When Star Fox debuted on the Super Nintendo in 1993, nobody knew the legacy that both the title and the character would end up leaving behind. Not only have there been Star Fox titles to grace practically every Nintendo console since the title was released, Star Fox, Falco, and Star Wolf have all invaded the world of Super Smash Bros. and quickly become some of the most popular characters in the process. There is just something appealing about Star Fox that digs deep in the guts of gamers. Whether it’s the nostalgia factor, the waves it made towards 3D graphics, or just its fantastical—yet simple—gameplay and story, there’s something about this game that you’re crazy about. Even the biggest Star Fox fans aren’t going to be savvy to all the history that accompanies this iconic series, but thankfully you’ve got a co-pilot here. Re-stock your bombs, power your G-Diffuser, and reacquaint yourselves with the basics of barrel rolls because here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Star Fox.
15. Falco is Not Actually a Falcon
Game changer, right? Even though Team Star Fox’s most ornery member is named Falco Lombardi, he is pointedly not a falcon. What is he, then? It should be obvious: despite his curved predator’s beak and his aggressive tendencies, he’s a pheasant.
A pheasant might not seem like the most majestic of choices for a character, but it’s actually a significant one. Foxes, pheasants, hares (such as Peppy), and frogs (like Slippy) reflect and influence the environment. Each holds a great deal of importance in Japanese mythology; foxes are shape changers, pheasants are considered divine messengers, hares are tricksters. Mitsuhiro Takano, who worked on Star Fox 64’s script and character designs heard directly that the characters were pulled from Japanese folk tales. Shigeru Miyamoto, the producer, wanted these characters to carry a symbolic power with them.
14. It’s the First Super Nintendo Game to Use the Super FX Chip
Super Nintendo’s Star Fox is certainly a graphical triumph that pushes the console to its maximum power. You should be noticing a difference with Star Fox, though, since the title essentially invented a new piece of hardware to heighten the game’s capabilities. Star Fox saw co-development by Nintendo EAD and Argonaut Games, with Argonaut actually creating a new chip that would allow for breakthroughs in 2D and 3D graphical limitations. Dubbed the Super FX Chip, the addition was basically a graphics accelerator chip that, in the case of Star Fox, allowed for a much higher amount of polygons (in the hundreds) to be rendered.
Few games on the Super Nintendo would take advantage of this chip’s capabilities (Dirt Racer, Stunt Race FX), but Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island saw the incorporation of a revised version of this chip to allow for even more power in different areas. Nintendo’s history of debuting new technology with Star Fox titles would continue when Star Fox 64 would be the initial title to incorporate the system’s rumble pak. Fox just needs that power!
13. Europe’s Version of Star Fox is Called Starwing
It’s a mystery how Star Fox managed to sell any copies at all in Europe under the title Starwing, because it’s such a vastly inferior title. “Starwing”? What even is that? Why hide that the game is starring some interplanetary space fox with a pilot’s license? It’s the game’s biggest selling point. If you do happen to find yourself playing a PAL version of Star Fox, the reason that the game has a different title is because there’s a German company out there that’s named “StarVox” (to make matters more complicated, their F is pronounced like a V in German). So there’s your reason; like with most of life’s greatest mysteries, copyright law is the answer.
This title situation sees some improvement by the time that Star Fox 64 rolls around. Rather than going the Starwing 64 route, the PAL version of Star Fox 64 is titled Lylat Wars, which is actually kind of bad ass. It’s certainly a much more dramatic title. Or a possible Ken Burns documentary.
12. Thunderbirds Was an Important Influence on Star Fox
Yes, the British-made Thunderbirds was a crucial influence in the production of the SNES title, but not in the way that you might expect. Shigeru Miyamoto was a big fan of Thunderbirds and felt compelled to pay the series homage in his new title. Not in terms of aircraft or battles, but rather the very particular puppets that defined the series. Curiously, Miyamoto keeps this puppet approach and Thunderbirds association primarily reserved for the game’s marketing.
Early commercials, magazine ads, and even the box art for Star Fox see Nintendo using a puppet approach with Star Fox and his crew. The mouth movements seen in the character speech boxes in Star Fox 64 are supposed to mirror this puppet way of speaking, too. Nintendo embraced this element once again when they were doing promotion for the recent Star Fox Zero, with Miyamoto even enrolling the skills of the Jim Henson Company to create new versions of the Star Fox crew for ads. It’s a shame that Star Fox Zero itself isn’t as charming as its ads were.
11. Star Fox Borrowed From US Pop Culture, Like Star Wars
It’s hard to not be an obsessive Star Wars fan, apparently even if you’re Shigeru Miyamoto. Star Fox and Star Wars might have similar titles, but that’s hardly an excuse for the former to look towards the latter for inspiration. In spite of that, there does happen to be a degree of cross pollination between the two space sagas. For instance, the Cornerian forces largely work as a substitute for the Rebel Alliance and operate in a very similar manner. The connections go one step further though with characters even outright quoting lines from the movie. This tradition carries over into Star Fox 64 where the quoting continues, but there’s also an award ceremony at the end of the game that very much mirrors Star Wars: A New Hope’s conclusion. You’re meant to connect these dots. Additionally, Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day also sees reference in the form of the mothership in Star Fox 64’s Katina level. These major touchstones of American cinema get homage paid to because Star Fox’s mission is meant to feel as epic as the ones in these films. It sticks the landing, too.
10. Star Fox’s Iconic Arwing Came to Be Due to Hardware Limitations
Over the course of the many Star Fox titles, Fox’s go-to aircraft, the Arwing, has practically become as famous as the character himself. The series has thrown a bunch of vehicles at gamers for both better (the landmaster) and worse (the gyrocopter) that have come and gone, but Fox’s Arwing always remains. What’s kind of incredible though is that the sleek design of the ship was designed through limitations rather than style, but it’s stuck all the same.
The Arwing has a triangular design scheme that’s a result of the limitations of the SNES’ Super FX Chip. Even though the chip allows for much higher processing, the Super FX Chip still has a max amount of polygons that it’s capable of rendering. The triangle form of the ship in turn would inspire the name that the team chose for it, with its wing-like appearance and resemblance to the letter “A” being clear in the title “Arwing.” It’s a good thing that the polygons didn’t have the ship looking like a giant G-shaped pumpkin with years of flying in Geepumpkins being the result.
9. Nintendo Literally Shipped Copies of Star Fox by Parachute to Meet Insane Preorder Demands
Fans get pretty ravenous over the release of AAA titles nowadays, with there also being a litany of pre-order bonuses that provide plenty of flashy incentives for jumping onto the bandwagon early. It’s easy to understand the fandom that goes on around games now, but it’s a little crazy to think of Star Fox on the Super Nintendo causing just as much of an uproar. Hype for Star Fox reached such a height that before the game was even released the pre-orders were nearing two million copies. Nintendo tried to stay on top of this crazy level of demand by shipping one million copies to retailers on the game’s opening weekend, some of which were dropped by parachute to reach chains like Sears on time. Nintendo pulled out all the stops for the game’s release, creating other promotions like a tie-in with Kellogg’s and Nelsonic for a Star Fox game watch as well as Arwing-shaped game kiosks with a rumble-sensitive chair in Sears. Do you think die-hard gamers thought R.O.B. was the one dropping those parachute packages?
8. A Separate “Competition Version” of the Game Was Made
In order to drum up even more fanfare for Star Fox, Nintendo was eager to have some sort of creative competition that would get people addicted to their title. In one of the cooler competitions to come along with video games, Nintendo actually made a new version of the game, titled Super Star Fox Weekend (Official Competition). This alternative copy of the game would play for four continuous minutes with there being three time-attack based levels (two from Star Fox, and one wholly original). The competition’s goal was to determine who could get the highest score possible by shooting down the most enemies in the allotted four minutes. It was sort of a brilliant idea. Prizes for the contest ranged from flight pins, to flight jackets, to trips around the globe.
Approximately 2000 copies of this competition cartridge were made with a number of them being made available through Nintendo Power. Due to this, the “game” has found itself playable in the form of a ROM and gained a real cult reputation accordingly. Admittedly, there is something special about checking out this experience as if you were competing during May of 1993.
7. Star Fox Was Named Best Shooter of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly
The fact that Star Fox is a property that has graced a Nintendo console for every generation since its inception should be a good indicator that these are popular, well received games. How could Star Fox even see a sequel if it was a poorly reviewed, divisive cult title? So while Star Fox certainly gets good grades at the space academy, just how well the title would perform is a little surprising. The reputable gaming magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly would name the SNES game the Best Shooter of 1993, with the general consensus from reviews of the year being that the title drastically helped re-envision what was possible with 3D graphics in gaming. Nintendo Power gave the game a 4.125/5, Famitsu awarded it 34/40, and GamePro gave it a perfect 5/5. Those scores are nothing to barrel roll at!
Even decades after its release Star Fox continues to gain accolades and prove its staying power. It placed #115 on EGM’s “The Greatest 200 Video Games of Their Time” list and #82 on Nintendo Power’s “Top 200 [Nintendo] Games” list. It’s also the top-selling space shooter starring an anthropomorphic fox and his friends!
6. A Star Fox 2 Was Made, and Cancelled, for the Super Nintendo
Due to Star Fox’s popularity, it should be a no-brainer that talks of a sequel didn’t take long. While you might go on thinking that Star Fox 64 is the second title in the series—and it is—there was also a direct follow-up to the original that was actually developed, and more or less finished, on the SNES. Star Fox 2 involved a number of concepts like All-Range Mode, walker vehicles, and the introduction of the villain, Star Wolf. It also made use of the system’s Super FX 2 Chip. Cancellation of this title had nothing to do with performance concerns, but rather with the release of the Nintendo 64 looming closer. Nintendo was worried that the new system would eclipse the game. As a result, Star Fox 2 was shelved with most of its concepts instead being funneled into Star Fox 64, which was seen as a reboot of the original game more so than a sequel. Leaked copies of a beta copy of Star Fox 2 have since been made available online and due to the growing emulation community, the title has largely been made playable and has gained a surprising degree of love.
5. The Original Star Fox Has a Hidden Secret Level
The later Star Fox games might be all about rewarding exploration and finding the secret goodies that lie behind the path less traveled, but believe it or not, the original game in the series offers up an early example of this treasure hunting bearing results. The first Star Fox might seem fairly linear but the game’s third level hides a hidden secret in the depths of its asteroid field portion. Once the asteroids begin to arrive, you need to destroy the two waves of them that come at you, then fly directly into the bird that appears afterwards. It might sound like insanity, but doing so will transport you to this bizarre “Out of This Dimension” level.
This secret level is like Dali was given the opportunity to be a game designer. The place is a distorted mess where enemies are paper and the boss at the end is a giant slot machine that plays classical folk songs. So how do you beat him? By getting triple 7s, naturally.
4. The Original Game Might Not Even Be Canon
For a game that’s so important to Nintendo’s history and longevity, you would think that the company would be able to get a bit of a better grasp on the series’ timeline and what technically has or hasn’t happened. If you happen to consult the instruction manual for the Gamecube title, Star Fox: Assault, you’ll curiously see that there’s a recap of the events that have gone down throughout the series. However, the start of the calendar’s events begins at Star Fox 64 and not Star Fox. The plot thickens when information on the (Japanese) Star Fox Adventures website attempts to explain that both Star Fox 64 and its SNES predecessor actually depict the same events—they’re just different takes on the same premise. Or even alternate realities. This idea gains further credence when considering that the Wii U’s Star Fox Zero is yet another reboot of the original Star Fox story. So even though some official calendar might leave out certain titles or events, it’s worth remembering that Star Fox, Star Fox 64, and Star Fox Zero are virtually different versions of the same game. The canon can begin with whichever direction you most prefer.
3. There’s an 11-Issue Comic Book Adaptation of Star Fox
During the height of Nintendo Power’s creative renaissance, they would occasionally find themselves publishing serialized comics in the extra pages of their official gaming magazine. These comics sometimes focused on entirely original ideas and stories, niche corners of the Nintendo universe, or occasionally re-telling some of the stories of Nintendo’s most famous video games in comic form. Starting in Issue #45, there were 11 issues/installments of a Star Fox comic. Each comic clocked in at 12 pages, bringing this saga to a total of 132 pages of color action. While this comic largely adapts the events of Star Fox, it also gets to expand the story during its earlier material. It also makes for the first appearance of any sort of girlfriend for Slippy, which would strangely become a staple in later Star Fox titles.
This comic is such a fascinating relic that it’s a shame that Nintendo hasn’t included it in full as some sort of pre-order bonus for a Star Fox game. Even just linking it to Star Fox on the Virtual Console would be a very cool move.
2. A Version of Star Fox Existed on the Virtual Boy
Full disclosure, while this version of Star Fox might be merely a tech demo, it still amounts to Star Fox on the Virtual Boy and that warrants discussion. The Virtual Boy remains one of Nintendo’s scarlet letters that it might never fully live down. In spite of the many misguided decisions revolving around the virtual reality console, there is still an absolute charm to the console that can’t be ignored. The early days of the Virtual Boy might have promised people the moon (in 3D!), but it didn’t get the chance to feature many of Nintendo’s mascots. Sure, Mario and Wario got titles, but for a minute it looked like Star Fox might also be making the transition over to the red-gridded torture device. An early tech demo for the Virtual Boy featured some Star Fox footage that was meant to be used as an advertising tool when the system was teased at E3. The footage was impressive, but the system didn’t last long enough for a full game to develop. That being said, the Virtual Boy did release the game Red Alarm, which was an extremely similar polygonal wire-frame shooter that used Star Fox’s control scheme.
1. The Star Fox and F-Zero Franchises Exist in the Same Universe
Nintendo has always been pretty good about fan service and linking their various franchises together in cute ways. Interestingly, the Star Fox series seems to continually link itself to the F-Zero franchise in some exciting ways. For instance, both titles were developed by Nintendo EAD with the express purpose of showcasing new technology (The Super FX Chip for Star Fox, Mode 7 in F-Zero’s case). In a cute tie-in, Star Fox’s G-Diffuser system is apparently used in the F-Zero universe, too (and invented by Jody Summers’ dad, at that). Both series also see character designs being done by Takaya Imamura, F-Zero’s Octoman shows up in Star Fox Command, and if you want to take things even further, F-Zero X and GX feature a racer named James McCloud who dresses just like Fox, looks like a fox, and pilots a racer that might as well be an Arwing. But the most bizarre connection is that one of the possible Star Fox Command endings sees Fox and Falco converting their Arwings into racers and establishing a racing league called G-Zero. Hmm…How is R.O.B. with copyright law?
But maybe you’re an even bigger fan of the Great Wolf and all things Star Fox. Do a barrel roll into our comments section and let your voice be heard.