When the original Star Fox was released for the Super NES in 1993, it was praised for its difficult challenge and (for its time) state-of-the-art graphics. A sequel seemed natural, and in 1995, Nintendo announced that Star Fox 2 would be released for the venerable 16-bit system. The game would have many new features and a few new characters, but unfortunately, it would never see the light of day. Instead, the next Star Fox game to be released would be the classic Star Fox 64 for the Nintendo 64. So what was Star Fox 2, and what would it have brought to the franchise if it had been released? Today, I will tell you about the game, and the likely reason why it was abruptly canceled.
Once again, Andross, the sinister simian, was the game’s main antagonist, and he had set his sights on taking over the Lylat system. The Star Fox team was called upon to stop Andross’ plans, and this time, they were six members strong. Returning from the first game were Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, and Slippy Toad. Joining them in this adventure were a poodle named Fay and a lynx called Miyu, giving the game six playable characters. Andross had some new recruits of his own; namely, the Star Wolf team, led by Wolf O’Donnell. Since Star Fox 2 was never released, Star Wolf’s official debut would have to wait until Star Fox 64, while neither Fay nor Miyu would ever be seen again.
The title was rather like a strategy game, with players moving improved Arwings around a map of the Lylat system in order to protect all of its planets, especially the peaceful world of Corneria, from Andross’ minions. Contact with any enemy vessel would change the view to a more action-oriented look, whereupon the player would have to complete a mission in order to return to the map. The game play here would be just like the first game, and from time to time, our heroes would fight bosses, including Star Wolf and Andross, to further their progress. To add to the sense of urgency, Corneria would periodically become vulnerable to attack by ships and missiles, and if it took too much damage, all would be lost.
While exploring other planets in the Lylat system, the Star Fox team would have to find a way inside enemy bases and destroy them. By doing this, the planets would be free, and the enemies there would no longer pose a threat to Corneria. Since Star Fox 2 ran in real time, enemies would continue to advance towards Corneria even while the player was engaged in battle. Thus, the player would be forced to use strategic ideas in order to maximize the planet’s survival. Additionally, just as Star Fox had multiple difficulty levels, Star Fox 2 likewise would have several to choose from, and the higher the difficulty, the more enemies to destroy, and the appearances of various levels would also be altered.
The game was quite far along, and there were previews in various game magazines and even the old video kiosks that Nintendo had in many stores through the late 1990s. it would have likely been released by the fall of 1995, but even then, 16-bit systems, while still strong, were gradually being pushed aside in favor of more powerful consoles. Nintendo was working on the Nintendo 64, and it was designed that a new Star Fox game for that system would work better than the Super NES sequel, which had been experiencing production and financial difficulties. The game that would become Star Fox 64 was first previewed in Japan in late 1995, soon thereafter, it became more or less apparent that Star Fox 2 would be no more. However, elements from Star Fox 2 would resurface in future titles, such as Star Wolf, multi player games, and in Star Fox Command, the strategy feature.
If Star Fox 2 had been released, I think I might have given it at least a fair chance. Personally, I am not a big fan of strategy games, but Star Fox 2 had the potential to make me somewhat of a fan of that genre. I also would have liked to see how the aforementioned features that reappeared in later installments would have worked here. Nintendo loves to experiment with their series, and it definitely showed here. Clearly, they were trying to take the Star Fox series in a new direction while at the same time keeping the spirit of the original title intact. Would I have liked this game as much as I did Star Fox and Star Fox 64? Possibly…if nothing else, it sounds like a vast improvement over Star Fox Adventures and Star Fox Assault (I cannot comment on Star Fox Command since I have never played it).
Star Fox 2 can be considered a lost chapter in the life of Fox McCloud. It featured new elements that would be introduced in earnest in later titles, and those that would never resurface again. It could have surely become a solid game released at a relatively late point in the 16-bit era. However, the times, and consoles, were changing, and Star Fox 2 would become a victim of those times. Over times, other Nintendo games would be canceled on one console and move to the next one in succession, but the Star Fox sequel that did show up would be more of a combination of features from the Super NES titles. Ironically, Fox would become a star in another game that was originally something quite different (see my article Games That Never Were: Dinosaur Planet for details). Star Fox 2 had potential, but it will likely never be officially released, which is unfortunate, since the series could have used a title such as this to give it the serious momentum it has been lacking for over the last decade.