In the lead up to E3 we'll be doing a series of features covering game franchises that we want to make an appearance - or see more of - at the show, and what we'd like to see out of a potential next entry in each series. In this entry Nintendo Life Editorial Director Damien McFerran mulls what form Star Fox will take when it is shown off at this year's event.
Last year's Nintendo E3 event was a typically hype-filled affair, but the wind was taken out of its sails ever so slightly by the early publication of a feature about a new Star Fox. The reveal offered very little in reality - aside from Shigeru Miyamoto twisting and turning the GamePad as Arwings dashed around a bare landscape - but it was significant because it offered confirmation that Nintendo was finally returning to one of its most iconic brands after a lengthy break.
We know that Star Fox will be shown off at this year's E3 - the game is still locked-in on a 2015 release, after all - but the amazing thing is that we know no little more about the game than we did a year ago. That's a pretty impressive achievement for Nintendo - keeping things secret in this day and age is a challenge - but it means we're still in the dark about what shape and form Fox McCloud's latest adventure will take.
Last year, Star Fox was pitched as little more than a tech demo to show how the GamePad could be harnessed in new and interesting ways. Unveiled alongside Project Giant Robot and Project Guard - two of Miyamoto's pet projects created with the aim of illustrating the unique gameplay possibilities the GamePad provides - the very early Star Fox demo offered three modes. One was called "Arwing" and was your typical fly-into-the-screen Star Fox action. A VS mode replicated the feel of the free-range duels found in Star Fox 64, while the third mode involved piloting a helicopter. The mini-game style of these segments caused some concern among fans; is the legendary Star Fox name being wasted on what is little more than a selection of disconnected GamePad demos? The close proximity of Project Giant Robot and Project Guard - including some perhaps worrying comments from Miyamoto - seemed to confirm those fears:
Honestly I don't have a clear idea myself yet, but one thing I'm thinking is that with this Star Fox we may take a different approach, so that rather than one big title we have multiple releases that are connected through different missions. If I was to describe the Star Fox series up until now as being sort of a movie series, I guess I'd describe this new approach as something that's more like a TV series for Star Fox.
Miyamoto's claim that another studio would be brought in to help develop the game appears to suggest that the Star Fox that was shown behind closed doors in 2014 is little more than a prototype; a selection of ideas which will form the foundations of the final title. There's still no confirmation of which company is involved - although there are signs out there, if you wish to allow your mind to wander.
We also don't know what kind of game this will be; Star Fox started life as an on-rails blaster before its unreleased sequel opened the concept up with a more tactical theme. The N64 update would offer the same linear progression as the SNES original - albeit with free-range battles and other vehicles, both lifted from its predecessor - while the GameCube title Star Fox Adventures - coded by UK studio Rare - adopted an on-foot 3D approach with RPG overtones. Following a long period of downtime, Fox and company would hop back into their Arwings in a touch-based action strategy game in the form of Star Fox Command. The Namco-made Star Fox: Assault switched things up yet again, dialling back the storyline in favour of 4-player competitive blasting action. In short, this is a franchise which has been all over the place as far as game style is concerned, and that makes it tricky to predict exactly what genre this Wii U edition will slot into.
We'd personally like to see Star Fox return to its roots, offering up an epic on-rails experience which uses the GamePad's motion controls to immerse the player like never before. However, as Dylan Cuthbert explained in our recent interview, the series was never meant to be a linear offering; the on-rails aspect was a direct result of the limitations of the SNES hardware:
The series was never intended to be limited to linear 3D scrolling stages, and he will often say that the only reason they did that was to get the best speed and performance out of the Super FX Chip.
Cuthbert also reveals that Miyamoto was very much in favour of pushing the series in new directions, and when he later worked on Star Fox Command, the British developer was told by Miyamoto to experiment as much as possible with the Nintendo DS touch-screen and dual displays. The world's most famous games designer is renowned for his desire to try new things, and it's tempting to suggest that Star Fox on Wii U will totally ignore the cinematic, level-by-level approach in order to offer a totally different experience.
Of all of Nintendo's franchises, Star Fox is perhaps the most enigmatic; Mario side, it has arguably covered the most ground when it comes to gameplay variety. That makes it devilishly hard to accurately call what Nintendo will be showing off at this year's E3; could we see a simple mini-game collection which does little more than use the Star Fox characters as a backdrop for some GamePad shenanigans, or could we be greeted with an epic space battle simulation which bestows the franchise with an edgy, mature feel - like Retro Studios did with Metroid Prime? Or will we see Miyamoto return to the more open approach of Star Fox 2 and Star Fox Command, where the game is divided between tactical sections - using the GamePad touch-screen, naturally - and traditional space combat?
With so little information available, your guess is just as good as ours - so why not let us know your wishes by posting a comment below.