When a work of art only exists in theory, its easy to assume that it’s brilliant. With only a compelling concept and nothing more concrete to go on, the imagination is all too happy to fill in the gaps and replace them with its wildest hopes and dreams. For a large chunk of ’90s gamers, this is exactly what happened with Star Fox 2. As the sequel to one of the most captivating games of its era, hopes were understandably sky-high for Nintendo’s ambitious new arcade shooter.
Unfortunately for Star Fox fans though, in 1995 Nintendo quietly announced that it was pulling the plug on the game. While work on this flagship title was pretty much wrapped up by then, Sony had just released the jaw-dropping 32-bit PlayStation, immediately making Nintendo’s poor old 16-bit console look redundant.
It’s not difficult to see why Nintendo chose to focus on its next console and instead went straight on to develop Star Fox 64. Now, however, eleven years later, the Japanese giant has finally opted to release this cult curioso. Included as part of the SNES Classic Mini, this historical artefact is finally out there for the world to play. But has it been worth the decade-plus wait?
Polygon Pushing Action
From the second you load up Star Fox 2, it’s plan to see that this was a seriously ambitious game. With the title screen fading into a glorious screen-filling collection of polygons that make up the game’s terrifying new foe, the Mirage Dragon, this would have been a jaw-dropping sight for SNES gamers back in the ’90s.
Yet, while it’s clear that developer Argonaut Games squeezed every last drop of power out of the SNES’ hardware for Star Fox 2, unfortunately, somewhere on the way they forgot the most crucial part of development — making the game feel fun.
Where the original had a charming, trippy-esque atmosphere to it, the sequel feels strangely cluttered and soulless. With the developers clearly taking copious notes from the Star Wars franchise, the game starts on an RTS-style world map littered with massive spaceships doing battle. Here, players jump from planet to planet, selecting huge icons of flagship cruisers, before engaging in short and often overly simplistic missions.
(Not so) Fantastic Mr. Fox
While the original had a brilliant sense of scale and atmosphere, here it almost feels as though Star Fox’s intergalactic environments have no room to breathe. To make matters worse, the framerate is all over the place. With movement and aiming once again relegated to the d-pad, unfortunately, we found ourselves regularly struggling with navigating an enemy-filled screen thanks to choppy framerates. For a fast-paced, reaction-based shooter, this kind of performance is frankly unforgivable.
While this game was obviously never officially released, it’s still incredibly jarring to load Star Fox 2 up and feel like you’re flying through treacle, especially with every other game on the SNES Mini running brilliantly smoothly.
Despite the hard-as-nails difficulty of its predecessor, Star Fox 2’s first two difficulties are also disappointingly easy. With little challenge to be found here, the core gameplay quickly grows stale.
Is Star Fox 2 Any Good?
While obviously this is a game that can’t be compared to modern standards, unfortunately, it doesn’t even hold a candle to its predecessor. Regardless, it’s a brilliant piece of gaming history, and finally releasing it is a fascinating and admirable move on Nintendo’s part. Sadly though, the reality of Star Fox 2 is its little more than an intriguing long lost relic. If you’ve ordered the SNES Mini specifically for this historic realise, you’re probably going to end up feeling pretty disappointed.