Round Table: Looking Back at the Star Fox Series
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Thomas Whitehead: Let's take the theme of 'rebooting' the franchise. Star Fox Adventures on the GameCube was quite a departure, wasn't it?
Desiree Turner: This is where I step back, because I skipped the GameCube/GBA generation.
Thomas Whitehead: You're up Peter — what about Adventures as a departure?
Peter Willington: Yeah Star Fox Adventures was a massive sideways step for the series. Adventures started life off as a game called Dinosaur Planet — made by Rare — and featured Kristal as the lead character. It was meant to be a whole new franchise but Nintendo wanted a new Star Fox game for the GC, so Rare went back, changed some bits and pieces and slapped the Star Fox name on it. Aside from a few very short flying sections, it's really nothing like the rest of the series. It's essentially a Zelda clone, but much more basic.
Thomas Whitehead: So, even though it took the franchise in a new direction, do you think that the development history outlines flaws in the thinking; did the Star Fox brand get confused by this title?
Peter Willington: That's a really great question. Star Fox: Assault got released later in the console's lifespan and that went right back to basics, so I think they handled any potential damage limitation well. But I think it highlights a bigger issue in general, that Nintendo seems to treat the series with less care than others. Lylat Wars is the only game Nintendo developed itself, while the rest have been handed to other developers. While I think for the most part they're all really good, it's only natural that the brand has less identity than something EAD is hands-on with every single release like Mario or Zelda.
Thomas Whitehead: Good point, and looking at Assault in more detail, did you think the balance of old-school flight missions and ground based levels was right, did the game work as a whole?
Peter Willington: The best sections were undeniably the space combat — the on-foot stuff was fine, but very rudimentary, even when compared to other titles at the time. The thing Assault did the best out of the whole series though was getting across a sense of scale. The battles were really epic and energetic: leaping into a cockpit after taking out dozens of foot soldiers, then soaring into the sky and shooting down bogeys had a sense of kineticism that I don't think the others quite managed. As a whole, it's great, Namco did a great job, but those foot sections went on too long.
Thomas Whitehead: It seems that attempts to bring different genres to Star Fox have mixed results. Moving onto the DS entry, Command, what did you think of this attempt to bring the franchise to a handheld?
Desiree Turner: I was stoked to get my hands on Command — hell yes I'm down for some portable Star Fox goodness — until I started playing it, at which point I found myself wondering what had been done to the series I knew and loved so much. Everyone was so different (granted, I know that's because some of the characters involved were introduced and/or fleshed out further during the two GameCube games), and the interface had gone all strategy-based on me. Suddenly it wasn't so much about 'see enemy, shoot enemy, get best score' as it was ‘I can't see what's coming at me thanks to that stupid Fog of War, and I need this fighter over there because their abilities are better at shooting this kind of enemy'. It was incredibly different from the games I'd grown up with.
I'll admit I did like Command in my first play-through, I think I spent about three days getting all the endings and stuff. After that, though, I couldn't really stand to sit through it again.
Thomas Whitehead: Did you play this one Peter? What did you think, similar feelings to Desiree?
Peter Willington: I thought it was solid, not particularly special, but an acceptable entry. Q-Games started to do a "Sonic and his annoying friends" thing with the game which I found a bit abrasive, but the biggest issue I had was that everyone was referring to the game as having a big focus on strategy. The map screen movements of bad guys never seemed to change for me, which I think removed this "strategic" element. The game systems were still there though, the handling worked, even when they replaced the direct control with touch screen input.
Desiree Turner: I did like how the Arwings handled in terms of the touch-screen controls, but seriously, the pre-battle screens are laid out like a strategy game. I may as well have been playing Star Fox-themed checkers for all the fun I was having during those parts.
Thomas Whitehead: Command seems to continue the trend of the GameCube entries — new style not quite working. Is that a fair assessment?
Peter Willington: Absolutely, but I still really like the later games, simply for trying new elements, introducing new ideas.
Thomas Whitehead: Considering the direction of the series on GameCube and DS, what are your thoughts on Nintendo opting to re-release the N64 title on 3DS? Should it have done something new?
Peter Willington: In many ways it's completely fine, as there's been so much time that's passed since Lylat Wars' release that a lot of Nintendo fans won't have had a chance to play it. That said, I'm never a fan of re-releases, I think it's a bit lazy, and I'd much rather they made a brand new title to experience, perhaps take the series on a completely different tangent.
Thomas Whitehead: What about you Desiree, lazy or worthwhile remake?
Desiree Turner: Honestly, I think it's laziness, same as Ocarina of Time 3D. However, there are people (like Peter here) who've never played it or skipped that generation of consoles who'll be playing it for the first time, so it'll be a worthwhile purchase for those people.
Thomas Whitehead: Finally, what do you want next from Star Fox, in your wildest dreams, either on Wii U or 3DS?
Peter Willington: I'd really like the next Star Fox to use the Wii Remote in conjunction with MotionPlus. If you hold the Remote vertically, it makes an almost perfect flight stick and I definitely think that MotionPlus is up to the task of reading small movements. Perhaps with Wii U they can bring that on board, as well as include all the exciting improvements to the online infrastructure. I can imagine big scale multiplayer team deathmatch in Star Fox: the Warhawk for Nintendo systems.
Desiree Turner: I'm much more portable-oriented now than I used to be, so I'm probably biased toward the 3DS, but I'd love to see an honest-to-God return to the series' roots: a galaxy to save, multiple paths to explore and conquer, not as much of the annoying character interactions as Command. I think the N64 title had the best balance of character personalities and solid gameplay. No wannabe strategy, and more balance between on-rails shooter sections and All-Range Mode. Whichever console it happens on, that's what I'd like to see.
Our thanks to Desiree and Peter for giving their time and sharing their insight. Share your own memories and thought on the Star Fox franchise with us below!