Star Fox (1)

Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Year: 1993
Developed by: Nintendo
Published by: Nintendo
Platforms: SNES
Feeling Like: Stupid like a Fox

What is it about anthropomorphic animals that is so endearing? We just came back from War for the Planet of the Apes and I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I wasn’t rooting for the simians within ten minutes. Why do we find that elephants having funerals, or dolphins having nicknames for each other, or otters holding hands while drifting at sea so captivating?

We attribute human characteristics upon fauna to identify better with them. We like to think they care about the same things we do, form friendships and have a greater understanding than their day to day survival. Despite the savage nature of their environment, they still can find time to show selflessness.

Plus, they’re almost always faster than us, or stronger, or can jump higher, or have night vision, or can live forever, or can build incredible things, or have bigger teeth, or have sharper claws, or have tactics the Roman legionnaires envied, or can smell blood from miles away, or can hear a sound that wouldn’t even register for us. Hell, the only thing humans beings are good at are thinking and long distance running. But even if we were all perfect combinations of Stephen Hawking and Usain Bolt, we would still suck at nearly everything else. That’s why we love animals. They are nature’s superheroes.

Star Fox (4)
My cat Chester’s power is wanting more food

That’s why games like Star Fox are a home run before you even unravel the packaging. Everybody loves Star Wars, everybody loves animals with attitudes. Here, you’ve got a hare, a fox, a toad and a bird piloting sleek, futuristic X-Wings Arwings in a battle against a monkey wizard against a backdrop of different planets, all with varying levels of chaos; crazy enemies with highlighted weak points, environmental dangers and enough barriers to have you zipping your plane around like it’s got ADD.

This was the birth of the Super FX microchip, an impressive feat of technology at the time. It was the first 3D graphics accelerator in a consumer product, and you better believe the ads told you so. The appearance of a three dimensional space was inspiring in the early 90s. We were still at least a few years away from the Playstation and Nintendo 64, so this was the best we got on home consoles. The polygons haven’t aged well and the ships seem to be moving through invisible molasses, but a lot of the charm is retained.

Star Fox (3)
SOME of the charm is retained

Many of the game’s trademarks would be carried over into its superior sequel, Star Fox 64, including branching paths to different levels, squad mates getting into trouble (mostly Slippy), Falco’s attitude, giant bosses, upgrades to your Arwing’s lasers, wing damage and constant communication over the coms with your oh-so delightful furry teammates. Nintendo was aware they had a winning formula here and didn’t waste any potential.

The muffled blasts of your weapons are timeless, the melodies of Corneria and Space Armada are among the finest ever crafted and it was one of the first times I can remember seeing my teammates on screen and feeling like they were actually contributing. It’s no wonder that the Smash Brothers series would hand pick many characters, items and stages from this universe.

I know the SNES couldn’t handle the weird models that Nintendo used as promotional materials , but now I wish they had. Anything to add to the oddball world of Lylat, I’d be down for. The fact that they just announced Star Fox 2 would receive its first ever release on the SNES Classic potentially adds to the treasure trove of memories that Star Fox gave me. A fox wearing a headset and piloting a death boat in the sky, while spewing cliched encouragements to his fellow animal pilots is a seat I’ll jump back into any day.

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