings that are armed with stunningly accurate blasters and nova bombs.
It should be noted that the actual Star Fox cartridge was one of the few, proud titles hosting the FX chip; this literal effects booster played a huge part in making its ships, planets and landscapes stark at times yet utterly color drenched and fluid at others; the FX chip allowed for dazzlingly razor sharp edges, active color contrasts and high rates of processing for a cartridge of its era (circa 1993). The chip made the extremely smooth, flawless movement seen throughout the entire game possible and is truly its hidden star.
The overall tone of the game stretches across its many, multi-faceted land and space scapes; gorgeous, bright cloudy planets like Corneria at the beginning of the game then eject quickly into space flight in the fast-paced shooting matches of The Asteroid Belt. Icy planets like Titania are offset by the foreboding qualities of isolating areas like The Awesome Black Hole where many ships and pilots have disappeared without warning or trace. Unfortunately, Fox’s father, James was among this number, so let’s remember to throw one back for him as well. Poor bastard got sucked into an Awesome Black Hole.
So, let’s do a barrel roll, shall we?
Now, if you really want a run for your money, Course 3 will put you on your ass the first 90 or so times you play it. This game is TOUGH. Expect to die. A LOT. I remember very clearly getting my ass handed to me but the exhilaration of being a part of a badass unit of space pilots a.k.a. mercenaries took the sting out of every. Single. Death. There is a reason I can go through 1,000 rings. Practice. It absolutely makes you perfect in this game. Now… for those compulsive gamers out there (a.k.a. me) if you ever want to get 100% in any given stage, you do have to figure out which enemies of the thousands gunning for your ship need to get blown out of the sky/stars.
Keep in mind, it isn’t ALL of them, just most. It’s a fun but pain-staking process to figure this out and is the ONLY reason this game isn’t getting a 10.0 from me. A little direction woulda been nice, man. “Shoot everything” doesn’t really get specific enough for me. However, it is incredibly satisfying when you know you found that fucker you just couldn’t have gotten from 99 to 100% without. Oh, and you will. You will be at 99% and have no idea what ship or mark to take out next run (a.k.a., hitting the reset button if you ever get 99% on anything. a.k.a., me).
Take great advantage of Training Mode where you get to stylize your buttons etc. I prefer Control C but it’s whatever. I like my “up” to be “up,” which I know makes me a weirdo but oh, well. I won’t bore you with all that but you can change the controller orientation if unlike me, “down for up” works for you. Invert axis for me is basically literally just instant fml. Training mode also includes a “formation” round where you get to practice flying in formation with your badass Teamies. This is never implemented in the actual game but again, it’s great practice.
I’m not raising any slouches here. I want you to get out there, have fun blowing weird lizard things off the mortal coil and get home safe. Dammit. Now, I play hard ball. I like rolling into enemies (and through them) with reckless abandon. I literally (ready?) do a barrel roll constantly to deflect shots. I know what ships I’m after, I take shit from no one. Zero fucks are given. I’m a wrecking ball in the serious moonlight.
It’s a blast when you realize just how ballsy you can be manning this ship. I only use Nova Bombs if I feel like it. I have done full blown surgery on this game and I know every weak spot. It is that accurate; every enemy in the game has bona fide weak spots and you can just slice them all up with your lasers. Accurately. It’s terrific fun. So, think about what you’re doing, don’t just blast away because you can. Metal Gear this bitch. Get accurate.
I have the “no pilot left behind” mentality about losing my Teammates as well (though clearly, I may have some rage issues with The Slipster. Doesn’t mean I want him to burn up on reentry or anything); just keep it in mind. They can all die, too, leaving you alone with no back up in the heartless depths of space. If I lose a man (man?), game gets reset. That’s just how I play it. It can be really difficult to be without your Wingmen by the time you finish a Course as well – needlessly hard. Course 3, don’t even try it. For, it will suck to be you. And, you deserve it for letting all of your men (men?) go up in flames. At least once in every Course, you will be in charge of saving one of your “Flyboys” (“Flyboys?”) by taking out whatever ship is on their tail. Drop everything and help them or they will die. That’s your job, appointed to you. Good talk? Good talk.
Perhaps another good reason I just can’t give this game a 10.0 (which hurts my soul) is that there are just a couple things you never get to do like… tag team (I mean truly tag team, not just have your Wingcritters shoot randomly and tell you to “LOOK, LOOK!!” at things. It’s great having them all there with you, the game certainly knocks it out of the solar system with the “tight team” aspect of things. But still… may have been nice. To be completely fair though? I mean “LOOK LOOK” at this game, man. I’m surprised the cartridges didn’t combust into flames, the developers got so much out of it. Wow.
This game packs a combination of mouth watering stylistic vision and adventure far outside the confines of a typical space “shoot-em-up and fly home” experience.
I could rattle on all day long about the mechanics, the haunting, almost sappily intrepid soundtrack and the fact that I still can’t think of a Rail Shooter better than this one for the SNES. I know it was on the Nintendo Power charts for a million years. Unsurprisingly.
But I will say this, I have some frustrating demons to get out of my system; to generate buzz for the game, Blockbuster actually hosted a weekend tournament to test the metal of Star Fox players out there who were inclined to step up. I was literally crushed when my parents had a miscommunication about who had the family car that day and could not attend. Because I would have had that damn flight jacket. Shwag ranged from flight pins, t-shirts, jackets, just all around cool stuff. You may have heard of the actual cartridge for the event; it is one of the rarest carts ever having been created at about only 2,000 print.
Knowing my tragic story, years ago, my friend and at the time, roommate, Neil emulated a copy of it for me on his recklessly hacked X-Box and I finally got my curiosity sated. I would have kicked that competition’s teeth in. It was a good day of putting old thoughts of “what if” to bed (minus the damn flight jacket. Balls). I can at least feel satisfied by trying to be a badass Nerd Bacon Contributor/Reviewer… flight jacket-less. Balls.
Other fun things of note before we break a collective foot off in Andross’ ass: there are Easter Eggs a-plenty in this cart. Hoo boy. Some of them are just… odd. But whatever… Fox may be lit up like an X-Mas tree before this brawl crawl is over… but he is not seeing pink elephants, here.
So, let’s discuss the meteor face. You may need therapy after seeing this asshole. In the Meteor Belt, if you manage to fly ALARMINGLY CLOSE to three spinning meteor pillars and shoot the guts out of them JUST before you hit them, you get a surprise. This asshole come out of space to collect your head. But, if you shoot it, it opens up (wait for it) The Awesome Black Hole. Yes, it is called that, I’m not pulling your eject cord.
This area is a complete gamble, remnants of robots, enemy aircraft, towers, you name it, it’s floating around in here. There are opportunities to get out of it but it may just land your Star Fox Team on a different Course altogether. Seriously. Good luck. Fox Senior does show up at least once in the game but I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself. If you’re really feeling lucky, here’s another Easter Egg just for you ruthless, proud few willing to attempt this. Shoot another crazy meteor on Course 3: Asteroid 2. Then fly into the bird’s claws. Then, of course… it’s good luck or super fucked. Just saying.
So, ahem. Mandatory **SPOILER ALERT**
Alright. I think my job is done here. Let’s go home, people. Uh. Okay. Whatever. You’re my boys (boys?) and I will always love you. There. I said it. But not you, Slippy.
P.S., Peppy doesn’t drink. So, he’s not getting lit with the rest of us unfortunately. He can entertain a spritzer or something for our toast to good health. Here’s to never going quietly into that good night. Happy birthday, Fox. This one’s on me. Cheers, buddy.
Share This Post