The technical second game in the Star Fox series (until 217’s mind blowing release of the Super Nintendo’s Star Fox 2), Star Fox 64 blew the doors off the sucker in the way we never could have imagined. The game took everything we loved about Star Fox and brought it into the 3rd dimension. Not only being able to have better graphics, but being able to U-turn and circle around in a way that just didn’t seem possible on any other system.
The Star Fox team is back and now fully voice acted, and this brings a whole new depth to the game, it gives each member a personality. We got some memes out of it around a decade later, but back when it was released a Barrel Roll was an integral part of staying alive (even though technically the maneuver is actually a aileron roll). I have very fond memories of this game growing up and it was a blast actually playing through the game again on stream for the first time in years.
While the first game’s beginning level felt like a rocket blasted scramble, the new Corneria first level feels like a all out battle. So many things are happening all around and it just might be a bit sensory overload compared to the first game, but it’s all manageable. Thanks to the pacing and the help of teammates. Again, having Peppy, Slippy and Falco fighting alongside Fox really makes the game feel like a space epic. The bosses have become much more grandiose and larger than life, and thanks to the Nintendo 64’s 3 dimensional nature, the boss arenas all take place in a 3D space.
Being able to circle, strafe and U-Turn really do make the game feel like it’s so much bigger in scope than its predecessor. Even some of the levels take a page from (at the time) popular culture. Two levels in particular nearly, full stop, feel copied from the movie Independence Day, and as a kid I loved it. Even as an adult, I started smiling ear to ear when playing through these sections, being reminded of how cool it was back in the day.
But my play through of the game wasn’t drenched in nostalgia solely. I can look at a game fairly subjectively and can come away after playing this game saying that it truly is a great game for its time. Even by today’s standards it is enjoyable. Heck, there is a reason Nintendo re-released it in 3D on the Nintendo 3DS back in 2011.
One thing that I did realize, as I was taking on the evil Andross in the games final moments, was that Nintendo has a weird fascination with disembodied floating Heads and Hands. Andross’s levitating head reminded me of Super Mario 64’s start screen, and the floating hands of Andross reminded me of the Master Hand battle in Super Smash Brothers on the Nintendo 64 as well. It was just a weird time, and I never particularly understood why Andross was this bit floating head and hands. Even if the final boss didn’t make sense, the inclusion of Star Wolf and fighting them in the middle of playing through other levels really brought a sense of a larger story at play.
I really do believe that Nintendo would have continued with the series in a much more serious way. I feel like there is so much more left to explore with the Star Fox team and the long rival history between them and Andross’s Star Wolf team. While I haven’t played the entire series as this point in my life, I am excited to finally visit more of the series with Star Fox Assault on the GameCube and Star Fox Zero on the Wii U (Even though I know everyone despises Zero). Star Fox 64 should have been the launching point to give the series a solid foothold as a staple Nintendo franchise, but they saw fit to leave the series to this weird middle ground that never really reached the height of its 1997 release.
This is the watermark moment of the series, and I think technology has made so many leaps and bounds that Nintendo could create a revolutionary Star Fox game, especially in VR. The series started off with some really cool first person cockpit fighting, and with the 64’s leap in tech, it made it much more real (in our eyes anyways). If Nintendo treated the series with as much reverence as some of its other properties, I think the Star Fox team would be just as popular as Mario and Zelda.