This review will probably be the most irregular review I have ever made. The reason? I’m reviewing a game that doesn’t have any official physical copies existing, and I don’t do reviews for prototypes. The game I’m talking about is Star Fox 2. It’s a game that was supposed to be released in the year 1996 with a more advanced engine than its predecessor. It was canceled for perhaps the launch of the Nintendo 64, but there’s been some ROM leaks floating around leading people to think it’s the official version. Former lead programmer Dylan Cuthbert stated otherwise and said he had the official version but was forbidden to distribute it.
However thanks to the release of the Super NES Classic Edition (or SNES Mini for short), Star Fox 2 was released in a more polished form. Along with 20 other games from the system’s past (with Star Fox 2 being touted as the crown jewel), hackers wasted no time in prying the previously unreleased game out of the SNES Mini and distributing it online. I can therefore positively say that Star Fox 2 is an official, existing SNES game, and it deserves a good review for this website and for Star Fox fans everywhere.
After Andross was defeated in the original Star Fox, he has been revived and launched an all-out assault over the Lylat System. So General Pepper must once again call on the Star Fox team to save the day. You’ll first start out with some options, then you’ll be given some cutscenes explaining the predicament. You have six pilots to choose from. Fox and Falco are the most balanced and can shoot out bombs, Peppy and Slippy can heal themselves and have more health at the cost of speed, and Fay and Miyu can use barriers to protect themselves and are faster but have less health. You have to pick a main pilot and a wingman before you continue. Players can switch between them by pressing the Select button on the map. The wingman’s purpose is to give you advice and replace you should you ever lose your first pilot.
Everything runs on semi-real time; you have a large map to traverse to and you must protect Corneria from the onslaught. And if it gets 100% damage, it’s Game Over. To prevent the damage count from rising, you must intercept fighters and missiles and stop planet bases and carriers from spawning more of Andross’s army. Once you pick where to go, you’ll find yourself into combat mode where you must either simply shoot down enemy targets, destroy enemy carriers by flying into them, traversing inside them to destroy their core, entering a planet to shoot, or press switches to enter the main base to destroy it from there (exactly what planet is taken over depends on the game as it’s completely random).
You’re presented with a score, how many targets are left, a timer, a map, how high your Arwing is, and your shield, which looks different from before. Sometimes you’ll encounter the Star Wolf team and they must be taken out to progress. The original Arwing mechanics return along with a Walker Mode which can jump, position itself to shoot and packs a slightly bigger punch. In addition you can charge up your shots, but unlike Star Fox 64 they can’t home in on enemies; that has to be unlocked. The Mothership is used to warp into free planets and replenish your health should you ever get low.
Once you’ve done all that, you finally get a chance to take on Andross and stop his reign for good. Gameplay should feel very familiar to Star Fox players. The normal mode feels like a pushover, but it’s interesting to see concepts that were implemented in later games. For instance, concepts like Star Wolf, the Walker Mode, Andross and his hands, the Charge Shot, All-Range Mode, the Mothership that would become the Great Fox, and a better first-person perspective come into play. Also of note are special Pepper Coins that are present in the official version; they not only fill your health but unlock certain stuff if enough is collected. However you need to play all difficulties to do that.
Everybody knows how outdated the Star Fox graphics are, but this is around 1995-1996, so please keep that in mind. The game uses an enhanced version of the Super FX chip that made its big brother so famous. And I must say that everything looks like the SNES had a big, surreal outer-space fever dream, and I mean that in a very good way. In fact, coolest parts are when entering in a base or carrier there are long corridors to walk through, and it feels like Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda side just kicked in.
As for the Andross battle, let’s just say I once thought his mask form from the first game was scary. I was definitely wrong. Fighting Andross in first-person mode almost made me jump out of my seat for fear of crashing into him. And he gets even scarier playing in harder modes where his big ugly head and now-famous target hands show up. Star Wolf’s ships look pretty cool for an SNES Star Fox game, and that Mirage Dragon is enough to give you nightmares for a little while.
The music is probably better than the last game, and it’s even using the same soundfont as the original. Considering how iconic those tunes were, that was a good choice. Each planet has its own melody which is very fitting for what it represents. My favorites were Eladard, the title theme, and even Star Wolf’s theme, which is powerful enough to give the Nintendo 64 version a run for its money, and that’s saying something since the N64 version is very famous to begin with.
Indeed Star Fox 2 is the best Star Fox game to be released in years, and it’s all thanks to the SNES Mini adding the game to its collection. Finally Star Fox 2 can be enjoyed fully after so many years of being in the prototype stages. Its core mechanics and gameplay are enough to be entertaining along with adding new things to not only keep the game fresh, but be used in later games. Whether being played on an SNES Mini or an emulator, Star Fox 2 is definitely a game that SNES fans must play through at least once, and its replay value only adds to the excitement. Even though it took Nintendo 21 years to eventually release Star Fox 2, the wait is well worth it, giving Fox and his team a chance to soar into our hearts once again.
5 out of 5 Stars.
Star Fox (video game). (2017, December 14). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Fox_(video_game)
Star Fox 2. (2017, December 13). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Fox_2
Star Fox 64. (2017, December 7). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Fox_64
Star Fox Zero. (2017, December 18). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Fox_Zero
Super NES Classic Edition. (2017, December 13). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_NES_Classic_Edition
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