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Of Arwings and Star Foxes

Can Nintendo’s anthropomorphic wingmen make a comeback? Sure they can. The question is who will make it possible.

What the hell happened to Star Fox? Despite Nintendo being famous for developing and publishing high quality games, the Star Fox series has taken a nosedive. I loved both Star Fox on the SNES, its unreleased sequel for the same system and Star Fox 64, one of the best Nintendo 64 games ever.

Don’t know what Star Fox is? I will give you a refresher: Star Fox is Nintendo’s on-rail space shooter series that had a great SNES debut, a fantastic N64 sequel, and then crashed and burned due to various reasons (developers out of their league and/or mind that are not in-house Nintendo developers). Command was the last we saw of the series, and boy was that one hell of a game! If you ever needed a game with a fan fiction quality plot and horrible touch screen controls for the DS, then look it up! That, however, was 2006; now the Star Fox series seems like that grumpy old man no one wants to pay attention to.

Do. A. Barrel. Roll. There, I said it. Never found that meme funny, ever.

Come this July, the 3DS will receive a remake of Star Fox 64 with some extra bells and whistles. Not that it's a bad thing; I love Star Fox 64. And though it's not new, it does make you wonder if Miyamoto wanted a real sequel to happen. Despite being the creator of Mario and Zelda, Star Fox had this unexplainable charm I didn’t find in these other creations. While there are wacky moments in both Mario and Zelda, Star Fox was a series that took it up a notch and flew with it (pun intended). If he can’t convince an EAD team to develop the next Star Fox, what is he to do? That answer is simple: see if an outside developer will handle the development duties. Though as we’ve seen with Assualt and Command, that isn’t always a good idea.

There are two would-be developers that could take the reins of our favorite space opera furries and do it justice: the master of action games and Sin & Punishment developer Treasure is one option; another is Platinum Games, formed from former Clover employees Atsushi Inaba, Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami.

Why Platinum? While Star Fox may seem quite out there for them (despite the fact they made a monochrome slice-and-dice brawler, a game about a witch with living hair and a guy wearing a robot suit performing ice rink like techniques with flair), Hideki Kamiya has stated he loved Star Fox 64 so much that he wanted Nintendo execs to come over to his development studio and hold guns to them and force them to make it in statements he made over Twitter.

Director of Okami, Bayonetta and developer violence.

Was Kamiya getting a little ahead of himself with saying that? Probably, but after he made this Twitter comment in early 2010, he hasn’t said anything since regarding Star Fox. One of his other Twitter comments involved F-Zero, another series that hasn’t seen a new console entry since 2003’s F-Zero GX. Unfortunately, most of Kamiya’s comments are in Japanese.

Could Kamiya handle Star Fox? It’s possible; we’re talking about the director who made Resident Evil 2, Okami, Devil May Cry 1, Viewtiful Joe and Bayonetta. Kamiya’s directorial resume is quite impressive, and the games he directed are filled with style and substance. If anything else, a new Star Fox game after Star Fox 64 3D could certainly use those qualities. Nintendo making a partnership with Platinum would also benefit both of them: Platinum’s staff, while they were at Capcom during the Gamecube generation, were behind some terrific games that managed to outdo Nintendo’s own entries. Also, making a game with an easily identifiable Nintendo IP would give Platinum a lot of money from sales, not to mention a nice developer budget. Why say this, you ask? Has any of Platinum’s HD games sold over two million copies so far? Combining the sales of all their games would probably come close, but here’s a challenge: see if they approach the sales of Super Mario Galaxy 1.

However, like I said previously, Kamiya and Platinum are not the only developers that could help Fox McCloud gain his stardom back. Treasure, another studio whose name is well-known for their work on Genesis classics Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Headdy, and Alien Solider, including working with Nintendo on Sin & Punishment 1 & 2, are considered the king of action and shooting games. Sin & Punishment 2 was the closest we ever got to having a Star Fox game on the Wii.

Replace Isa/Kachi with an Arwing and bam! Star Fox.

And that caption above is serious; the two playable characters were like Arwings, but they were human(?) beings with a hoverboard/jet pack. Something was always happening throughout Sin & Punishment 2’s levels, and that something was always shooting at you. Sound familiar? Another big plus is that Wiimote/Nunchuck option, which is the best way to play the game and the button layout works wonders. Can a WiiMote/Nunchuck style work for Star Fox though? The answer is “no”. The Wiimote only has two major buttons: A and B. Mapping moves like the Barrel Roll to Z would work out fine, but what about Nova Bombs? Boost and Brake? Mapping those buttons to the WiiMote d-pad would be uncomfortable at best. Classic controller support would be the only viable option.

From what impressions have been given on Star Fox 64 3D, the 3DS’ ability to display 3D graphics without glasses (something which I have become a fan of) could end up being Star Fox 64 3D’s greatest asset. Adding a layer of depth can help the player judge distances between obstacles, something which I found to be very helpful in Pilotwings Resort. Let’s also not forget the rumored Project Café; a Star Fox game in HD graphics? Cool. I just hope it will play well if it even exists.

With Star Fox 64 3D set for July, hopefully brisk sales will allow a new Star Fox to become a reality. Better save up for that pre-order…



Our Take

Nick DiMola Director

05/17/2011 at 02:50 PM

Great read, Matt. I've often wondered myself who could take up the torch for this series. At times I think the damage done might be irreparable, especially given the new concepts introduced in Star Fox Assault. It seems like future iterations of the series might want to work in things done there and that wouldn't be acceptable to me.

Star Fox 64 3D is currently settling my fears, as it's almost functioning as an eraser, reseting the series back before the release of the latest three Star Fox games. While I'd probably prefer Nintendo internal handle the next game in the series, I'd be comfortable with Treasure working on the series as they have the most experience in games of this nature. Platinum hasn't let me down yet (minus Madworld), so I'd probably trust them to do it, but they wouldn't be my first choice.

Honestly, if Nintendo just (finally) releases Star Fox 2 on the 3DS Virtual Console, I'd be a pretty happy camper.

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