There’s a new Star Fox game due out next month and I’m worried about it. I have no doubt that the game will be great, but that’s not what’s getting to me. The thing about Star Fox is that standards have changed in the last twenty-three years, and I just don’t know if Star Fox makes sense in 2016.
When the original Star Fox released back in 1993 on the Super Nintendo, it was kind of revolutionary. The majority of Super Nintendo games were, for lack of a better term, very video gamey. They were primarily 2D games with little story. Just move from right to left and rescue the princess. Obviously there’s some exceptions to this, like SquareSoft’s RPGs, but generally, if you popped in a random SNES cartridge, this is what you could expect. And then along comes Star Fox.
Star Fox was fully polygonal. It’s not particularly impressive by today’s standards, it mostly just looks like flying triangles, but at the time it was a revelation. Suddenly, cinematic camera angles in cutscenes were possible. Characters would chatter with each other during gameplay. Console games could now feel more like an interactive movie.
Another one of the traits of games from this era is that they are often very short. If you know what you’re doing, the original Star Fox can be beaten in less than an hour. This is the kind of the thing that would be viewed as a problem today, but back then, it was par for the course. Many games, Star Fox included, were meant to be finished in a single sitting. The longevity came from the challenge the game presented and alternate paths and secrets. Repeating the same game over and over just to get better at it and find all the secrets is something players used to do all the time, but it simply isn’t the way people play games in 2016.
However, I think Nintendo is aware of this. They know that the core gameplay of Star Fox is great, but also simple by today’s standards. Star Fox 64, the first sequel to Star Fox, was built on largely the same ideas, but added multiplayer to help give the game more legs. Star Fox Assault on the GameCube added missions where you were on foot, turning the game into more of a third-person shooter. Star Fox Command on the DS was more of turn based strategy game that would turn into mini Star Fox levels when units interacted. Every Star Fox game since the original added something to try and make the game a little more complicated.
Now, Star Fox Zero isn’t out yet, so I might be jumping to conclusions, but everything we’ve seen points to it just being Star Fox. I love Star Fox, but the idea of putting out a game that is just more of that at full price just seems insane. Nowadays, games come out for less than twenty dollars that have more complicated gameplay and last longer. A good example would be Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley is $15, offers tons of content to do, and takes players over seventy hours to see and do everything. I know that the actual style of game is quite a bit different, but it’s hard to see the value in something that’s most likely to be so much shorter, so much simpler, and so much more expensive.
All of this really bums me out. A new Star Fox coming out should be reason to celebrate, and I’m still willing to bet that it’s going to be a lot of fun. But putting Star Fox out in it’s most basic form at full price on a console that has a very small user base sounds like a recipe for disaster. But this is all speculative, and I hope to be proven wrong next month.
Oh, and you probably noticed that I didn’t mention Star Fox Adventures when I was going over the previous games. Adventures is such a different game and didn’t even start as a Star Fox game, so it didn’t really make sense to bring it up. However, I do really like that game and hope to talk about in much more detail later on. So, hey, look forward to that.