Star Fox

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Star Fox is a series of video games started by Nintendo in 1993. It is a very successful series, continuing to draw an avid fan base from most Nintendo gamers to this day. A number of furs claim to have been drawn into the fandom because of this game series, and one instance - Star Fox Adventures - won the 2002 Ursa Major Award for Best Anthropomorphic Game.

Contents

Production history

Star Fox

The Star Fox title screen
The Star Fox map screen

In 1993, Nintendo's feature system, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (or SNES for short) was blessed with the gift of the Super FX graphics chip. This chip, when installed on certain game cartridges, would enable the system to generate and display polygonal 3D sprites and backgrounds which would be a graphical leap potentially larger than that of Final Fantasy VI or Super Mario World. The first game to feature this chip was the premier release of Star Fox, a video game classified as a shooter. It was licensed entirely by Nintendo with the help of Argonaut Software in a contract for three Super FX chip games.

Star Fox was hailed as a marvel of graphics technology at the time, and it took a while for the game to really take off as people dived into its unique world. Nintendo later released a second version of the home game and a limited number of cartridges which were used in the "Weekend Competition". This more competitive version kept track of your score and gave you a limited amount of time in which to play. It also sparked the creation of a wristwatch version of the game which was a promotional item people could get from collecting cereal box tops. Comics and plushies followed and were considered the most important aspect to the game’s universe.

Star Fox 2

The "final" version of the SNES game: Star Fox 2
Star Wolf's debut appearance

In 1995, demand started rising for another game in the series. Nintendo again started work to create a game superior in quality as much as possible. Their efforts included the introduction of all-range stages for the entirety of the game, two additional characters named Miyu (replacing the Andross look alike "Saru" from the alpha) and Fay (replacing a Fara look alike named Lady from another alpha version), new ships and ship transformations, a map in which players could literally fly everywhere, new enemies, and the introduction of Star Wolf. This title was tentatively called Star Fox 2 and held promise as a title that would use the improved Super FX 2 chip to control the graphics. This game also included more - and higher quality - synthetic voice clips than its predecessor. However, the release of the Nintendo 64 system promised more capability than the SNES and the Star Fox 2 project was scrapped in its final bug-testing stages and thus was never released outside the beta cartridges that were in the company and the demos that were seen at E3.

These few cartridges were eventually turned into ROMS and distributed across the Internet in its original Japanese form. Patches were eventually made and a more or less final version of this beta game was released on the internet. This release had some rumors attached to it. At one time at the E3 expo that it was a feature in, one avid fan tried to steal the cartridge. He never left the booth with it as he was arrested, but Nintendo dropped charges soon thereafter.

Further, Nintendo had sent out eight copies of the full game to major magazines so they could make a review by release day. When the game was canceled, Nintendo asked for the cartridges to be returned. A few magazine companies complied, and a few did not. One of these cartridges showed up at an auction once and sold for over ten thousand dollars due to the rarity of a complete cartridge. It is from one of these cartridges that the ROM circulating the internet was copied from.

Due to the technical completion of Star Fox 2, the third and final game in the contract, Argonaut Software parted ways with Nintendo and returned to its former productions.

Star Fox 64

The Star Fox 64 title screen
An Arwing firing a smart bomb as seen in Star Fox 64

Two years later in 1997, after many discussions from Nintendo and sneak previews, Star Fox 64 was released. This was the first game in the series to use voice actors for real-time dialog, the first ever addition of the Rumble Pack to let players "feel" the game (such as when they got hit by enemy fire), and greater levels of detail along with a rework of the sprites and new vehicles.

The system map split the game into three routes similar to the original game, and unlike the original, it allowed players to change routes depending on their performance in the last mission. This made the game more diverse and expansive than before, since the player could pick a path through the enemy lines to get to the final level which in itself had two possible layouts depending on the attack approach the player took.

Unknown to many players however, were the elements of the game which were carried over from Star Fox 2. Star Wolf, the All Range Mode, and the Wolfen were reused from Star Fox 2 and played a pivotal role in the game, as you could not go through the game without having to go through these things at least once. Each mission also carried a score cap which the player had to meet or exceed to get a medal for that stage, with a requirement that the entire team survive. Collecting all the medals for every stage on the map would unlock an expert mode with more enemies, a smarter AI, and the fragility of the Arwing increased. It also had extras for multiplayer mode which could be unlocked for performing certain tasks; all of this gave the game a decent replay value.

Many people use this game as the definition for what is canon in the Star Fox universe. Star Fox 64 was considered the "test dummy" of what the Nintendo 64 could do and was, in simple terms, a remake of the original SNES game.

Dinosaur Planet

This is a small collection of the very few pieces of artwork made for Dinosaur Planet. The top was to be the cartridge label, the bottom were character sketches. Krystal is portrayed here as an anime-ish character and Prince Tricky is present as well.

Started in late 1999, Dinosaur Planet was intended to be Rare's (a.k.a Rareware) final project for Nintendo before moving on to the GameCube which was called "Project Dolphin" at the time. This game was intended to push the limits of the N64's technology and Rare even had a back story for the game. In fact, they had kept it such a good secret that when they revealed it on the cover of the year 2000 E3 coverage issue of Nintendo Power, the game was closer to completion than many people thought despite the tidbits of information floating around. In fact, they planned to release it in the fourth quarter of 2000.

The game was a tremendous undertaking, having been put on full display at E3 2000 next to Conker's Bad Fur Day, so people visiting the booth knew the game existed. It was slated to be the largest cartridge released for the N64 with a total size of 512Mb. Stores like Best Buy had already started taking pre-orders for the title.

As the game got closer to being released, people began to feel that something was wrong. There was no advertising for the game, no magazine articles, no previews, not a single thing. The game had more or less evaporated. And sure enough, much like Star Fox 2, the game was at a stage of final bug testing when it was canceled. It seemed that the main character had a resemblance very close to Fox McCloud, a major primary character in the Star Fox series. Also, around that same time Nintendo was working on an adventure game that was to take place on an unspecified planet in the Lylat System. The title wasn't decided and the game wasn't even playable yet so a lot was still in the air. Nintendo wanted to get the game out before the GameCube was launched and unfortunately it appeared that it wasn't going to happen. In their attempts to get the game out, they began to look for complete or near-complete projects that they could convert into what they wanted. Since Rare was a second party, Nintendo had a considerable influence on them and convinced Rare to convert the game into what would later be called Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet.

Unfortunately, the executives at Rare were torn on the decision. Half the company was for this conversion while half were against it. However, since Nintendo had pulled their title, they missed their launch window for that year and there was no feasible way to market their game in the next year because the GameCube was being released as the replacement for the Nintendo 64. Dinosaur Planet was thus officially canceled then, and the conversion process began.

Star Fox Adventures

Case cover art for Star Fox Adventures
Stages like this marked every transit point from level to level. The SF64 Arwing was streamlined in SFA.

Due to increasing stress between Nintendo and Rare at that point, Rare felt insulted that Nintendo hadn't put up any official advertisement effort into their last project: Conker's Bad Fur Day. This was in part due to the fact that the game ran in total contrast to the image Nintendo wanted. Further, the game got little to no publicity because the game's main character was a protagonist who drank, cussed, and urinated in addition to making numerous sex jokes- what little publicity it did garner was negative. This had soured relations with Nintendo a bit and proved to be a bumpy ride for fans everywhere.

Nintendo wanted the now renamed Star Fox Adventures to be a GameCube launch title, but it was already 2002 and the system had been out for at least six months. New games were getting hard to come by, just as with the Nintendo 64, and it was not a good image that was being projected.

There had been a few big guns prepared for the fall season which included Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. They chose to put Star Fox Adventures into this lineup, although there was a drawback to this kind of power play in that there was almost nothing of value that had been released so far that year except for Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. With everything starting to hit at the same time, Nintendo was competing with itself and Wind Waker was delayed till 2003. The official reason given for the delay was "translation issues" although unofficially, people believed it was to avoid overshadowing the holiday season.

Krystal is the game's damsel in distress. She was a playable character for only the introduction chapter.
Krystal is also rumored to have used her telepathic abilities to communicate with the inhabitants of Dinosaur Planet without a translator and to feel their pain, as seen here.

In the graphical position, Star Fox Adventures was a masterpiece. The Rare team managed to pull off "fur shading" which let characters have a colored wire frame fur that would react to the environment around them, such as sway in the wind and move their faces and tails, something which Microsoft claimed that only Xbox could do and was eventually done on the Xbox in the remake of Bad Fur Day, Conker: Live and Reloaded. It added a tremendous degree of realism and naturalness to the game that no other game of the time could manage. The cinematic scenes allowed the story to be fleshed out and were choreographed with the animators and musicians to create a movie-like level of quality and depth.

Most of the music for Star Fox Adventures was ported from the N64 version of Dinosaur Planet and enhanced in places to allow for the GameCube's additional sound chip. The remaining music was newly composed to be streamed from the disc through live recordings during the cinematics. All of this was managed by David Wise of Donkey Kong Country fame. Gameplay was like a modified version of the N64 Zelda title Ocarina of Time. Some people complained about that, but others enjoyed it. It was quite a departure from Rare's portfolio of games, which were mostly extensive yet well done item quests.

People wondered why Falco wasn't in the game until the very end of the story and some grew angry about it, demanding to know why he was missing in the first place. In the technical view, there wasn't enough time to work him into the main story, but from the creative standpoint a comic was released by Nintendo of Japan to cover Falco's lack of involvement and to bridge the gap between Star Fox 64 and Star Fox Adventures, which was meant to happen after the SF64 timeline. Unfortunately, it was released after the US version of Adventures had hit store shelves.

After the release of Star Fox Adventures, Rare parted ways with Nintendo to work under Microsoft and have produced a number of games for both the Xbox and Xbox 360. They have also continued to make a number of smaller titles for the Gameboy Advance and DS.

Star Fox: Assault

Early screenshot of the Multiplayer mode
The Star Fox: Assault case cover

During a brief conflict with Rare over Star Fox Adventures, Nintendo had been working on a new GameCube title as a direct follow-up of the story from Star Fox 64. They were not planning for the dispute with Rare to end with Nintendo winning the copyrights to Krystal, Tricky, and the other original cast for Star Fox Adventures: this new game was going to be a single-player arcade version of Star Fox 64, yet another remake. However, through luck and their legal department, this game project was scrapped and started over from the ground up. The result was that only one poster for the arcade game was released and only the multiplayer was available for review at E3 2003.

This time around, though, Nintendo contracted Namco to be the new home of Star Fox, and Namco started working on the newest chapter in Star Fox history. Since Nintendo had won the rights to the Star Fox Adventures characters, Namco was able to continue down the path that Rare had begun in Star Fox Adventures, including being able to use Krystal. This caused a setback in the development time and the game was pushed back by at least a year. The new game was to be a story-driven shooter that had ground-based missions thrown into the game's structure and design.

Krystal makes a return appearance in Star Fox Assault as a pilot with a less revealing wardrobe.
The Arwing also got a bit of a graphical improvement. Its capabilities now included the ability to hover at a dead stop for at least ten seconds.

The game's single-player debut made its appearance during the E3 2004 Media Press Conference, and was fully playable on the show floor the very next day. It was proof that Namco could bring the Star Fox franchise together and fans could continue on what is considered one of the longest running and most celebrated space shooters in gaming history. At the time though, the game didn't have a name and it was being simply called Star Fox Triforce. A year afterward, the name was changed to Star Fox Armada since the game's major focus had been shifted into the story, but it was again renamed simply to Star Fox 2 which was the name of the unreleased SNES predecessor. When fans became confused, it was clarified that this game and the unreleased SNES game had nothing in common except for the name. At E3 2004, the name changed again, this time to Star Fox - Coming This Fall. It was a humorous name, but it conveyed to the fans that Nintendo had no clue what they were really going to call the game.

After one last name change, Namco finally released Star Fox: Assault to store shelves in February of 2005. It was intended to be released Christmas of 2004, but they had a delay due to fan requests that the game have a LAN mode. This required a total overhaul of the multiplayer engine and thus the option never saw the light of day. Fans had been waiting long enough for the next flight adventure, and Namco was not willing to risk negative publicity and another E3 showoff since there were already two such showings under that game's belt; thus it hit the shelves without the LAN ability. However, some interesting notes about the game point out that the main enemy presence in the story resembles that of the Borg from Star Trek. It was a humorous similarity in demeanor and goals.


Star Fox: Command

Screenshot from Star Fox Command; top half shows the player's Arwing on the DS' top screen while the bottom half shows the radar readout on the bottom screen
Star Fox Command box art

In August 2006, Nintendo released Star Fox: Command for the Nintendo DS. Command marks the first time the Star Fox series has ever been on a Nintendo handheld or had online multiplayer. Developed by Kyoto based developer Q-Games, Command is in many ways a revival of the cancelled Star Fox 2 (Q-Games was formed by many of the ex-Argonaut Software development teams that worked on Star Fox and Star Fox 2).

The story takes place some time after the events of Assault and the Star Fox team has split up, with Fox and ROB 64 being the only remnants of Star Fox left. A new threat has invaded the Lylat System: the Anglar, a race of anthropomorphic fish aliens from the acidic seas of Venom who's intention is to rule the Lylat System by attacking all of the planets in it. When the Anglar attack Fox's homeworld of Corneria, he begins to counterattack the Anglar forces.

Throughout the game players meet up with both new characters (like Peppy's daughter Lucy Hare) and old ones. (Bill Grey and Katt Monroe make their first appearance since Star Fox 64) The game features various branching pathways which the player can choose at various points in the game. This also marks the first time that you can play as characters other than Fox in single player. The game contains over 30 missions and 9 different endings. Players can only go on one path at the beginning of the game but after getting the first ending the player will gain a "Key of Destiny" which can be used only once each new play-through to go on a different path.

The game is a revival of Star Fox 2 in terms of gameplay as the development team felt like going back to that game and updating many of the gameplay aspects for Command to better fit the Nintendo DS. All aircraft controls (with the exception of shooting lasers) take place on the touch screen while the action itself takes place on the upper screen in all-range mode styled fights.

On an interesting note, Star Fox: Command does contain references and cameos for the F-Zero series (a futuristic racing series also done by Nintendo), which has, in turn, made references to the Star Fox series by way of the character James McCloud, who looks stunningly like the character, though human.

Characters

Main article: List of Star Fox characters

References

See also

External links

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