Starfox: RETROspective

written by Incognito

 

I love retro gaming. I love older games for their nostalgic value, their groundbreaking features or graphics and gameplay; I also love newer games with that retro feel – something you can’t always describe, but know it’s different to its counterparts.

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However, growing up and gaming as a child in the 90s meant I was reliant on my parents for new games. As such, I didn’t get that many nor did I play some of the most fondly-remembered games of that era, whereas adults probably would have. When I earned my own money through legitimate means, we were in the PlayStation 2 generation. And when I could properly feed my gaming habit, I owned a Wii, PS3 and an Xbox 360. So, while I love retro games, I never had the chance to check a number of lauded releases off my bucket list.

That’s changed and I now have a very small collection of games I intend to play for the first time.

Star-Fox

 

Having seen Star fox for the Super Nintendo as a child and shunning it 20 years ago, I’ve decided to give it a fair chance.

I’ve played Star Fox 64 many times and was obsessed with it on release. So, I’ve tried to treat Star Fox exactly as it was: the pioneer.

Star Fox actually has one of my favorite intro sequences in a game. The music is perfect, setting the tone of the game. It doesn’t hold back – the first thing you see is a couple of friendly ships being destroyed. The scene does remind me of the opening to Star Wars; a smaller ship being pursued by a much larger enemy.

While this is my first proper playthrough of Star Fox, I had seen it before. I remember thinking as a child how cool it looked. Having been used to 2D platformers, this was mind-blowing. Considering the tech available at the time, it was impressive stuff for the SNES, but I find it extremely difficult to focus on the game. This is primarily down to resolution and the sheer number of things occurring on screen.

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The difficulty in this game lies in perception. The 3D polygon graphics were somewhat limited (although brilliant for the time) making it extremely difficult to know where things are in relation to other objects. For instance, an enemy fires at you – it looks like you are safe. Then, out of nowhere, the laser or ball of fiery mass hits you anyway. Other times, I will dodge one object and fly into something that was previously off-screen. It can be very frustrating.

Stating the obvious, Star Fox 64 is a far clearer game in terms of overall picture clarity, which means I can’t blame a fuzzy picture for my lack of skill. With Star Fox I can and very often do. But there’s something about its laudable attempt at 3D polygon graphics – I forgive it for its unwavering punishment, simply because it’s a damn good game.

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I like that it’s not too linear, relatively speaking. Rather than complete one level, save and eventually progress to the end, there are actually three routes to the final showdown. Each route represents a different difficulty level and each also features unique levels. There are no save points. You simply pick a route and see how far you get, similar to my flirting technique.

For me, that’s not very far… nor do I get very far on Star Fox. If you survive a good chunk of the level unscathed, then you have a good chance. Once you start taking hits, it can very quickly go downhill. In a bid to avoid enemy fire, I often roll to the left or right. Usually, what ends happens is I roll straight into a succession of objects, leaving Arwing-shaped holes in them, and the situation deteriorates rapidly. When I do complete a tougher level, half the time it feels like an accident and not through actual skill. Somehow, I’ve crashed my way through asteroids and enemies, and flown through enough rings to replenish my shield before firing like crazy at the big boss.

At this point, I’ll admit I haven’t completed Star Fox. This is primarily down to it giving me sickness-inducing nausea after about 10 minutes of gameplay. I put this entirely down to my difficulty focusing on any part of the screen. In my defense, I have completed Star Fox 64, so I’ll scrape back and gather together some respectability from that.

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The controls for it being on the Super Nintendo are surprisingly well thought out. I didn’t find myself struggling to aim like you think you would with the lack of a proper joystick. This was a long time ago when joysticks were only just being imagined for a console controller. However, like most games of its time it did not have any multiplayer aspects. To get around that most people just did the ol’ “when you die pass the controller over here” game.

 
All in all, I do love this game. It’s technically impressive, the sound is impeccable and it’s just plain fun to play. Despite it making me ill, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering what I missed when I chose Mario instead of Fox. I do think it is a pretty well thought out game and it has its charm, Star fox gets the RETROspective seal of approval!

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