This review was originally posted on Nintendo Scene on 1st October 2017.
Retro, in all of it’s senses, is having a bit of a revival in recent times. What with the rise of indie developers taking retro styles or gameplay as centre stage in their games and the success of the Nintendo Classic NES Mini, it’s a good time to be old school. Now, the highly anticipated Nintendo Classic SNES Mini is out in the wild (review here) and with it comes a collection of some of the great games that have ever been made. Also, pre-loaded onto the little wonder is an unreleased sequel to the popular 3D shooter; StarFox. Yes, that’s right, the SNES Mini has a brand new, unreleased SNES game that is finally being made available to players. However, how is it to play?
The story of StarFox 2 follows directly on from the end of the first game. The team of anthropomorphic animals took on and took down the malevolent Andross saving the world of Corneria and the universe. The sequel opens with Andross once again invading the Lylat System, throwing a tremendous amount of firepower at Corneria. The Star Fox team, along with a couple of new faces mobilise and set out defeat Andross again and restore peace to the galaxy, running into scrapes once again with their direct opposition, Star Wolf.
StarFox 2 plays much like the first game, only with several upgrades and alterations to the existing formula. At the game’s opening, instead of the whole of the StarFox team being on mission simultaneously, the player selects a main pilot and then the game picks a wingman to take into the game. The various pilots include the returning team from the original plus new characters Faye and Miyu and alter the gameplay in that the pilots have different special attacks and varying levels of shielding on their Arwings. After selecting your heroes, you’re thrown onto the world map, with a real time movement of Andross’ forces shown to give the player multiple destinations.
From here, the game deviates even further from the original by leaving the next move by the player entirely their call. As there are various components of Andross’ fleet to stop, the linear nature of the original is entirely cast off. However, the player is still tasked with defending Corneria, with any stray missiles needing to be stopped before hitting the planet; if it sustains too much damage, it’s game over for the player. Furthermore, at any time on the map of the galaxy, the player can switch to the wingman character instead of the main pilot to shake up the gameplay, which also happens if the main pilot goes down.
However, there is one aspect of the gameplay that feels diminished between the original and this sequel, and that is the lack of full levels. In the original game, the player travelled from planet to planet eliminating the armies of Andross on each one. But StarFox 2 instead has much smaller set-pieces that rely more on keen aim and exploration than flying through alien worlds, because of this the game feels far more empty and short than it’s predecessor. The flying itself, when it happens, if still marvellously tight, but I just wish there was a little more of it. This being said, the allowance for more instances of the Walker transformation in the bases and exploratory sections is a wonderful touch and inches this game forward as an overall evolution in gameplay.
In terms of visual and audio quality though, this game is absolutely stellar, keeping true to the roots of the original game, but sounding and looking that small touch better. The character sprites, in-game models and locations look far better than StarFox and some of the new musical tracks are completely phenomenal and very fitting for their individual circumstances (the Star Wolf one is a personal favourite). Also, the garbled voice clips return from the original, giving each character a distinctive sound and somehow not being annoying unlike other attempts at similar ideas. Finally, the user interface and menus are clean and simple too, making the whole game feel very well designed from an aesthetic standpoint.
So, what do I think of StarFox 2? I think that it’s a gem of the SNES era that is still fun to play now, despite is short length and laughable difficulty. It’s a clear indicator of the actual evolution of the series that was trying to be made after the first game, and a shadow of what it could have been. If the game had been given more time in development, or if they had just developed it more in the last 22 years it was on a shelf, more levels and depth to the game could have been added to make this a phenomenal title. If you have a Nintendo Classic SNES Mini, this is most definitely worth the play, but it isn’t worth getting the console just for it.
Have you been playing StarFox 2, and what do you think of it? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter (@reuthegamer).
Thank you to Nintendo UK for supplying the Nintendo Classic SNES Mini that this review was based on.