Here’s a SNES classic that was groundbreaking for its day—Starwing! Launched in 1993, Nintendo’s series was a hit and boasted some mega impressive graphics.
Starwing on the SNES
Okay, first off—the name. This series has a weird history with naming issues across different continents.
In Europe for the PAL version, it’s Starwing. Pretty much everywhere else, it’s Star Fox.
This bizarre issue continued on for the sequel in 1997. Lylat Wars, as we had in Europe, is Star Fox 64 for most others. Neat, eh?
Anyway, the first in the series launched in 1993. Nintendo EAD and British developer Argonaut Software (now defunct) worked on the rail shooter, which boasted impressive polygon effects.
Nintendo used a Super FX chip to achieve that, the very first 3D graphics accelerator chip in a consumer product there had ever been!
It must have been fun creating the game. Shigeru Miyamoto and Katsuya Eguchi handled the main game design.
The Arwings the characters fly were inspired by X-Wings from Star Wars. Argonaut was the first to suggest using spaceships, while Nintendo designed the characters, levels, and managed the soundtrack.
Along with Rare’s Donkey Kong Country (1994), this meant the SNES was really pushing the technological boat out in its final years of existence.
And for the time, Starwing really looked the part.
In the game, you take control of Fox McLoud. You’re in the Lylat system, a region of space with anthropomorphic animals ruling the skies.
Andross, an evil scientist, has fled to a planet called Venom where he’s declared war on everyone else.
After setting his vast army onto the rest of the solar system, it’s up to Fox and his colleagues to wipe the bastard out.
Along with General Pepper (a dog) to explain your missions, you’re joined by three wingmen.
These are Peppy Hare, Falco Lombardi, and the glorious Slippy Toad.
That lot flies with you on missions. And all the action is around on-rails shooting to wipe out enemies, reach an end of level boss, and advance towards Andross.
Your wingmen interact with you as well, with some of the greatest video game sound effects ever recorded! Dib dibber, dib dibber.
The game has enjoyed various re-releases over the years, such as on the SNES Mini Classic in 2017 (along with its sequel Star Fox 2, which was never released).
And is it fun? Back in the day, it was a blast! A thoroughly absorbing and dramatic game.
These days it’s showing its age a fair bit and some of the gaming mechanics feel clunky and anachronistic. It’s not aged in the way many other SNES masterpieces have.
However, for what it is now we find something of a landmark title that really pushed the limits of technology in 1993.
We feel Starwing deserves respect for that. Even if, these days, you’re better suited giving Lylat Wars another whirl for your Star Fox hit.
The Star Fox Series Now
The series remains one of the great unloved projects in Nintendo’s canon. Seriously, they really need to make more of these games!
In 2016 the company hyped fans with a new title in Star Fox Zero.
However, it turned into something of a massive disappointment. A rare example of Nintendo getting one of its flagship titles so badly wrong.
After the critical panning that received (the game isn’t bad, it’s just mediocre and plagued by a bizarre control system) we can’t see the Japanese behemoth touching the series again for a while.
That’s a real shame. In the words of Slippy Toad, “Dib dibber, dib dibber.” Indeed.