Friday, February 06, 2009

Tech: Star Fox

The Super Nintendo wasn't an underpowered machine for its era (hardware-wise, it matched up well with its main 16-bit rival, the Genesis), but the intensity of the early '90s console war prompted Nintendo to release games that contained the Super FX chip. The chip was an onboard coprocessor that had to be included in every game cartridge, but it allowed primitive 3D graphics in an era where "Doom" was the bleeding edge. Only a handful of Super FX titles were ever released, the most important being "Star Fox."

Even without the hype of new technology, "Star Fox" is a classic game. You pilot a futuristic space fighter against hordes of enemies, with polygonal buildings and structures impressively scrolling towards you. You don't actually have control over your path (your ship is restricted to a narrow corridor), but otherwise the controls are fluid - you can climb, dive, bank, and barrel roll with effortless precision.

Even with all the hoopla over the 3D graphics, the sound design wasn't neglected. The music of "Star Fox" was penned by legendary video game composer Koji Kondo (of Super Mario and Zelda fame), lending some gravitas to the explosions and laser fire that occurs onscreen. Those shooty bits sound pretty satisfying, though; when a big boss explodes, a deep rumble fills the speakers.

The game's most impressive level is an epic fight against the "Space Armada," a huge flotilla of ships controlled by the villain Andross. The whole thing feels a lot like "Star Wars" since you actually fly through several of the battleships during the level:


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