Retro Scope: Star Fox 2

Can’t let you release that, Star Fox!

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 04/03/2014 09:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

Star Fox 2 is an incredibly odd game to talk about due to its unusual history. At one point, the game was very close to being finished and was scheduled to be released sometime during the first half of 1996. But despite the development team’s progress, all coverage of the game mysteriously stopped and it was eventually cancelled by Shigeru Miyamoto.

The reason why Miyamoto cancelled Star Fox 2 is because he felt that the game was releasing too close to the launch of Nintendo 64, a system that would have superior graphics in comparison to what the Super FX chip could offer. Plus, Nintendo wanted to make room for Star Fox 64, which it revealed in early 1996. Another big reason why the game was cancelled was because PlayStation and Sega Saturn were a lot more powerful than SNES and its Super FX chip. Once these systems launched, the graphics of Star Fox games on SNES were not as impressive as they once were to the general public.

Now, if this was a normal cancelled game, the story would end here. But in August 2002, a miracle occurred: one of the developers of Star Fox 2 wanted the game to be emulated and released the final beta on the Internet! While many versions of the game were previously leaked, this was the closest thing to the final product. Later in 2004, fans released an English patch that let western players have the full Star Fox 2 experience. Some people even created reproduction cartridges using this patch, which allows them to play the game on an actual SNES!

The gameplay of Star Fox 2 is a complete departure from its predecessor in every way. On-rails segments, which were the foundation of the gameplay in the original, are completely non-existent in the sequel. Instead, they are replaced by all-range mode battles that don’t restrict the player’s direction. Also, players are no longer required to play as Fox and are able to choose between six characters that have unique advantages and disadvantages. For instance, Fox and Falco carry average stats, Slippy and Peppy have high health but slow charge times, and newcomers Miyu and Fay have low health but fast charge times. You can select two characters instead of just one, and it’s important to pick those that best match your play style.

Another new aspect of the game involves how the player chooses levels. Instead of picking between three possible paths with different sets of levels like the original, Star Fox 2 lets you fly directly toward any planet in the Lylat System. However, it’s not as simple as randomly choosing levels, as some of the planets are taken over by Andross and shoot missiles directly at Corneria. This is where the game employs elements of real-time strategy, since you will need to make sure that you are destroying Andross’ forces on each planet while simultaneously protecting Corneria. As you progress, you might also encounter other events that may impede your process, such as a rival battle with Star Wolf.

When you enter a planet, you’ll be able to transform the Arwing into a bipedal walker at will. Since each planet has a base that acts as a mini-dungeon with puzzles to solve in a confined area, the walker is useful because it gives players control over a vehicle that isn’t constantly in motion. So, players will use the Arwing to fly whenever they need to navigate through an area quickly and use the walker whenever they need full control over the vehicle in a general area. Transforming makes the Arwing a lot more versatile than it has ever been in any Star Fox game, so it’s a shame that it has never made a return.

If you know the Star Fox franchise well, then you may have noticed that Star Fox 2 shares a lot in common with other games in the series. For example, all-range mode and Star Wolf both made appearances in Star Fox 64, while the ground combat sections controlled by the Landmaster look like they were inspired by the capabilities of the walker. Another similarity is the tactical real-time gameplay, which made a return in Star Fox Command since it was handled by old Star Fox 2 developers.

While Star Fox 2 was never released, it’s clear that this game was a huge landmark for the series since it established many gameplay mechanics that were used in future iterations. Being a bold, innovative take on the established Star Fox formula, Star Fox 2 is one of my favorite entries in the series and is probably the greatest unreleased game of all time. It’s unfortunate that the game never saw an official release, but it definitely remains an interesting part of Nintendo’s history.

One Response to “Retro Scope: Star Fox 2

  • 1567 points
    penduin says...

    Great article! I’m a proud owner of a Star Fox 2 reproduction cartridge. To anyone who still has and uses a SNES, it’s not only a novel collector’s item but a truly fun game. Emulation doesn’t cut it – playing this game “for real” is the way to go.

    The multiplayer mode (I still remember studying those Nintendo Power screenshots) was never finished, but that’s the one area where the N64 game really blows away anything the SNES could have done anyway. As much as I’ve enjoyed the later Star Fox games, the SNES originals will always be my favorites, in all their super-low-definition glory. :^)

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