There can’t be many things higher on the wishlist for Nintendo fans than a new Star Fox game (maybe apart from making Waluigi playable in Smash Bros). It’s fair to say that they have been hit and miss over the last couple of decades, and many argue none have topped the excellent Star Fox 64 which was released back in 1997 – 25 years ago.
If you’re confused, the game was renamed Lylat Wars for many European players due to the original’s striking similarity to a German company name. That’s not the most exciting story I grant you, but it’s the truth.
Star Fox 64 followed the intergalactic adventures of Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, Falco Lombardi and the internet sensation that was Slippy Toad. Infact, why don’t you type his famous catch phrase into Google and see what happens?
Anyhow, series baddie Andross was up to no good and our four heroes were hired by General Pepper to put a stop to his reign of terror and destruction. However, Andross wasn’t just going to sit around and wait to be found. Instead he sent his own team of mercenaries called Star Wolf, who tracked each member of the Star Fox team in rather a personal fashion. There were two different endings to the story, depending on the route the player took through the campaign.
Thanks to the power of the Nintendo 64 and its Rumble Pak, players were immersed more deeply in the squad’s adventures than ever before. The game environments felt massive despite the fact most of it was played on rails. That in itself is an impressive feat.
What also impressed were the branching paths that players could choose, along with more difficult options appearing if certain mission objectives were completed. Not only this, but medals were available that would unlock all sorts of goodies, including an Expert Mode to add replayability. This all added up to help achieve a sense of depth and variety that a lot of other games of the era could not hold a candle to.
Star Fox 64 absolutely nailed its gameplay. Fox’s famous Arwing handled brilliantly allowing you to engage in aerial dogfights, pulling off evasive maneuvers and locking weapons on to your targets. Gathering power-ups whilst out on the battlefield was key too, as they would replenish your shields, award extra lives and offer other benefits.
Flying wasn’t your only mode of transport however, certain missions would put you in control of the Landmaster tank or Blue Marine submarine depending on the terrain of the battle you were heading into. All the while your trusty wingmen provided useful insight as well as signposting alternate routes through the stages.
At times, the game would shift into “All-Range Mode” meaning the player could move freely in full 3D around a battle arena. Switching into this mode would often mean you were heading into a boss battle, but it was also how the game structured the multiplayer. Star Fox 64 allowed you to get together with three other friends for some split-screen action, across various modes such as fighting to be the last man standing.
In part thanks to the huge amount of love for Star Fox 64, a remake was released for the 3DS in 2011. This version dropped the Lylat Wars title, but otherwise looked to improve upon what the original offered in almost every way. But disappointingly, despite its release in the age of online gaming it did not feature any such multiplayer functionality.
For me there’s still no question about it, Star Fox 64 was and still remains the best entry in the series – even better than the mighty Starwing before it. The game showcased Shigeru Miyamoto’s immense talent and felt right at the cutting edge of what was possible at the time. For gamers there’s no experience more exciting than that.
But what are your memories of Star Fox 64? Let us know in the comments. And if you want to play it, you’ll find it over on the Nintendo eShop.