Retro Scope: Star Fox

We take a look back at Nintendo’s first 3D game.

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 03/27/2014 09:00 10 Comments     ShareThis

If you’ve never seen what the original Star Fox looks like, you may be shocked. Just one look at a screenshot would convince you that the game looks extremely archaic and laughable in comparison to today’s games. However, I promise you that there was a time when Star Fox was praised for its graphical achievement. Back in 1993, 3D polygon graphics were practically non-existent, and Star Fox was the first to implement them in a Nintendo game.

SNES couldn’t render 3D polygons at a steady framerate as it was, so Star Fox co-developer Argonaut Games worked alongside Nintendo to create the Super FX chip, which helped improve the system’s processing speed. The end result blew people’s minds, causing an absurd amount of hype to be drawn toward the game. Star Fox‘s groundbreaking graphics were a big reason why the game sold close to three million copies worldwide, effectively creating a successful new franchise for Nintendo. Even though the game came with a $60-$70 price tag, people were willing to spend extra money to get their hands on Nintendo’s latest innovation.

Of course, I personally wasn’t around when Star Fox stole people’s hearts in 1993. Hell, that was the year that I was born! Yet, when I played it for the first time a few years ago, I was still left impressed with the game. The graphics may not be revolutionary anymore, but it’s still an amazing Star Fox game that I can appreciate today. What’s not to like in a game that has talking animals fighting in space?

It was pretty easy for me to fall in love with this game at first sight, given that I’ve garnered an unhealthy amount of affection for Star Fox 64 in my youth. Since the SNES original created the foundation for the N64 sequel, a lot of the game’s mechanics felt familiar to me. For instance, the SNES Star Fox features similar on-rails combat, complete with barrel rolls, boosting or breaking, and smart bombs. There’s even back and forth dialogue between your animal allies, but instead of being fully voiced, it features gibberish voices that carry their own unique charm.

The way the levels are structured is very similar as well. The majority of each level is spent taking down incoming enemies to achieve the highest score, while occasionally helping your teammates when they need it. At the end of each level, you’ll take on massive bosses that have a bone to pick with you and your squad. Personally, the boss battles are a big reason why I love this game. Their sheer size and challenging attack patterns always left a huge impression on me, making each and every victory come with a sense of accomplishment.

My favorite thing about Star Fox is its level select screen. Before you jump into the game, you’ll have a choice between Level 1, 2, or 3, which all vary in difficulty. Think of Level 1 as easy mode, Level 2 as normal mode, and Level 3 as hard mode. However, each individual level is more than just a way to change the difficulty, since each one features an entirely new set of locales. So, players in different levels will access different planets with events and bosses that are unique to that path. This is a great way to motivate players on lower levels to master the game’s mechanics and see the rest of the game’s content.

Oh, and the soundtrack! Star Fox features one of my favorite SNES soundtracks of all time. Taking inspiration from styles like orchestra, jazz, and rock, the soundtrack boasts a lot of variety and perfectly conveys a sense of adventure to the player. Without a doubt, it’s Hajime Hirasawa’s finest work. Below is a sample of the music, which you may recognize if you’ve ever played on Corneria in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

If you’re a big fan of Star Fox like I am, then you owe it to yourself to play the original. Not only did it lay the foundation for future Star Fox games, it set a standard that future 3D games would follow. While some aspects have aged and are not as impressive as they once were, it’s still a fantastic game that is enjoyable to play. Star Fox pushed the SNES to its limit, making it one of Nintendo’s finest classics.

10 Responses to “Retro Scope: Star Fox

  • 63 points
    Jake Shapiro says...

    Gotta love that terrible creepy animatronic puppet box art

  • 1294 points
    Robert Marrujo says...

    I’m an old enough man that I remember sitting and playing Star Fox for the first time when it came out. It was a birthday gift, and I sat transfixed to the screen and couldnt believe what I was seeing. Rumor has it that Miyamoto started thinking about Mario 64 on SNES once he saw what the FX chip could do.

  • 33 points
    Anthony Pershkin says...

    I still have the boxed copy of original Starfox. Good times :)

    • 745 points
      OG75 says...

      Have the original as well. I bought it new when I was in high school (yep, I’m old.) I love the fact that “Dinosaur Planet” is mentioned in the instruction booklet!

  • 1567 points
    penduin says...

    Right there with you. I don’t think any game before or since had as much impact on me visually. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it’s a damn fun game as well. :^)

    I think I saved up and bought Star Fox, but I too got an amazing birthday present – a Competition Weekend cartridge available through Nintendo Power. That and a bootleg, ROM hack, working SNES cartridge of Star Fox 2 (which I bought much more recently) are as treasured as anything in my gaming collection.

    I sure would love to see the SNES original on Wii U VC, and/or a 3D Classics version on 3DS.

  • 849 points
    ejamer says...

    Seems I’m the odd one out here, since I didn’t love StarFox when released on SNES.

    Yes, it was cool to see the innovation and yes, the game was fun to play. But along with the innovation you could also really see the hardware limitations and know that something better was destined to come in the future.

    This wasn’t like the classic 2D games Link to the Past or Super Mario World. SNES just wasn’t powerful enough to give the true 3D presentation I dreamed about for StarFox, even with extra chips on the cartridge. The game was ahead of it’s time – but it looked and felt stripped down because of that.

    Years later StarFox 64 arrived – a game that I love to this day and consider the pinnacle of the franchise. It made the original game feel like an early prototype that was building to something better rather than a true classic that stands on it’s own.

    (Standing of the shoulders of giants?)

    • 180 points
      Anthony Vigna says...

      I can understand that, haha my friend is the same way with the N64. He can recognize that games like Ocarina of Time are fantastic, but he couldn’t put up with the system’s polygon graphics and patiently waited for the next step in console evolution.

      • 849 points
        ejamer says...

        I feel the same way about most (not all) games from the N64/PS1 generation – it was a time filled with interesting and experimental designs, and huge leaps forward were made as 3D graphics became the norm. Sometimes that worked out well, other times you could tell the developers were still learning and bumping into technical boundaries along the way.

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