Great Games – Star Fox (1993)

North American Box Art.

I thought that I would take a moment to go back and talk about a revolutionary game from the past. Star Fox was the first game to utilize the Super FX chip, a graphics acceleration coprocessor powered Graphics Support Unit (GSU). All of the technical terminology aside, this little processor was able to create three dimensional polygons, offered advanced 2D and 3D techniques, and helped the SNES move towards a new age in video games both for Nintendo and the industry as a whole. However, I digress as the purpose of this post is to talk about this rail shooter and it’s cultural impact for video games and creating a large fan base that continues to this day. Without further adieu, let’s venture to the Lylat system and meet our favorite group of anthropomorphic Arwing pilots.

Gameplay of the typical level design found in Star Fox. Occasionally, your teammates will appear on screen to provide dialogue or if they need your help.

The plot of this game follows the members of Star Fox, a mercenary group comprised of  Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad and their leader Fox McCloud as they are tasked with defeating Andross, an evil scientist who has declared war on the home planet of Corneria. One of the most notable things that this game has been able to show was the advances in the capabilities of cartridges and the overall power that the SNES had to offer, even though the Super FX chip was built into the cartridge itself. Each level has gameplay that revolves around aerial combat with many rail shooter elements attached to this concept. These two ideas come together to create an effortless, smooth progression of each level and combat with enemies. Another interesting thing that this game brings to the table is the difficulty system that it takes advantage of. Depending on the level chosen by the player, they will be taken through a different part of the Lylat system and offers unique layouts and levels for each one. This gives a new meaning to the replayability of a video game and makes this one a different experience with each change of difficulty. Many of the gameplay mechanics themselves are quite innovative for the time, such as having a shield as the damage counter and depending on environmental obstacles will effect the handling of the Arwing and whether or not it can receive upgrades that come later in the game.

The HUD shows core components such as player’s shield, weapons, and lives as well as the current enemy health. Notice the 3-D polygons that create the ship and enemies, which was very innovative for this era.

Honestly, this is probably one of the game I was most excited to play when I got my SNES Classic, especially considering the unreleased sequel was included on the console as well. Many of the designs itself are extremely impressive and showed just how able the SNES would have been able to compete in the console market with the likes of the soon to be released Playstation. I realize that the chip itself was more pricey to produce and include in each cartridge, but it was able to give Nintendo the time to finish up on the Nintendo 64. The other games that released with the Super FX chip, such as Dirt Racer and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, took advantage of the graphical capabilities of the chip and made an impression on gamers and other developers. Every minute that I played the game, I found myself really getting into the story and feeling for my AI companions when they were being chased by enemy Arwings. When a game has the ability to immerse a player in all the elements presented, that game has achieved the purpose of what video games aim to achieve in providing some escapism from reality and put you in the position of the hero.

Screenshot of a boss encounter.

To anyone who feels as though they have lost faith in many mainstream titles and an abundance of FPS games on the market, find some solace in Star Fox and live by the motto that this game created: Do a Barrel Roll.

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