(Super Nintendo)

Star Fox (Super Nintendo)

Game Review

Star Fox Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Jamie O'Neill

Pretty Foxy stuff...

In 1993 the Mega Drive / Genesis was selling well and 2D was the bread and butter of console gaming. "Emergency, emergency… emergency, emergency! Incoming fighters prepare for launch", hailed the 16-bit Nintendo counter attack. For Sega and NEC it was too late: the swooping Nintendo Arwing squadron hammered the early ‘90s into its most notable 3D submission. SNES Star Fox was a powerhouse attack, which gamers would never forget.

Whilst it did not win the 16-bit console war single handed, the first ever Super FX boosted cartridge was a stand out SNES exclusive. Combing quirky Nintendo characterisation and an epic sci-fi setting, it resulted in an on-rails shooter that blew away '90s pre-conceptions of console capabilities. Star Fox (clumsily renamed "Starwing" in Europe — we've asinine licensing issues to thank for that) was many gamers first jaunt into a home console 3D experience. The implementation of SNES game enhancing chips was not new; Super Mario Kart was boosted by DSP in 1992, but the Super FX chip took enhancement to another level.

However, whilst 3D graphics were the selling point in '93, they are the one area of this game in which a modern gamer may scoff. Chunky, bland Corneria buildings, with cumbersome meteor rocks set to brown and grey coloured terrain, could be viewed as downright ugly.

Regardless, any retro gamer slotting in this cart should rejoice: this is a Nintendo game and as such it is jam packed with attention to detail. The aforementioned Corneria has a basic blue skyline on both difficulty level one and two, but switch to the hardest setting and it presents a blistering orange sunset. A Titania mist and snow weather effect may elicit confusion, causing gamers to check their empty glass to confirm that they have not spat their milk over their TVs; however, activate the planet's weather generator to witness its true burnt umber, less milky, skyline. Retro fans will delight in the developer's expertise at extracting the best out of the Super NES fundamentals, using its self-contained powers to supplement effects; bosses explode in a grand flash, the screen turns red and pixels fly like space dust. Mode-7 efficiently takes select care of background sprite scaling, cloud effects and explosions. Star Fox contains moments of 16-bit beauty.

Yet, it would be reckless to assign Nintendo all of the credit for the visuals. The actual 3D mastery was orchestrated by UK code-house Argonaut Software and its proficient head, Jez San. It was this mix of technical expertise and Nintendo's game designing genius that brought the lit torch to the fireworks. Despite being a SNES 3D pioneer, the priority was still on showcasing graphics to the benefit of gameplay. Whizzing up and down vertical tunnels from the inside of a Space Armada juggernaut is a nifty visual effect, as is skimming between spinning Sector X girders, but more importantly they are fun to play. The game demands that the controls are mastered: players must perfectly time hitting the brake or boost of their Arwing, as well as becoming expert at implementing projectile-avoiding barrel rolls.

Star Fox combines all of the pre-requisites for a great game. It mixes classic gaming mechanics with tried and tested shooter playability. Flying through a checkpoint ring of stars to boost health, collecting invincibility shields and saving nova bombs for boss battles, are all classic play mechanics. It owes as much to Atari's 1983 vector Star Wars trench run (reflected in its Space Armada, stock cruiser corridor dodging) as it does to Namco's 1991 3D arcade shooter StarBlade (through the option of a first person cockpit viewpoint). The Star Wars links run deep into this game: details like the rogue underdog's battle against an evil empire and little touches in the game's action are respectful to the sci-fi classic – a brief escape of a stock cruiser's innards, before the flames engulf your craft, conjures memories of a Death Star fleeing Falcon.

Brilliantly, the music takes similarly lofty inspiration. It provides as epic a space opera soundtrack as you could expect from the SNES's sound subsystem. The contrast between the opening title screen's military march score (as Andross's army advances) against the rousing and uplifting opening tune for Corneria is particularly pleasing.

To navigate the universe in Star Fox the player is presented with a menu in which they can choose the arduousness of their path; however, other titles offer gamers respite through the option to branch back to an easier route, Star Fox is not that kind. Anyone who is unsure which difficulty they have chosen need only know that if they are heading towards Macbeth, then they are a brave pilot who relishes a challenge. This design is well thought out: in one smart swoop, it presents a game with a fast arcade run playtime, a sufficient variety of stages and a balanced difficulty curve.

The paths are not superficial either. Decent level one route flyers will battle one incarnation of Andross (Andorf if you're in Japan), but find that he has a more advanced set of attack patterns and forms on level three, the hardest difficulty. The bosses are designed with a multitude of attack patterns and polygons transform their shape to reveal new weak spots.

This game has plenty of lasting power and is filled with surprise. The mere mention of the words "Asteroid Belt", "orange", "crash", "fruit machine" and "black hole" will put a smile on even the grumpiest retro gamer's face. It contains the very definition of a gaming Easter egg, hidden away within its 8-megabit cartridge.

However, it has been just as influential in its own right. Star Fox 64 maintained much of the original's basic play, control and presentation touches. While it doesn't include supplementary vehicles – for example you will not be careering around in a Landmaster here – it also does not complicate the gameplay to the extent of the DS and, particularly, GameCube editions. In its heart it's arguably the most pure playing game of the franchise: you fly an Arwing and you blast down Andross's Venom scum; you start with three lives and you earn credits as you progress. Star Fox gets the basic, fun mechanics right first time.

SNES Star Fox opened the door for 3D shoot 'em ups on home consoles and SEGA happily strolled right through that opening two years later with the Saturn classic Panzer Dragoon. In fact it would not be too bold a statement to suggest that Treasure was partly able to evolve run and gun games, with N64's Sin and Punishment, by considering some of the ground work built by Star Fox.

Conclusion

The release of Star Fox and its integration of the Super FX chip successfully distinguished the SNES from the competition, at least until Sega cunningly placed its own nifty processor into the Mega Drive Virtua Racing cart a year later. However, a year is an eternity in gaming and even Sega were not that cunning a fox in this instance. Argonaut and Nintendo created a magical team for this project. The sparks flew from the screen in a genuine mix of European and Japanese talent. Aurally, visually and in its character design and presentation it was phenomenal in 1993 and will be rightly remembered as a classic.

Star Fox was the first release in a new series that Nintendo fans now hold dear and it ranks amongst the very cream of Nintendo’s long list of gaming glory.

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User Comments (68)

CorbsAdmin

#5

Corbs said:

A game way ahead of its time and a real testament to the Super FX chip and what it offered to the SNES console. I'd love to see this one made available on the VC service at some point.

pixelman

#7

pixelman said:

Great stuff. I really wish this would out on the VC, and am a tad surprised it hasn't already.

JamieOStaff

#8

JamieO said:

Wow !!! I really can't emphasise enough how proud it makes me to see my words up on Nintendo Life.
I have been following the writing of Darren and Damien for a while now, not just here on Nintendo Life, but at Mean Machines Archive and in articles in Retro Gamer magazine, too.
If you could see my face now it is completely beaming. I would say like a Cheshire Cat, but in the case of this review a Merseyside Fox would be more appropriate.
Thank you lots and lots to Darren, Damien and Thomas for even considering me. You are a completely cool, sound, top-notch bunch of gamers.
Big Beam Faced Me :)

motang

#10

motang said:

Good review, that is what I would give this game. It is one of favorite SNES games of all times, i played the heck out of it...but couldn't beat it in the end...freaking hard, come to think of it I couldn't beast Star Fox adventures either that was also frustrating for me.

JamieOStaff

#12

JamieO said:

Cheers @Corbie too, perhaps further down the line you could educate me lots more in the intricacies of bullet hell shooters. Nice one :)

Nero

#15

Nero said:

Starwing ftw :)
One of my favorite SNES game (or games for any console) of all time. I couldn't believe how good it looked (still does) and also the music, god it's so good. I will never sell my cartridge of this game.

WanderFan91

#17

WanderFan91 said:

I missed out big time on this, and I only played Star Fox 64 when I was little. I hope this game comes out on the VC, so I can finally delve into it and finally get to see what all the commotion is about. :)

Knux

#19

Knux said:

I have never played the original Star Fox, but I might buy a SNES Star Fox cartridge to see how good it is compared to Star Fox 64. Nice to see you reviewing games on Nintendo Life, JamieO. Great review, I hope to see more of your reviews from in the future! :)

Mr_G

#20

Mr_G said:

i found this in a thrift shop the other day. only paid 3 bucks. sweet

JamieOStaff

#21

JamieO said:

Cheers lots @SuperSonic1990 , I have been chatting away to you since I joined Nintendo Life and you have always been cool. Thanks for that, mate and "Thank you" to everyone else for their kind comments.
There are lots of names on here who have made me welcome from the start. Nice one. :)

#22

said:

I always love the self induced amnesia of the 16-bit wars. This game didn't helped the snes won the darn war. In fact, the genesis was still ahead of the SNES on 1993.

But whatever, think what you want.

CorbsAdmin

#23

Corbs said:

The 16-bit console wars began to fall in the SNES console's favor the day Capcom released Street Fighter 2 in 1992. It was all just a matter of time after that. :)

BulbasaurusRex

#24

BulbasaurusRex said:

Isn't Star Fox 64 a remake of this game? Why play this when Star Fox 64, the same game with much better graphics, sound, and probably quite a few other improvements, is already on Virtual Console?

JamieOStaff

#25

JamieO said:

@buffalobob My point about console wars was partially a metaphor (i.e. the battles above Corneria compared to the 16 bit struggles for supremacy, not that I am saying that any one console developer was comparable to Andross. I love Sega, NEC and Hudson Soft too much for that. lol.)
Nope my main point was that the 3D capabilities afforded by the Super FX chip differentiated SNES from the competition.
You are right, Genesis sales were massive and it was a war fought and won/lost to varying degrees in different territories (i.e. Japan, US, Europe, Brazil, Australia etc).
The 16-bit late ‘80s to early ‘90s years were definitely one of the most exciting periods in gaming history.

Objection

#26

Objection said:

I don't buy many VC games but I would download this if it was released. Strange that they haven't done so by now.

Giggsy

#27

Giggsy said:

Nice one Jamie, pretty darn good. Call me ummm.......Jamie! lol Welcome to the team.Together we've turned the site StarFox dominated today! ;)

odd69

#28

odd69 said:

I can still remember back in the days when i played this with my dad. Nintendo made alot of great titles in the 16-bit era. I miss those days =)

SwerdMurd

#29

SwerdMurd said:

One of my absolute favorite games. As cool as the 64/GC games were, this one absolutely dwarfs them. The sheer amount of standards it set/redefined blows my mind. Strangely enough, this was the final SNES cart I ever bought (bought, Plok, the original Lufia, and Battletoads: Battlemaniacs together used, and on the way out of the store noticed they had a copy of Star Fox). One of those absolutely baffling non-VC-releases by Nintendo, unless they want to time it so that it drops on a week without a lot of competition to boost its initial sales. I wish I could understand what the hell Nintendo was thinking...ever.

Sylverstone

#30

Sylverstone said:

The SNES-Genesis war was the best in gaming history!
PlayStation vs. N64 never interested me... Except I had an N64 to play Star Fox 64 on!

Great review, Jamie-O!
Makes me feel to go over my cousin's (he still has a working SNES!)

emayer

#31

emayer said:

@Bulbasaurus Rex

SF64 is a remake only in the sense that it follows the same story (loosely) as Star Fox SNES. The levels are all completely different.

axelay80

#34

axelay80 said:

I'm STILL in awe of this game. The SNES shouldn't have been able to run this, but it did in spectacular fashion. The Star Fox games have gotten progressively worse (I didn't even think Star Fox 64 was that great), and it's sad that this isn't on the VC yet. Great review!

dizzy_boy

#35

dizzy_boy said:

i remember nintendo doing a promotional thing with starfox a couple of weeks before it`s european release.
they held a compition in various stores across here in england on a timed version of the first level of the game. i cant remember what the prizes were, simply because i didn`t pay attention, i just wanted to play the game.
after that, i read some people had copies of the timed game, and it turns out that they are pretty rare, and worth quite a bit of money.

XCWarrior

#36

XCWarrior said:

Wow way to torment me guys. I thought this was telling us that the game was coming to VC. Nice review, but I really want to play the game.

Ren

#37

Ren said:

Nice Review.
This was totally a bombshell game in the day; I remember it well. I can't believe Starblade came out before this, that was also amazing, but then on much more strict rails than even Starfox.
I still don't agree that there was any big problem with Command. I think it was the only real return to the formula that made this one great.

This was a classic milestone, but it's true it kind of lost a lot of it's relevance once Starfox 64 came out, specially with the wiggle add-on you could get with it. That wiggle pak was way cool and seemed to be the first of it's kind. Seemed like the silliest gimmick feature, ever but now it's standard like...uh, some other things we have now that some others are about to tack on to their consoles.

DazzaAdmin

#38

Dazza said:

Great review Jamie. Star Fox was one of my favourite games back in the days. I remember being blown away by the 3D effects powered by the SuperFX chip. Controlling the Arwing is still a joy and the gameplay never gets old.

The only bad thing I can say is that Star Fox 64 is probably the better game, but without this then Fox McCloud would never be.

Thanks again Jamie, I'll look forward to your next retro review. :-)

Tails

#39

Tails said:

Sadly to say I never had A SNES and I heard this game was soo good. I never got A chance to play it after I got A n64 I played starfox64 which in my old memory was mind blowing and a great game. Maybe one day I'll find A SNES and buy this. But for now I can just look at videos on youtube and pictures on Nintendolife.com nice review though Jamie spot on ^^

mjc0961

#40

mjc0961 said:

"Wow way to torment me guys. I thought this was telling us that the game was coming to VC. Nice review, but I really want to play the game."

Haha yeah, me too. I thought it was here because the game was out on VC, so I looked in the release date section. Hey, a date there! ...1993? Aww poopie. :(

rhythmheavenfan

#41

rhythmheavenfan said:

I wish this would come out on the Virtual Console. Love the Star Fox franchise. Extremely shocked that they haven't released it yet. Maybe if they release a new Star Fox game for Wii they will release this on VC right before that.

JamieOStaff

#42

JamieO said:

Cheers again to everyone at Nintendo Life, being given SNES Star Fox to review was a gift.
I have spent the last week re-playing Star Fox, with pure focus, no other cartridge has touched my SNES. I have not even pressed the 'Eject' button. This is actually better for me. Too often I flit between retro games, it is always so tempting with a box full of games or a compilation to be having fun with one title and go and switch it for a "grass is always greener" short play of another game.
Last week Star Fox was my single retro gaming fix. I completely commandeered our front room, my girlfriend watched my repeated play through (see Twit Pic link). Seriously ask her about “So far so g-g-good”, “Ribbit!! Thanks fer the save!” and “Croak!! Help me!!” Slippy quotes. She is now fluent in SNES Star Fox babble. ;)

http://twitpic.com/iiab6

Lots of kind comments from a solid community, I appreciate it.
@Dazza I have read your Star Fox 64 review through and through. Thanks for trusting me with one of your favourites.
@StarBoy91 Kudos right back at you for being so sound. :)

Kirk

#44

Kirk said:

Still the best version of Star Fox by a country mile imo.

@ Bulbasaurus Rex

The N64 version is absolutely not better than the SNES original imo and if you go back and play them both side by side now you might find the SNES one holds up far better on the whole, especially the graphics which still look very clean vibrant and visually pleasing on the SNES version but look fugly as hell on the N64 version imo.

I personally would pick the SNES version over the N64 version.

JimLad

#45

JimLad said:

This game was so far ahead of its time.
I still prefer Star Fox 64, but Star Wing always has a place in my heart as the first SNES game I ever owned.
The franchise deserves much more than the treatment it's getting right now.

MayhemStaff

#46

Mayhem said:

Great review, one I would have loved to have written myself. I still prefer SF64 though, just think it has a better feel. This was still highly impressive for 1993 though as I laid down my (I shudder to think how much, 70 quid perhaps?) dosh at the import store for a Japanese copy...

FantasiaWHT

#48

FantasiaWHT said:

Meh. I loved the game when I was a kid but it hasn't aged well. The controls are really pretty awful.

ODOGG618

#49

ODOGG618 said:

Wha? You can't actually say that the SNES version looks better than the N64 version.

Eastlondon

#50

Eastlondon said:

Do you think there is a chance of someone reviewing the StarFox 2 Code?
so we can know what could have been.

TKOWL

#51

TKOWL said:

and while nintendos at it not listening to our cries to this on VC tell them we want to see what the heck happened to Star Fox 2?

Metang

#52

Metang said:

Great review, Jamie. (Save the tagline... cringe)
Here's hoping for a VC release! :)

JamieOStaff

#53

JamieO said:

@Metang Ha, ha... I love that tagline, it makes me chuckle when I read it now.
At first, I was even going to conclude the review with these three, final sentences:

  • "As soon as a Virtual Console release is announced, this will be one to mark in your diary. Star Fox 2 should be penciled in as "never going to happen". However, there is nothing wrong with a retro gamer having a dream and wishing upon a star....a furry, upright, squadron leading, nimble flying, foxy star that is!" lol :)
XyVoX

#55

XyVoX said:

I would love to see Starfox 2 released on the VC, i can remember playing it on my PC years ago, what a shame that never came out.

Eastlondon

#56

Eastlondon said:

you can see the whole game being play from start up screen to ending on youtube, I know its was translated into English and a few bugs fix (thanks wikipedia) but surely if we can Starfox they can give us Starfox 2 at a later date. oh well what a wast

cheetahman91

#57

cheetahman91 said:

My only problem with this game is the fact that the framerate is really awful. But I can forgive it since it was made so long ago.

deadly_by_design

#58

deadly_by_design said:

I remember playing this game at a booth in my local mall. Quality game, despite the lack of true flight freedom.

CanisWolfred

#59

CanisWolfred said:

I highly doubt I'll like this game, but I'd like to at least try it, since I really like the series and what to see it at its roots.

chiefeagle02

#60

chiefeagle02 said:

This game ate away many hours of my grade school days. Would love to see this on VC (to eat away more hours of my responsible and productive days).

premko

#61

premko said:

Dear Nintendo - Star Fox 2 (with as-is graphics) as a Wii- or DSiware ?...

Deviant_Mugen

#62

Deviant_Mugen said:

I still own my original Star Fox cartridge, I should really pop it in sometime and try to finally beat it (same goes for Chrono Trigger)...

OnionOverlord

#65

OnionOverlord said:

Perhaps it's because I never played the game during its hayday, but I honestly can't stand the original Star Fox. The framerate drives me insane and the polygons are a little much.

Ryno

#66

Ryno said:

This game is still as good as it was back in 1993. I still love playing this game! The best Star Fox game.

Varia01

#67

Varia01 said:

@HarmoKnight I agree with your anger... The gameplay looks fantastic and when I searched Star Fox on the Wii shop channel, the only game I could find was Star Fox 64.... Oh want so bad.... Retro did thought of an epic Nintendo Sci-fi combo blast with Metroid and Starfox... That would be awesome!

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