Years and years before Star Fox experimented with dinosaurs and gyro controls, the series was already set to explore new territory with Star Fox 2 with walker combat, an interactive overworld map and strategic gameplay. Set to be a direct sequel to the original SNES Star Fox, this completed sequel sadly never saw the light of day thanks to a rapidly-advancing 3D era of gaming, and outside of unfinished leaked ROMs, it was to never see the light of day…until now! Thanks to the Super Nintendo Classic, we can finally enjoy this forgotten classic as intended, but is it worth the wait? In a word, yes.
Operating similar to 2006’s Star Fox Command, Andross has returned again to wreak havoc upon the Lylat System, launching an onslaught of planet takeovers and missile barrages. Star Fox 2 has the Star Fox team (including newcomers Fay the dog and Miyu the Lynx) defending their home planet Corneria against these incoming forces, for if it suffers 100% damage from Andross’s forces, it’s all over. In summary, Star Fox 2 is a game about managing forces: do you take on the imminent enemy fleet heading towards Corneria, or leave that to the satellite defense system and take out the enemy base on Eladard?
What really makes Star Fox 2 work is its multi-layered strategy. For instance, there’s a time meter, but how quickly you defeat an enemy encounter isn’t just for scoring; in reality, it reflects the real-time events occurring on the main map, meaning that, yes, that one missile will inch ever closer to Corneria as you’re taking back Fortuna. With all the variables that can occur, be they satellite takeovers or sudden boss encounters, you’ll have to continually weigh your options before making the next move. Thankfully, the SNES Classic’s save states alleviate the stress somewhat, but you’ll still need to think critically on the choices you’ll make.
While there aren’t any scrolling stages this time, the alternations between aerial and ground combat feel natural: Arwings are naturally your only option in space dogfights, but switching between it and your Walker also provides compelling strategy. For instance, as mentioned in our guide, while Walkers are vastly preferable in taking over bases, Arwings can speed up the process in maneuvering about or even if you’re lost. Through experimenting with the nuances of control and form (not to mention the secrets you’ll find!), Star Fox 2‘s depth is not to be sneezed at.
Make no mistake about it: Star Fox 2 is tough. Be it the constant pressure of missiles firing towards Corneria or bosses and Star Wolf members hounding you down, you’re bound to get shot down and make strategic mistakes. The game isn’t perfect in this — the space fight camera can be a bit wonky, especially since your reticle can’t be re-synced — but even the toughest of Star Fox 2‘s trials can be overcome through experimentation. As the Hard and Expert modes prove, it’s a game about trial-and-error, so needless you say, you’ll be making use of those save states and the reset button quite often.
Much like the original, Star Fox 2’s ambitious graphics (relatively speaking) take a toll on the SNES hardware, meaning you will have to deal with choppy framerates and the like. While this has been enough to turn off newcomers to both this and the original, it’s better to view it as an acquired taste: it’s not as if it interferes with your shooting, and the basic polygons are what they are, so it’s merely a matter of getting used to it.
Thankfully, the music should be an intense nostalgia trip for veterans of the original Star Fox. This sequel uses the same soundfont and instrumentation, so that 16-bit space opera feel returns in all its glory. Well, somewhat; most of the songs aren’t quite as memorable this time (likely since the original composer didn’t return), so you probably won’t be humming anything akin to Corneria or the Main Theme from the first game. This isn’t to say the new music is underwhelming, however; it manages to cough up the occasional gem in songs like Eladard’s theme, and since it channels enough of the first game in tone you won’t notice a big dip in quality (And yes, the gibberish language from the first game returns and is as charming as ever).
In short, Star Fox 2 is a game that finally deserved to see the light of day. It may not reach the highs of both the original or Star Fox 64, but that’s hardly an issue: it’s by far the most successful of the experimental Star Foxes, and that alone proves one thing: a non-rail shooter iteration can be done successfully, and I look forward to seeing more entries of its ilk. (Preferably with Fay and Miyu in tow; down with Krystal!)
Final Verdict: 4/5
Publisher: Nintendo ; Developer: Nintendo, Argonaut; Players: 1-2 ; Released: September 29, 2017 ; MSRP: $79.99 (Bundled with the Super Nintendo Classic)