Aka: StarFox - Genre: Flight, Shooter - Publisher: Nintendo - Release Year: 1993 - For: Super NES (SNES)
3 reviews from the community
Review of "Starwing (SNES)"
Looking back at retro videogames can be a tricky business, a lot of things that were popular or revolutionary for the time may not necessarily have aged well. Games are still a relatively young medium of entertainment, and in a relatively short space of time it has seen huge leaps in technology, meaning what was cutting edge one day could be outdated in just a couple of years.This brings us nicely to Starwing, or as it is known in every territory but Europe StarFox. The name change was necessitated by being deemed too similar to the moniker of a German company named StarVox. Given that to this day, well over 25 years later, I’ve still never knowingly encountered StarVox, the fact the words ‘Fox’ and ‘Vox’ are actually different and the fact that StarFox revolves around a Fox in space, I do find this one of the most ludicrous changes between territories in videogame history. By the time the GameCube game into play Nintendo were allowed to use the StarFox brand, but just to make you aware I’m sitting shaking my head every time I type ‘Starwing’.
Starwing is an interesting title for more than just an enforced and ridiculous change of title though. Made using a ‘Super FX’ processing chip, Starwing was very much the first mainstream console game to render its graphics using polygons. Released in 1993, this was a pretty major development for videogames, which up until this point were getting good at feigning 3 dimensions, but Starwing actually unleashed spaceships, buildings and enemies in full polygon presentation, which was incredible for its time. The game also marked something of a change of pace for Nintendo, with a Science Fiction orientated arcade Shoot ‘em Up being as un-Nintendo a game as Nintendo games got.Crafted by Nintendo’s A-Team, led by Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who created Mario, Starwing was a big undertaking for the company. It is set in another galaxy where the planet of Corneria, which is populated by bipedal talking dogs, foxes, birds, rabbits and toads are at war with the forces of planet Venom, led by the evil albino ape Andross. Corneria is falling behind in this battle, and it decides its only hope is to send a crack strike team to lead a direct attack on Andross base. That team is led by you, Fox McCloud, and consists of your crew Slippy the Toad, Peppy the Rabbit and Falco the, imaginatively enough, Falcon.
You’ll hear a lot of Nintendo fans, the ones that take this kind of thing scarily serious, declare this as some form of masterstroke, and Miyamoto himself has been quoted as saying he had no interest in doing a traditional Sci-Fi game because it had been done, which will make anyone who has ever seen the cartoon Bucky O’Hare laugh given that it’s basically the same. I also don’t really see the great difference this makes given that 95% of Fox’s onscreen presence is in a tiny portrait box, as you actually control his ship which could be piloted by anyone.The game falls into the category of ‘On-The-Rails’ shooter, which sees you positioned behind your Arwing spacecraft as it is in a state of constant movement forward. You do have control over its movements left, right, up and down, and unlike a lot of genre entries, you can slow down or temporarily speed up using 2 of the face buttons. Your L+R shoulder buttons also allow you to quickly lean in the direction they represent, and with the right nous use them to barrel-role to avoid enemy fire. Your controls are rounded off with your standard fire button and finally one to deliver a devastating Nova Bomb, of which you have a limited supply.
These controls respond nicely enough, they are easy to pick up and become comfortable with and are all around a well thought out and accomplished experience. This is for the main method of gameplay, the one you’ll see in all the screenshots and videos, and doesn’t take into account the first person sections the game rather awkwardly crowbars in. In these sections you do not see your ship, only a targeting reticule. While I think this was a good idea, and to begin with it’s a fun change of pace, the game also expects you to control your movement with this reticule, and also makes trying to dodge enemy fire incredibly hard given that you can’t actually see what you are trying to negotiate past, and also renders the barrel-roll evade void. This wouldn’t be as bad, but what should have been an occasional foray to mix up play ends up coming up at an unhealthily constant rate.With regards to the third person view, from behind the ship, I do enjoy the game a whole lot more. It’s a pretty simple experience, fly from one end of the level to the other blasting everything in your way and avoiding obstacles until facing off against a giant boss. It’s neither big nor clever, but is really quite good fun. There is no denying the thrill of duking in and out of buildings, dodging enemy fire while gunning down enemy ships is very real, and something the game does well. Occasionally one of your team will fly into view, either in pursuit or trying to avoid enemy fire. Should it be the latter, you are encouraged to help them out, as they will remain onscreen for a short time and in theory help out, but truth be told they don’t do a great deal.
Ordinarily I tend to separate the graphics from the gameplay when looking at a game, but when it comes to Starwing the two are almost symbiotically tied, because they play a part in some of the things that make the game good, but also a great deal of what ruins it. Now, while this may have been cutting edge at one stage, there cannot be any argument whatsoever that saying they now look ‘basic’ is being pretty generous.Despite owning pretty much all the major games consoles released in the 1990s, personally I prefer to go back to the SNES and the Megadrive than the PlayStation, Saturn or N64. The SNES and the MD were made when companies had very much got to grips with 2D graphics and gameplay, and as such you were seeing developers in their stride. I’m personally of the belief we may have jumped headlong into 3D too quickly, and abandoned traditional 2D games far too readily. I’ll openly admit 10 year old me was as susceptible to “Oh my god 3D visuals!” as anyone, but when you compare how good Capcom’s 2D fighting games looked and played compared to some of the generic 3D fighters churned out on the 32-Bit consoles, they stand up a whole lot better now.
With this said, while I applaud Starwing for taking the bold step into 3 dimensions, it really isn’t pretty. Everything is blocky and angular, obstacles pop up in front of you that really should have been visible well in advance and pretty much every flaw that would plague early 3D games is present here. The game actually mixes in elements of 2D, with explosions and some enemy fire being represented by hand drawn sprites. It’s done well enough that the 2 looks don’t actually clash to be honest, but it does present problems of its own. Trying to gauge how far close a shot that’s rendered in a completely different graphical style is harder than you’d expect. To top it off, everything is played with an ugly black border down all 4 edges of the screen.It’s actually credit to how slick the action plays that this game still manages to be enjoyable despite this. I’ll admit the game’s somewhat legendary status doesn’t sit well with me, but there is no denying that it is possible to get caught up in some of its stages and have a good time.
One thing I do like is that the game presents you with 3 different potential routes to take on your mission, with only the first and last levels being consistent across them. Nominally, these are meant to represent 3 different difficulty levels, but personally I actually find some of the stages in the ‘easy’ route harder than the ones in the allegedly tougher paths. Even just taken as 3 different paths, it does add a healthy dose of replay value to the game.One aspect of the game that is undisputedly fantastic is its sound though. The music in particular is absolutely golden. From the ominous opening track as the camera pans up one of Andross’ battleships to the absolutely sensational upbeat, rousing battle theme of the first level, Starwing sounds incredible. That aforementioned theme to the first level is one that stayed stuck in my head for years after I first played this at a friend’s house, and was what I hummed in my head any time I played with any form of toys involved in an aerial dogfight. Sound effects are pretty standard but likewise well done, but the game also has a rather unusual highlight in the form of its voice samples. While the characters speech all appears in written form, the voice samples that accompany have the characters speaking in a fictional language using sounds befitting whatever animal they are. It’s a little thing but one that adds a lot of character.
As an overall package I do enjoy Starwing, it’s a fun shooter that, as bad as it does look, was very much a watershed moment for videogames in terms of graphics. I don’t subscribe to the notion that it’s an all-time classic, or even one of the better games on the system, but Nintendo are one of these companies whose games seem to start off a lot of reviews with a higher score than other company’s before the power switch has even been pressed on. I’d recommend the game to those who enjoy Shoot ‘em Ups, although you do have to be braced for the most primitive of 3D visuals, which can filter over to create gameplay frustrations.The game was successful enough to spawn into a franchise which still goes to this day, and does contain some rather good games that were more made using technology more comfortable of the time. While it may seem I’m being pretty negative regarding it, I do actually like it, and a new game in the series is usually one of the first things I look for on a Nintendo console.
Despite being a Nintendo made game, and the start of a popular franchise, Starwing is actually one of the more affordable titles on the second hand market. I was pleasantly surprised to find that you can pick up an unboxed copy in Cex for £6 if they have it in stock, and on eBay you’ll be looking at between £5-£10 for an unboxed cartridge. Given the less than sturdy nature of SNES cardboard boxes, picking it up boxed and complete can amp the price up significantly, but even then you’re looking at the £20 bracket, which really isn’t too bad.
Product Information : Starwing (SNES)
Manufacturer's product descriptionAka: StarFox - Genre: Flight, Shooter - Publisher: Nintendo - Release Year: 1993 - For: Super NES (SNES)
Release Year: 1993
Genre: Flight; Shooter
Platform: Super NES (SNES)
Listed on Ciao since: 19/01/2009