GameSpite Journal 10 | Star Fox 2

Star Fox 2 | Dev.: Argonaut | Pub: Nintendo | Genre: Shooter | Created: 1995 (Unrleased)

When Star Fox was first released, the impressive nature of its polygonal graphics was somewhat undercut by the fact it was an on-rails shooter. Approaching enormous 3D columns, for instance, doesnít make much of an impression when itís from an angle where all you really see is a steadily growing rectangle. In order to really show off what polygonal models could do, Nintendo developed, but never released, a sequel to Star Fox with a much more freeform, truly 3D design to it.

Rather than traveling down a rail, the bulk of the game was to take place in fairly small arena-like areas, where the player would be given full freedom of movement and encouraged to take out specific targets as quickly as possible. In some cases, this took the form of an open dogfight in space; in others, navigating narrow corridors inside a small base (or a larger capital ship). In order to facilitate tight maneuvering, Star Fox 2 was to steal a page from the Macross playbook and allow the playerís ship to trade its wings for legs on the fly, allowing for more careful navigation, and for major targets to be handled with strafing tactics.

The downside to this approach was that, frankly, only being able to handle a few hundred polygons at a time was somewhat limiting to level design. The intended solution to this was to abandon a traditional level-based structure, and instead focus on brief snippets of this sort of gameplay being used to resolve conflicts in a large, game-spanning war, generally overseen through an interface that looked like something out of an RTS. Various ships and missiles would pour forth from enemy bases in one corner of the screen, spreading out to attack the player and various other points of interest, most significantly their own home world in the opposite corner. The player, then, would dart about the map, intercepting these hostile forces and engaging them in quick battles. The whole approach was rather interesting, calling to mind the campaign design of contemporary RTS games, and other strategy titles like X-Com.

While itís easy to speculate that the RTS feel and somewhat repetitive battles that came with it may have had some hand in the gameís cancellation at a point when it really was more or less finished, the insiderís word is that the developers were concerned with it stealing thunder from the upcoming release of the Nintendo 64, wanting to keep all their polygonal eggs in one basket, as it were.

However, the ambitious RTS design was completely abandoned for the Star Fox sequel which did see the light of day on said platform. While the multiplayer mode and a few single-player levels did allow for the same range of movement, and a similar planetary map was shown between levels, the overall design of the game generally reverted to the approach taken by the original game: A linear rail shooter, albeit one with branching paths and some gimmick levels played with alternate vehicles, including a generally land-bound tank.

Even after a fully playable test version of Star Fox 2 eventually made its way onto the Internet and gained a cult following, Nintendo refused to revisit the non-linear approach for the next several sequels, but eventually did revive it in Star Fox Command.

By Jake Alley? | April 11, 2012 | Previous: Dragon Quest VI | Next: Tales of Phantasia