Star Fox 64 3D: A Brief History Lesson
Posted on Tuesday, September 6 @ 18:13:34 PST by KevinS
Star Fox 64 (or Lylat Wars for our European readers) might well be my favorite game on the N64. Everything it did, it did right: smooth play, interesting story bits, blowing sh*t up with bombs and lasers, the works. Even the voices sounded—somehow—legitimate coming out of a fox, a bunny, a frog, and a jackass falcon. But as old as the series is—starting in 1993 makes him just old enough to vote and buy his "first" gun—it's honestly amazing to me that he's been in polygonal 3D for his entire existence. There might be another character or franchise that can claim that title as well, but he's definitely a pioneer that way.
Back on the Super NES/Super FamiCom days, SF64 was a one-of-a-kind experience when games still came in platforming wrappers and pastel smiles. There were other furry heroes of course; it was the generation of fuzzy and freaky abominations, after all (Aero, Sparkster, Earthworm Jim). The thing that separated Fox and his friends from the rest was a sense of drive combined with technical know-how (though Sparkster had some know-how to keep that jetpack in shape, right?). He didn't just have a town, or a world, to worry about; he had an entire solar system to protect. He was even freelance, so a mercenary… sort of. Contract protector, if you will. There's not much cooler than a dude with a space fighter of his own—an Arwing no less, the best of ANY fleet—and a solar system willing to pay him to shoot down anything that moves!
The first game, Star Fox (or Starwing, once again, for our Euro-friends), was pioneering simply for the fact that it was among the first titles in the home console market to push some actual polygons on the screen. It wasn't the first game to use polygons—titles like I Robot in the early 1980s and Sega arcade games like Virtual Fighter beat the beast to the punch—but as far as home consoles went, it was a breakthrough. Hell, it was another way Nintendo beat Sega to the punch by practically minutes by releasing it before Sega let loose Virtual Racing for the Genny!
According to a recent "Iwata Asks" on Nintendo.com, the new recruit Dylan Cuthbert had come on with an amazing enough idea: a 3D Game Boy game. And from an 18-year-old programmer, no less. Nintendo loves 'em young, eh?
Anyway. Nintendo hires on the kid and starts him off with his forte in the form of a space-based shooter. It was something very different from what Nintendo was offering at the time (the era of the cheeky platformer, remember), a product of the new influx of talent and playing with new hardware; the SNES had etched the rough middle of its lifespan. So it's understandable then that, after the success of Fox and friends (damn, unintentional Fox News reference) , the Big N would want to follow it up with something bigger and better; something like Star Fox 2.
What, did you expect SF64 so soon? That was a few years later, when Nintendo scrapped SF2, but not entirely different. A lot of what was designed for SF2 went into the 64 incarnation… most notably, the "All Range Mode" where Fox has a three-dimensional firefight on his hands. With the new chip Nintendo was developing at the time, the Super FX 2, Fox was able to fly anywhere he wanted (until the invisible wall was reached, then he was flipped back instead of just "bang and stuck" like so many 3D games do) and it improve the graphics even further. If it had been finished and seen the light of day, it might well have been the prettiest, most advanced game to be released for the SNES/Super FamiCom.
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