Developed through a collaboration of Nintendo EAD and Argonaut, under the expert eye of legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, Star Fox was one of the first games to bring polygonal 3D to a large home audience. The graphics, although they may appear outdated today, were revolutionary at the time as they used a special chip designed by Argonaut which enables the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to transform and display three-dimensional objects in real-time.
The gameplay is comparable to a scrolling shooter such as Defender, except the scrolling is done in the depth axis instead of the horizontal axis. This makes the gameplay essentially 2D as the player does not have the ability to navigate the levels freely; the controlled spaceship moves coplanar to the screen and therefore always moves in the same direction. Aside from a wide variety of enemies which must be destroyed by the ship’s blaster, additional challenge comes in the form of obstacles which must be evaded, to which end the ship can boost, brake and roll.
The story represented in the actual game is minimal, and as many older games is told exclusively in the manual. This is the story culled from material documenting this game exclusively, i.e. the expansion of character and plot in sequels or other media is purposely not taken into consideration.
The “Lylatian Conflict”, named after the Lylat System in which it takes place, originated from a declaration of war on Corneria by Emperor Andross. Andross was a brilliant scientist who worked in one of the most advanced laboratories on the planet Corneria, the fourth planet in the Lylat System. A child prodigy, his genius overshadowed other children, but as he grew older and began experimenting with Hyper-Space Energy, his ambitions blinded him.
He conducted dangerous experiments in the heart of the planet’s civilian center, endangering the inhabitants. Not heeding the governments warnings, he was ultimately banned and fled to the beautiful “evergreen” planet Venom at the other side of the galaxy. The people on Corneria forgot all about “Dr. Andross”, until a small reconnaissance team witnessed unusual occurrences on Venom. Strange flying objects were observed to be maneuvering in great numbers in Venom’s airspace.
It turns out Andross had overpowered and enslaved the technologically underdeveloped population of Venom and recruited them into his army, installing a military base on the once beautiful planet, which is now polluted and miserable. Although in service of Andross, the Venom people hope the Cornerian forces will overthrow Emperor Andross and free the Lylat System.
As commander of the Cornerian defense, General Pepper requested the help of the Star Fox team, and Fox McCloud answered the call. Together with his teammates Slippy Toad, Peppy Hare, and Falco Lombardi he formed the Star Fox team, a band of adventurers highly skilled in all military engagement. They would be piloting the new “ Arwing” craft, powered by a Hyper-Space Engine developed from Andross’s very own experiments.
Before the title screen, the game shows the flight of the aforementioned reconnaissance team from Venom back to Corneria, and the beginning of the invasion that followed.
Fox McCloud is the young leader of the Star Fox team. He is following in the footsteps of his father and founder of the Star Fox team, James McCloud. He is a talented and aggressive fighter, and his team often relies on his power to get them out of trouble.
Falco Lombardi is a bird, so he is at home in the sky (and even in space). Although he has a short temper, Fox and Falco have remained best friends. Despite their friendship, they are constantly arguing, due to the cocky nature of Falco.
Peppy Hare is the older, fatherly figure of the team. He supervises everything that is going on in the squad; his knowledge and gentle nature make him the perfect candidate for this, and an invaluable part of the team. He isn't as quick-tempered as the others in the team, making him the perfect balance for the team. He was on the original team with James McCloud, and has since come to serve under Fox. He is also a skillful pilot.
Slippy Toad may be naive and timid, but he is the engineer of the team, making him invaluable to keep the Arwings and other vehicles up-to-date. He is somewhat like the comic relief of the game; adding humor to desperate situations.
The course the Star Fox team will take to Venom is chosen by the player. Three routes are available, representing easy (middle route), normal (top route) and hard (bottom route) difficulty settings. Different locations are traversed in each, although all obviously begin on Corneria and end on Venom, these planets pose unique challenges appropriate to the difficulty setting as well. A monologue from General Pepper precedes each mission, providing brief information on the new location.
The Star Fox team are shot from the hangar and so the journey begins through 6-7 levels (counting two levels on Venom). The player controls the Arwing of Fox McCloud, which can be moved anywhere within the screen, but is not allowed to stray much outside the play area’s edges, giving the effect of flying through an invisible corridor. Although this may sound limiting, once accepted it is not experienced as restricting and never obstructs the gameplay.
A variety of weapons and upgrades are available in the game, such as blaster upgrades, health rings, extra lives, and nova bombs. A more in-depth look at all the weapons and power-ups is below.
The main weapon of the Arwing, it never runs out of ammunition nor overheats. Pressing and holding the Y button fires three shots, but it doesn’t auto-repeat, so the button must be mashed for continuous fire.
An upgrade to the standard blaster, twin blasters are obtained when the appropriate icon is picked up. As the name says, it is similar to the single blaster except that it fires from each wing and shoots two blasts side by side. Because it is fired from the wings, when the wings are damaged the upgrade is lost and reverts to the single blaster.
Twin Blaster Type-B
When upgraded a second time, plasma cannons become available that do a lot more damage than the normal blasters. It is also fired from the wing so subject to wing damage.
A mildly powerful bomb that is most for useful taking out many enemies at once. Pressing A once fires it, pressing it again detonates it. The blast radius grows slowly, so good timing is required to use it most effectively. The Arwing starts out with three of them, and more can be collected by picking up the icon. The bomb loadout does not reset between missions, only after the Arwing has been destroyed.
A ring of yellow triangles that refills a small amount of the ship’s energy bar.
A ring of grey triangles that refills a large part of the ship’s energy bar and provides a checkpoint from which to restart when crashed.
Pick up the shield icon to become invulnerable for a view hits. The energy meter turns to the shield meter and the Arwing becomes a wireframe model while shields are active.
This item appears instead of the blaster icon when one or both wings are damaged. It will repair the wings, but won't give twin blasters.
There are rings of three blue-white-red diamonds, which when all three diamonds are hit, produce an extra life in the middle
Press R to bank to the right and L to bank to the left. Used throughout the game to get through narrow spaces.
Double-tap R or L to make the Arwing do a clockwise or counter-clockwise barrel roll respectively. Reflects enemy fire and deflects missiles.
Brake and Boost
Press X to boost and B to brake, necessary to get past all kinds of timed obstacles. Not as useful in combat.