Welcome to In Retrospect, a weekly segment in which I will be jumping into older titles, some that I’ve played before and some that I’ll be experiencing for the first time. But no matter what, it’ll all be a good time, so come have a read!
Thanks to Nintendo Switch Online’s SNES app, this week I was able to play the original Star Fox game. I’ve played Star Fox 64 before for very short sessions as a child, but other than that my only exposure to the series was Super Smash Bros.
Star Fox released in 1993 to a lot of praise. It was enhanced by a the Super FX. This was a coprocessor added to some SNES video game cartridges to provide advanced 2D and 3D techniques. This was revolutionary at the time, giving Nintendo the boost they needed to dominate the gaming industry. Corneria might look like a load of big ugly blocks today, but this 3D rails shooter paved the way for bigger games to come as gaming continued to evolve.
Star Fox gives you three paths through the game. A map select screen displays these three routes, and the various levels they contain. They aren’t just different themes or visuals though. These routes are actually difficulty options, although the game doesn’t make this very clear.
I actually started on the bottom route, and it turns out that’s the hardest one. After an hour or two of getting destroyed, I changed route to the middle and then the top one (apparently that’s the medium difficulty) and they were a lot easier. Still a challenge, but easier.
Why Is Star Fox Hard?
So both the easy and medium difficulty paths still proved a challenge. This isn’t because the gameplay is inherently difficult. Rather, it’s down to the limitations of the SNES.
This game was revolutionary as it was 3D on a 16-bit console. But there are issues with that, which can’t be overlooked. The FPS is very low, so it doesn’t feel responsive. I try to barrel roll away from enemy blasters and rockets and it just takes too long.
Everything – enemies, buildings, teammates – is built from big, chunky polygons. This is standard for the time, I know. But when you’re barrelling towards them at breakneck speeds, it’s easy to get confused. Combine this with the low FPS and the game really can become a chaotic mess of shapes.
Every Mission is Tense
The game itself is a lot of fun when you aren’t completely overwhelmed by the confusion. After a while it all clicked and I was loving flying through the various locales in the game, blasting enemy ships whilst saving my AI teammates from the fighters on their tail. The ability to roll the ship makes squeezing through every gap a thrill. The stages always keep you moving from side to side, so it never feels boring or slow. Weaving between the buildings, towers and other obstacles is a delightful ride.
Boss battles in Star Fox were a joy. Every battle presented a fresh challenge. Yes, there are similarities – they all consist of avoiding being shot whilst waiting for an opening to hit the boss. But the attack patterns feel varied. Some will fire homing missiles. Others, blasters. Andross, the final boss, just throws big square blocks everywhere (maybe he’s panicking, it was weird).
This variety constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat. You have to stay focused to make it out alive. Learn the patterns and stay alert. Otherwise, you’ll be shot down in seconds.
The boss battles are tough at first, but once you’ve learnt the patterns you’ll feel ready. You will eventually make it to the next stage after a few tries and that feels rewarding. You’ve learnt, adapted and are ready for the new challenges that might come next. My battle with Andross was too much though. He’s the final boss, and I just didn’t understand what I had to do! If you have any tips, give them in the comments!
Star Fox is a fun, often hectic game but it’s clear to see why it became such a classic. At the time it released, Star Fox was revolutionary for doing 3D on a 16 bit console. It paved the way for the N64, where we would eventually see this classic return with more power. I think if I’m going to play it again, that’s the version I want to play. It’ll be exciting to try Star Fox 64 and see the similarities, as well as the changes that the console’s power allowed.
Have you played Star Fox on the SNES? Were you able to beat Andross (if so, how)? Let me know in the comments down below, or over on my social medias! Also, let me know if there are any games you want me to play for In Retrospect! For all the latest gaming news, stay right here at The Games Freak!