Star Fox Review - Throwback Thursday
I do not know how to describe the perception of STAR FOX when it first hit the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1993. For those in my social circle, the game was monumental, and I’m not sure why. Looking at the game with adult eyes in 2017, I have a hard time justifying such enthusiasm on face value. The game does not appear to have been that far ahead of the curve given how much the console wars were pushing the limits of 16-bit tech at the time. I’ve read that the game utilized a new chip technology to provide the unique experience of faux 3D, but when compared to graphics of other games on the shelf, I’m somewhat shocked we were all as taken with the game as we were. I am sure that Sega fans whose loyalties lay with Genesis felt that we were delusional.
My 2017 perspective aside, I remember Star Fox as a game changer. I don’t recall that much of the marketing campaign, but I remember very distinctly being absolutely mesmerized by the polygon space warfare that was offered by the SNES at that time. Frankly, my guess is that there were plenty of flight simulators in arcades across the globe that looked far better than Star Fox did, but something about the overall experience made it rise above the others and find itself atop the gaming zeitgeist of the time. Though I was certainly aware of the games inclusion on the SNES Classic that came out back in September, I was only mildly interested in playing this game again. My critical view of the graphics withstanding, my memory has been kind to Star Fox: that I loved it as a preteen and played it far too much. I wanted to lock the game in that frame of reference. I even considered that perhaps my lack of desire to play it again may have been the result of overplaying as a child and never actually beating the thing. StarFox had had its run in my life, and I didn’t think it would stand the test of time.
Oftentimes, revisiting nostalgic media from one’s childhood as an adult is a jarring and conflicting experience. You loved a thing; you want to continue loving it, but your adult self simply knows better. This can be particularly true regarding skills-based media (or really any activity) like a video game. So when I finally decided that all I wanted to do one evening was revisit Star Fox, I was assuming I would be losing love for something of my youth.
But I was pleasantly surprised; and frankly, a bit amazed. I could not believe how quickly I not only recalled the old controls and play pattern but also improved. Not only was I able to play the game with a fair amount of skill, but I had an absolute blast piloting again and was even a little more reckless than my youthful self may have been. And therein lies the rub. While it’s true that Star Fox was something of a visual watermark at the time of its release, the strength lied not merely in the graphics but in the entirety of the package. The game possesses fluid controls, great (albeit underdeveloped) characters, and is just plain fun. The challenges in each level are conquerable; the gameplay is relatively straightforward, and the story mode offers just enough narrative and asides throughout to add some weight and context. And somehow the art style communicated intensity while also keeping things light and cheery. On paper, this artistic style should be jarring when transitioning between the opening screens to the level itself, but it works. StarFox was an ace entry into the original SNES, and it has proven to be just as good on the mini console.
I have already written about the SNES classic but revisiting this game has again solidified just how much I have really enjoyed my investment in the system. If my SNES classic ever gives out on me, and I can’t find a replacement, I will want to find Star Fox on cartridge to make sure that I can enjoy it again on my original console. If for no other reason than to have a really, really good time and remind myself that some nostalgic artifacts stand the test of time, even when you expect they won’t. And that’s an encouraging thought.
Old School CJ