Star Fox 2 (1996/2017)

Star Fox 2 (1996/2017)

Star Fox 2 is such an interesting game not just from the perspective of the game itself, but also taking into account its bizarre release and history. Star Fox 2 never officially released on the SNES like it was supposed to back in 1996. Instead, while it was being prepped for release, the Nintendo 64 was already out and Nintendo in their infinite wisdom decided to shelf the game even though it was already finished. Years later, someone leaked a mostly complete, but still unfinished version on the internet. It was fine, but never felt that great to play.

Then in 2017 Nintendo put out the SNES Classic mini console that while itself was fine, the real interesting piece was that it featured Star Fox 2 as a fully complete game release that would unlock after beating Star Fox 1 on the small miniature system. I remember buying the thing just to unlock the game and when I did I loved it. While playing through the game I couldn’t fathom why Nintendo decided to just not release this game.

Star Fox 2 itself is a very well made game with very big ambitions. Its map for example actually incorporates a bit of Tower Defense mechanics into it, and real time strategy. I would have liked to get into it more and understand it better than I did on stream. But basically as the game’s map is displayed there are missiles and enemies heading toward Corneria. If those ships and missiles make it past the Star Fox team and past the planet’s defense system, the planet takes a certain amount of damage. If that damage reaches 100% the game is over. It’s an odd part to the game as while in the middle of a level the planet can take damage.

Another weird thing about the game is how short it is. Depending on how the game goes, missions, levels and dogfights can be beaten within a couple of minutes. Several bosses were taken out in the matter of moments, less time than some modern game’s loading screens. It all is supposed to be replayable, as the routes for beating the game can be done in a variety of ways and the difficulty can be raised to hard and expert.

The game not only allows for multiple different character ships, but also the addition of a helper pilot. Taking a bit of a side turn from the series 4 teammates all flying together, but the game really does feel more of a solo adventure. Mostly due to the new transforming arwing mechanic. The Arwing, Star Fox’s signature ship, is now able to be transformed into a sort of AT-ST Chicken Walker machine. It looks and controls well enough, although it took a moment for me to wrap my mind around the more basic controls.

The levels themselves in the playthrough I did for this review was very simplistic and really didn’t feature much flying at all. The majority of the levels consisted of on land sections with the Chicken Walker transformation. Pressing buttons and shooting a couple little sections on the main reactor core and the mission was done. Usually getting out of the level within two or three minutes. There were a couple of missions that took place in space and started out as a normal Star Fox level, but then transitioned into a Chicken Walker section. I even spent more time in the cockpit mode fighting the miniboss/Star Wolf team. Each of those fights, while super cool looking, basically ended up being a fraction of the real game.

While in the original game, I can instantly remember most of the classic themes and level tunes, I can’t really pick any at all out of my memory just even a handful of hours after playing the game. It might just be that those original songs have been ingrained into my mind over the years, but I wish I could say the second game’s songs  left a lasting impression, but it doesn’t.

There is a bit more dialog and story going on with this second game, and you can see how much of an influence it was when looking at Star Fox 64. New characters like the Star Wolf team are introduced, but the odd inclusion of Miyu and Faye both never return to the series. I would have liked a bit more story to explain who they were and why they are there. As it stands, they kinda just are selectable characters and never really do anything else.

The new dog fighting levels are rad and make the gameplay feel more fleshed out and planned. I still fantasize about what it would have been like to play this game as a kid. Now that I know what cockpit fighting in VR actually is like, the sections of Star Fox 2’s dogfighting areas really could have let my childlike imagination run wild back in the day. Andross is back and also sends out a couple bosses to battle, and are easy enough to take care of, I feel like there is much more to  the game than what you see in the first playthrough. It’s a shame it’s hidden away so much though.

The short nature of the game is definitely a detriment to the game and I would have loved to see much more of the flying levels on my first playthrough. Even when I played through it on the SNES mini in 2017, I was baffled by how easy and short it was. There was really no reason to not release this game. It’s a fantastic follow up to Star Fox, and not only gives more story and lore, but also looks a ton better as well. Just because the Nintendo 64 was coming out and this game wouldn’t have looked as good compared to it, that is no reason to leave a fully produced and finished game unreleased for over two decades.

Thanks to the SNES Classic, I’m very happy to finally see and play this game all these years later and it was worth tracking down that miniature Super Nintendo console even if it does just sit on the shelf, collecting dust now.