Back when Star Fox (or Star Wing, depending on where you lived) launched on the SNES, the primitive 3D polygons were revolutionary for their time. There was meant to be Star Fox 2 as well, but that was only completed and officially released for the SNES Mini console. With Star Fox 2, the idea was to change the gameplay up a bit, as rather than being an on-rails shooter like the original was, the sequel planned to introduce free-roam flying action. Skycadia on Xbox One takes after Star Fox in its cast of animal pilots and grainy polygonal graphics, and in many ways tries to implement the free roaming shooting of Star Fox 2. But the end result is largely unremarkable, albeit still delivering a fun, arcade shooter.
There’s no real setup or story to Skycadia, as a bunch of pilots hang about a tavern, with their main occupation being that of a bounty hunter. Score attack is the goal here, and although the game presents this as bounty earned, you only accumulate these funds as a momentary high score record and nothing else. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little misleading when certain characters and weapons unlock at certain scores rather than through the bounty earned to date. The score resets each time so it’s a matter of nailing an exceptionally good run to get the scores needed for the elusive unlocks.
The unique and puzzling aspect of Skycadia is its visuals. Opting for light pastel colours, the presentation is certainly inviting and friendly but the odd thing is the graininess of it all. These deliberately grainy and pixelated graphics are perhaps meant to emulate the early days of 3D in console gaming, yet it makes one wonder why a developer would deliberately sabotage what could have been a decent cel-shaded art style. The character designs are interesting, but it’s a shame you can barely make out what they look like when everything is so pixelated.
As a game, Skycadia is fine for the most part, as players take control of the aircraft entirely in the first person. It feels like an airborne first-person shooter rather than a flight game, but the right thumbstick helps you perform the ever-essential barrel roll. There’s really nothing wrong with the play mechanics; they’re functional as they should be, but the implementation of it in the overall gameplay design feels rather basic.
The free roaming game world allows players to take down the many, many bounties. These enemy aircrafts are piloted by all sorts of bugs, and so it’s a tale of birds versus bugs essentially. There’s no real fixed objective, as players are free to take on however many of these bounties as they like until they run out of hearts. As simple as it sounds, these get busy in a hurry as new enemy types are discovered. Upon defeat each enemy drops a whole bunch of coins which need to be collected quickly to earn the score.
The level design is basically open-ended, and even though the game presents a range of physical locations as background art, players will be battling in the air primarily. There’s not much to say about the game world but there are some cool visual effects such as a day/night cycle and changing weather effects. Skycadia even offers a free roaming mode to allow players to fly and explore at their own leisure. There’s no real point to it really, so it’s likely a mode that many would try once just out of curiosity, if anything else.
Skycadia on Xbox is as basic an arcade flight game as they come, and the simple, functional mechanics serve their purpose well to deliver a reasonable score-chasing experience. The game design is a bit on the basic side, and the visual style is a strange curiosity; with games like The Falconeer available on the console, there’s very little reason to invest your time into Skycadia despite its rather inexpensive entry price.