What's Next For StarFox?
By Gary Gray
Another E3 has come and gone and there’ been no sign of the venerable StarFox franchise. Sure, we’ve had plenty of features and DLC for the Switch version of Starlink: Battle for Atlas, but the last dedicated StarFox game we got was the not-exactly-spectacular StarFox Zero on the Wii U over 3 years ago. The franchise has been in a bit of a slump for a while now.
Beloved by many Nintendo fans, StarFox reached its peak in the late ‘90s with StarFox 64 (or Lylat Wars as it was known in Europe). But even before then, innovative and clever ideas made StarFox a showcase of fresh and revolutionary thinking in the industry. Utilising the Super-FX chip built into its Super Nintendo Cartridge, the original StarFox (Starwing in Europe - lord knows why they kept changing the name for us east of the Atlantic) managed to pull off a fully 3D experience on a predominantly 2D system.
The Rumble Pak that came bundled with the N64 follow up meant you felt every jolt and hit on your Arwing as it dodged and barrel-rolled through the skies. This innovation paved the way for rumble in future controllers across every platform - something that has since become a standard feature.
Since then though, StarFox has found itself being passed from developer to developer, and while there were still innovations, they pale in comparison to features that made the series so remarkable in the first place. Coupled with inconsistencies in quality, it’s not overly surprising that interest in Star Fox dwindled and the franchise’s future has become questionable.
So what’s next for StarFox? How can it recapture the thrill and amazement we all felt playing those early SNES and N64 titles? Well let’s take a look at the more recent outings for our furry friend to see what the future could hold for Fox McCloud and his band of critter companions.
A Link to the future
Starlink: Battle for Atlas on the Nintendo Switch saw the StarFox team helping out the eponymous squad with their missions across the Atlas system. OK, so Starlink wasn’t a true StarFox game, but it did have a decent set of StarFox focused side missions that built upon that universe. It also offered some excellent cut-scenes that added an extra depth of character to our animal friends.
Starlink delivered a substantial amount of changes to what would be considered the norm for a StarFox game, chief of which was an open world, nay, an open universe with multiple planets to land on. Coupled with the way the game gave you the freedom to choose your course and destination, it gave the StarFox portions of the game a fresh and unique feel.
I can image it now, flying through the asteroid field in the Lylat system to find my way back to Corneria while taking any path I like in an open galaxy. This kind of freedom would be a natural extension and a breath of fresh air for the predominantly on rails shooter.
Giving the StarFox licence out to Ubisoft and the Starlink team wouldn’t come as a surprise, but somehow it still feels like it would be unexpected. I’m more than confident that the Starlink team are capable of pushing StarFox into a fresh and modern direction that the series deserves.
Renewed hope spread amongst the StarFox community when StarFox Zero got announced for the Wii U, and paired with the news that Bayonnetta’s Platinum Games were the developers, it pushed the excitement into overdrive. There was even an easter egg included in Bayonetta 2 - a Fox McCloud costume that unlocked a full-on StarFox level, harking back to StarFox 64 but only this time in full HD glory replete with Platinum’s signature craziness.
Unfortunately, although StarFox Zero was in many ways a great game, it suffered from trying to make the most out of the Wii U Gamepad, resulting in some awkward camera angles and unfriendly controls. Ironically, the innovation and fresh thinking that once made the series so memorable, resulted in a game that just wasn’t a great deal of fun to play this time around.
StarFox Zero did bring the Lylat system to life more than it has ever been though, especially in terms of the environments and story. While being very similar to StarFox 64 in a lot of ways (it was a defacto reboot after all) it brought some interesting story changes, free roaming dogfights and some epic space battles. Using a more conventional control scheme and building on the foundations of what is now already in place, a sequel to StarFox Zero could result in some serious glory, righting the wrongs that the shoehorned Gamepad controls set in place.
New Boots old Origins
Ok, so arguably the franchise has had enough reboots already, but Nintendo could re boot the franchise again. Once more wiping out each and every game from the series canon, only this time getting one of Nintendo’s core development teams to produce it. A younger team full of ideas and drive could make some innovations and developments that we have not seen from StarFox.
Bearing in mind that Breath of the Wild and Splatoon were both made by younger development teams to great success, perhaps some of the fresher blood at Nintendo could inject a new lease of life into the anthropomorphic sci-fi shooter.
Speaking of Zelda, Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey have both recently been given Labo support in the form of VR. While StarFox does not yet have its own game on the Nintendo Switch, I personally think that StarFox is THE perfect game to make use of VR.
Zipping around in the Arwing while being able to look around freely would make the experience more personal, more exciting but most of all… new! Labo StarFox could definitely work, especially if it was sold as its own game with the Labor VR bundled in. The prospect of buiding a Labo Arwing that the Switch could somehow slot into as well sounds frankly awesome.
So there’s a few ideas on how the StarFox franchise could be rejuvenated and potentially reach similar heights to the series’ glory days. But what are you thoughts? How would you inject some fresh life into Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad and Falco Lombardi? Let us know in the comments section!
Gary is the co-founder of and writer for Nintendo Village, and also hosts multiple shows. A fan of not only Nintendo but all things gaming, the GameBoy is where his love first blossomed. His favourite game is The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening.