Star Fox, released as Starwing in Europe due to the existence of an Atari 2600 game with the same name, is the first game in the Star Fox series of video games. It was released in the spring of 1993 for the SNES. It was the first three-dimensional Nintendo game, and it included the Super FX chip, a coprocessor used to accelerate graphics display. The complex display of three-dimensional models with polygons was still new and uncommon in console video games, and the game was much hyped as a result. Star Fox featured kemono character designs by Nintendo artist Takaya Imamura, music composed by Hajime Hirasawa and obstacle course style gameplay. Star Fox was developed by Nintendo EAD with assistance by Argonaut Software, and was published by Nintendo.
The storyline involves Fox McCloud and the Star Fox team, who must defend their homeworld of Corneria against the attacking forces of Andross.
The game was very successful and started another one of Nintendo's major franchises, with one remake and three sequels released to date.
Star Fox is a rail shooter in a third-person 3D perspective. The player must navigate his/her spacecraft, an Arwing, through environments while various enemies (spaceships, robots, creatures, etc.) attack him. Along the way various power-ups are placed in the stage to help the player. The player receives a score on each level based on how many enemies destroyed and how well the player has defended his/her teammates. At the end of each level there is a boss that the player must defeat before progressing to the next level.
Star Fox possesses certain unique elements that differentiate it from the standard scrolling shooter. Most scrolling shooters force the player forward at a constant speed. While this is also true for Star Fox, there are thrusters and retro-rockets on the Arwing that allow the player to temporarily speed up and slow down accordingly. These can be used to maneuver around enemy attacks and other obstacles.
The damage model is another difference. In the standard scrolling shooter, touching almost any object (whether it be an enemy ship, enemy fire, or other obstacles) results in the destruction of the player's craft. In Star Fox, the Arwing has a certain amount of shield energy that represents how much damage can be absorbed before the destruction of the craft. The game also has a small degree of locational damage detection. For example, if the ship's wings clip too much against obstacles or the ground, they will break off. This significantly affects the flying ability of the craft and the ability to upgrade the weapons.
The difficulty in Star Fox is also set in a unique way. Most scrolling shooters, if they have selectable difficulty levels, allow the player to set the difficulty by choosing an option (e.g. "Easy," "Normal," and "Hard") at the beginning of the game. This option usually affects variables such as the number of lives a player has, the number of enemies encountered in the game, the speed of enemies, and so on. In contrast, at the beginning of Star Fox, the player is given a choice of one of three routes to take through the Lylat system. Each of these routes corresponds with a certain level of difficulty, but each route has its own series of unique levels. This gives Star Fox somewhat more replay value than other scrolling shooters that have a fixed series of levels each time the game is played. The three game paths all contain the planet Corneria (the first level) and Venom (the last level), but they each have different versions depending on the path taken.
The evil Andross has launched an attack against Corneria and the rest of the planets in the Lylat system, and it is up to Star Fox, an elite mercenary team led by Fox McCloud, to stop him. The battle begins on Corneria and proceeds through the system, eventually arriving at the planet Venom, location of Andross' headquarters, and culminating in a one-on-one battle against Andross himself.
The game company Argonaut worked closely with Nintendo during the early years of the NES and SNES. They developed a prototype of the game that they had running on the NES, initially codenamed "NesGlider", which was inspired by their earlier 8-bit game Starglider and then some weeks later on a prototype of the SNES. Jez San told Nintendo that this was as good as it could get unless they were allowed to design custom hardware to make the SNES better at 3D. Nintendo said yes, and San hired chip designers and made the Super FX chip, the first 3D graphics accelerator.
While the game was originally released as Star Fox, in Europe the title was changed to Starwing. It is usually claimed that this was due to Nintendo fearing legal action due to the existence of an Atari game called Star Fox (Atari 2600) released in 1983. This older game was trademarked in Europe, but not in the USA.
It is also claimed that the name change was caused by the existence of yet another game with the same name by Ariolasoft for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC home computers, while the British Nintendo Official Magazine alternatively suggested it was because there was a European company called Star Vox in Europe, so Nintendo changed the name to avoid confusion.
Reception and legacy
The game took the #115 spot on EGMs "The Greatest 200 Videogames of Their Time", and 82nd best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list. It also received a 34 out of 40 from Famitsu magazine, and a 4.125 out of 5 from Nintendo Power Magazine. Next Gen Magazine pointed out Star Fox as helping pioneer the use of 3-D video game graphics. The game has been used as an example of how, even with a fully polygon design, the game was still very similar to older games in that there was a set path to travel through each level.