The Star Fox Derby

Who would win in a dogfight between the Arwing, Landmaster and Blue Marine?

By Katharine Byrne. Posted 02/01/2012 14:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Dynamic Generic Star Fox Command masthead

We love every part of the Star Fox universe here at Nintendojo. Whether it’s Prince Tricky or Slippy Toad, we’re pretty open when it comes to our intergalactic team of mercenaries. We even think Star Fox Adventures could teach Zelda a thing or two about controls and partner mechanics. But there’s one thing that we just can’t agree on, and that’s how Fox and his team should travel round the Lylat System.

Swooping in and out of meteorites in the Arwing is arguably what makes Star Fox so iconic and unique compared to all the other on-rails shooters out there, but what about the trusty Landmaster or lonely Blue Marine? Should Fox give up his wings and get a role in Advance Wars? Or maybe he should take the plunge and be the new cover star of Steel Diver.

We can’t make up our minds, so what better way to settle our dispute than a good old fashioned versus discussion? Lady and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble!

An Aerial Assault by Andrew Hsieh

You know the Arwing. Who doesn’t? Used to be just Cornerians who would see those things flying around, those single-seaters with G-Diffusers packed above and below each wing, zapping things with lasers as they flew through rings of silver and gold. They could U-turn and somersault and barrel roll, and in doing so even deflected other projectiles. And if the events that started with Star Fox for SNES showed us anything, it’s that despite the Arwing’s failings (it can’t stop in mid-air until Star Fox Command, and it was even stripped down for parts in Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet) Team Star Fox made that thing sing. Think about how many hits it takes from the Arwing to destroy 90% of the ships in Star Fox 64. Then think about how much McCloud’s Arwing can take. (Trick question: if you’re Star Fox, you don’t get hit. Combine that with some pretty smooth flying and, well, not even Uncle Andross can take it. Star Wolf certainly wishes he had Arwings like Fox.

Now, we all know that Star Fox 64 is an on-rails shooter. Actually, all Fox’s games are. But it’s to the Arwing’s credit that most of all that this on-rails experience never really drags the game down. The thing’s crazy maneuverable– going every single direction (excluding backwards, unless you’re in a boss battle), barrel rolling out or into harm’s way as you feel like it. Boss battles definitely take this into stride– when players fought Andross in Star Fox 64, they swerved around lasers and other projectiles with all the skills they honed over the course of the game. And considering how much of the game relies on being able to maneuver one’s Arwing, only those most familiar with the game could defeat the odd Andross. Admittedly, the story mode itself wasn’t necessarily the longest thing ever, but flying the Arwing never made it dull.

While it’s certainly got an eclectic cast and some memorable lines (“CAN’T LET YOU DO THAT, STAR FOX!” among others that I refuse to quote for the millionth time here), Star Fox will be most known for its high-flying, quick-moving gameplay. It’s the Arwing that does this best, and that’s not too hard to see.

Besides, it’s what represents Fox in Animal Crossing. That’s an automatic win, that is.

Tanked Tactics by Katharine Byrne

The Landmaster may have only appeared in two Star Fox games so far, but there’s no denying that we all love a good tank. Especially one that can hover and do a barrel roll from side to side across the screen.

It made its maiden voyage in Star Fox 64, exploring the wild sands of Titania and racing after a runaway train on Macbeth. Daring to go where the Arwing fears to fly (or indeed gets tangled in the talons of large desert aliens), the Landmaster’s simple but effective laser-ball cannon gets the job done quickly and efficiently. It’s an instrument of power and controlled precision, flicking train track switches with ease and picking out enemies from the sky with pin-point accuracy. Its barrel roll may not conjure up the same shields as the Arwing or Blue Marine, but the Landmaster takes no chances with it comes to defence. Rather than risk letting a stray laser breach its armour due to a pilot’s poor timing, evasion is the name of the game here, and its screen-wide roll-dashes certainly make up for any lesser deficiency.

Flying is highly overrated– all the cool vehicles hover these days…

Likewise, Star Fox: Assault also proved that the Landmaster’s a highly mobile and maneuverable machine. Swapping out its treads for some all-terrain wheels gave the Landmaster’s speed and agility a dramatic upgrade on its second outing, easily matching that of the Arwing and greatly surpassing that of the Blue Marine. Despite giving up its ability to fire bombs, it was truly the jack (and master) of all trades. Besides, who needs bombs when you have such a powerful cannon at your disposal?

And as if that wasn’t enough, it was also the Landmaster that was chosen as Fox, Falco and Wolf’s Final Smash in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. If that’s not a sign of its inherent superiority, then I don’t know what is. The Arwing may have given them a flashy entrance, but the Landmaster made the Star Fox team a force to be reckoned with when they grabbed that Smash Ball. No one was safe from the Landmaster’s utter domination of the battlefield in Brawl, and I have a feeling that Nintendojo’s Star Fox Derby won’t be any different.

Marine Mischief by Kevin Knezevic

Only a real Star Fox fan would agree that the Blue Marine is the coolest vehicle in the team’s fleet. I mean, let’s face it: the Arwing and the Landmaster are too mainstream to be anything special anymore, just like that one band you used to listen to until all of your friends started getting into them. Everyone and their mother has flown an Arwing or driven a Landmaster, but only a true diehard can say they’ve gotten to pilot the Blue Marine.

In all seriousness, though, what makes the Blue Marine so special among Star Fox vehicles is not its functionality or its battle prowess, but its presence at all. I’ll be the first to admit that I did not even know the vehicle existed until I heard its name in my travels around the Internet, which inspired me to break out my Nintendo 64 and find it for myself (with a little help from GameFAQs– I was woefully inept at figuring out the alternate exits in Star Fox 64). I was amazed that such a thing could have eluded me all that time– here was a whole other vehicle to pilot, and I had only learned of its existence a decade after the game was released. Finding the Blue Marine was like discovering a secret level in Super Mario World, only the sense of accomplished was compounded by how rare the experience was, like seeing a meteor streak across the sky.

And what an experience it was. Aquas may not have been as visually arresting as something like Solar, but it was a nice change of pace from the typical backdrops that dominated the game. The murky waters, populated by oversized anglers and other undersea monstrosities, were at once beautiful and unnerving (as was the theme that echoed in the background), making the stage instantly unforgettable.

Of course, it helped that the Blue Marine was no slouch in combat, either. While it may not have had the maneuverability of the Arwing, it more than compensated with its unlimited supply of missiles. And unlike the Landmaster, the Blue Marine was actually capable of performing a barrel roll, which definitely came in handy considering how much trickier Aquas was to navigate than either Titania or Macbeth.

It’s true the Blue Marine may never have the same level of exposure as the Arwing or the Landmaster, but it prefers it that way. After all, it’s the only vehicle on this list not associated with Star Fox Assault, which is something to be proud of indeed.

So now that you’ve heard each side argue their corner, it’s your turn! Let us know in the comments which vehicle you would choose in a Star Fox Derby– do you prefer the swift aerial combat of the Arwing, diving down in the deep blue sea with the Marine, or are you someone who likes to take it slow and steady in the Landmaster? Or, if you’re feeling a little more daring, tell us which vehicle Fox and his team should hop into next!

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