A sequel to the original SNES game, Star Fox 64 brought the gaming industry forward in ways that can still be felt 23 years after its release.
By Johnny Reynolds
Published Jul 07, 2020
With the Nintendo 64, the company was able to transition its most cherished IPs like?The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario and Donkey Kong?into 3D for the first time. These?franchises?all took full advantage of the new gameplay elements and updated graphics that the console offered. Another title that did this was?Star Fox 64, a sequel to the original SNES game. Not only was?Star Fox 64 a vast improvement on its predecessor, but it influenced the world of gaming in ways that are still felt today.
Star Fox 64?was released in North America on June 30, 1997. While the N64 wasn’t as powerful as Sony’s disc-based?PlayStation, the now 23 year-old game featured fantastic visuals, smooth gameplay with branching paths and an impressive amount of voice acting for a cartridge game.
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Star Fox 64?follows the elite Star Fox team, a group of mercenaries led by Fox McCloud. They are hired by General Pepper of the Cornerian Defense Force to stop the exiled scientist, Andross, who is leading attacks across the galaxy and captured Fox’s father five years before the events of the game. It’s a scrolling sci-fi shoot-’em-up?where players control Fox’s Arwing ship as he and his allies fly through areas filled with obstacles and Andross’ minions, blasting everything in their path.
While it sounds like the standard formula for that genre,?Star Fox 64 was unique at the time. It built off of what was in the 1993 original,?which was Nintendo’s second 3D game and first to use polygonal graphics to simulate 3D models. Even though?Star Fox?was groundbreaking, many future shoot-’em-ups stuck to the side-scrolling or top-down perspectives as they always had. So when?Star Fox 64 released, its gameplay was?far more impressive than?similar games on the PlayStation, like?G-Darius?or?Gradius Gaiden.?Although those games utilized 3D graphics, their gameplay was still 2D.
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Another way in which?Star Fox 64 improved the shoot-’em-up genre was through its use of branching paths. Accomplishing certain objectives in a level could lead to a more difficult route. Some levels could only be reached by completing these objectives. There were even two endings, adding a replayability factor that most games in the genre didn’t offer.
Even though it was released on a cartridge,?Star Fox 64 featured an impressive amount of voiceover work. Due to the Nintendo 64’s inferior power compared to the PlayStation, many characters in N64 games only said a few lines, if they spoke at all. Most dialogue was delivered through text boxes, and while?Star Fox 64 still adheres to that, each line is also delivered by a dedicated voiceover artist. This added more personality to the characters in a genre where characterization is far from the most important thing.
This also led to one of gaming’s most famous lines delivered by the late great Rick May as Peppy Hare: “Do a barrel roll.” Additionally, the voiceover work helped Slippy Toad become one of the most infamously annoying characters in gaming, as he squealed in terror every time he needed Fox to save him.
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Perhaps the greatest impact?Star Fox 64?had on gaming as a whole is the Rumble Pak, which came?packaged with the game. But unlike the vast majority of peripherals, the Rumble Pak would go on to change gaming for the better. Its force feedback vibration allowed for a higher level of immersion in?Star Fox 64 and other games that supported it, like?GoldenEye 007. It was so impressive, in fact, that later controller models for the PlayStation would include a rumble feature, and nearly every home console controller since then has included it as well.
Star Fox 64 is one of the most important games ever made. Not only did it improve upon the original, as all great sequels should, but it was a big step forward for the shoot-’em-up genre in terms of gameplay and presentation. The voice acting left an immortal mark on gamer culture, and the inclusion of the Rumble Pak changed how we played games forever.?Over two decades later,?it still deserves to be celebrated.
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