- "Never give up. Trust your instincts."
- —James McCloud
James McCloud was a legendary and astonishing pilot who became the founder and leader of the legendary Star Fox Team, a mercenary-for-hire squadron in the Lylat System. James was talented in terms of fighting, piloting, and adventuring. He was well known for holding an unwavering loyalty to his friends. After his apparent and supposed death, James was later succeeded as leader of Star Fox by his only son, Fox McCloud.
Formation of Star Fox
As an ace pilot and avid adventurer, James served in the Cornerian Army with his friends Peppy and Pepper, before pulling out to start an elite commando unit of mercenaries-for-hire, known as the Star Fox team, initially working on a freelance basis. The team consisted of James himself, who was the leader and founder of the mercenary squadron, Peppy Hare, who was already a close friend, and Pigma Dengar, who proved himself to be a cunning teammate in the Star Fox Team. In the course of their duties, James and Star Fox traveled the length and breadth of the Lylat system,pursuing jobs and settling disputes. The team earned overflowing wealth to the point that James decided to upgrade the team's headquarters and purchased a mothership called the Great Fox, which was so expensive that James took an 80-year loan from a bank to transport the trio across the system faster and more efficiently.
Reports of strange activity were detected on Venom - a barren, inhospitable, and desolate planet on the far edge of the Lylat System, where the mad scientist Andross had been exiled to it just a few years before. General Pepper, worried for the safety of the entire system, hired the original Star Fox team to go on a scouting mission to Venom and determine the cause of the strange activity.
Upon their arrival, Pigma betrayed the team to Andross, who had bribed him with the promise of immense riches. James and Peppy were immediately captured by Andross at the onset of the betrayal. Peppy managed to barely escape, and flew his damaged Arwing back to Corneria. When he returned, he informed General Pepper and James' son, Fox, of what happened to James, Pigma, and himself during the failed scouting mission. While it is unknown what exactly happened to the missing James, he was declared dead. The Star Wolf leader Wolf O'Donnell was also suspected to have been involved in James' disappearance as well. Upon hearing this, Fox eventually vowed to get revenge on Andross and for murdering his father and bring the traitorous Pigma to justice.
After Peppy returned home to Corneria and delivered the news of James' fate to Fox and General Pepper, Fox decided to follow in his father's footsteps and resume leadership of Star Fox. Using both the Great Fox and ROB 64, a robotic humanoid purchased by James for the team but never given the chance to be utilized, Fox recruited Peppy, Slippy Toad, and Falco Lombardi to fight together and defend peace wherever it was threatened, thus creating a new Star Fox Team to be formed. Pigma Dengar succeeded at his mission, got paid a huge sum of money, and instead joined Star Wolf, a rival mercenary-for-hire group. However, he was kicked out due to his incredible greed and distrustful nature after the Lylat Wars. He was later assimilated by the Aparoids and was apparently destroyed by Fox.
In most Star Fox: Command endings, Star Fox remains together and may even have a new generation. The legacy that James McCloud left behind is one that the citizens of the Lylat System are indebted to, but the ultimate fate of James and the current Star Fox team is yet to be revealed.
James has, temporarily, returned on occasion, to help his son and his friends in their time of need. Below are some instances when James makes an appearance in the games:
- The first was on Venom, where Star Fox was concluding their mission during the Lylat Wars to re-take the conquered Lylat System from the Venomian Army and defeat Andross. Fox ventured into the subterranean command center to fight Andross himself, and was poised to defeat him. The dying mad scientist self-destructed, intending to destroy the base and take Fox with it. James, riding in his Arwing, came and saved Fox, guiding him out of the base as the destructive flames raged behind him and led him to safety. James expressed his pride in his son, saying how strong he had become and also saying some helpful hints to him, and upon emerging from the exploding base, James disappeared into Venom's sky. Fox was somewhat saddened by him leaving again, but when questioned by his teammates, Fox insisted nothing was wrong, as his father was still watching over him. While some fans take this to mean that James McCloud is still alive, it was heavily implied that this was a vision or ghost that came to his son. If one watches closely, there is a shooting star that likely represents James on the right corner of the screen in this ending, which is symbolism for his passing. The player also cannot interact with James' Arwing during the escape sequence. If the route taken leads to Venom 1 rather than Venom 2, however, there will be more references to James' death. When doing the Bolse mission with Star Wolf's arrival, Pigma, when giving his entry transmission, will taunt "Daddy screamed REAL good before he died!" (although he only says the "died" part if Andrew Oikonny isn't present, as otherwise Andrew Oikonny will cut in). While Fox is traversing the base's tunnel and is about to face the Andross decoy, Andross will taunt "You will die just like your father!" The Japanese Star Fox 64 manual also uses more explicit wording to refer to James' doom.
- James somehow contacted his son again during Fox's mission to save Sauria from destruction. One of the Cheat Tokens Fox found revealed a message from James: "I can see you have matured into a strong leader. I am always there with you. Never give up... Trust your instincts... My son...". It is possible that the other Cheat Tokens are messages from James, though this is the only direct indication.
- While technically not a hint towards his being alive or dead, the Aparoid Queen mimics James McCloud occasionally, along with the other lifeforms infected by the Aparoids (Pigma, General Pepper, ROB, and Peppy), which hints that the Aparoids might have come into contact with him at one point. Or the image of James could have been taken from the mentioned character's memories, since they all knew him before. Falco was about to mention that he was dead before Fox cut him off, though.
- James' latest appearance was nine years later, during the Anglar Blitz, where Star Fox made its final raid on Venom to defeat the Anglar Emperor. James suddenly appeared in his Arwing, and aided Fox, Falco and Dash Bowman in their battles under the Venom oceans. Oddly, Fox didn't react in any way when his father appeared, provided this was directly before facing the Anglar Emperor. After the battle was done, James disappeared once again. None of the characters appear to be able to see him, suggesting he is a ghost. That is also his only playable appearance in any Star Fox game.
Early depiction in the comic
He was born and grew up on the planet Corneria. Much of his past remains unknown, but he graduated from the Cornerian Flight Academy. He married Vixy Reinard McCloud, founded the Star Fox Team, and had only one child, whom he raised on his own since according to the Star Fox comic (1993), Vixy Reinard McCloud was killed by Andross. Andross had rigged a bomb into James' car and since Vixy's car was out of gas, James offered to let Vixy use his car, unwary of Andross's scheme. When Vixy turned the car's ignition, the bomb exploded, resulting in her death. Both Andross and James were stricken with grief by this sudden death. Later, James was presumed dead when an experimental bomb testing "went wrong." Designed by Andross, then a scientist of the planet Corneria, the bomb was secretly supposed to detonate when James reached critical velocity. However, the Black Hole was created from the explosion. James is later seen to be alive in some form in it. Since Vixy Reinard McCloud has never been found in any other sources, it is unknown whether or not that information should be taken as canon or non-canon.
In the original Star Fox, no direct reference is made to the fate of Fox's father, but General Pepper does vaguely lament that the Black Hole is the last place anyone had seen his father alive. In reality, the Black Hole serves as a warp point in the Lylat System. However, the Black Hole has not appeared in any other Star Fox game and is may not be considered canon due to the series being rebooted with Nintendo 64's Star Fox 64. Nonetheless, both stories are technically official since the stories were created by Nintendo for their video game series.
A human resembling James McCloud debuted in F-Zero X as an unlockable racer. As a direct reference, James dons the exact same clothes his Star Fox counterpart wore. His machine, Little Wyvern (#10), resembles the Arwing. His ending in the Grand Prix reads 'I drive like a sly fox' is another direct reference to his original counterpart. In F-Zero GX, more references are made as well. He is redesigned to have his hair spiked up in two different directions, resembling fox ears. He also mentions of a mercenary group called Galaxy Dog, another reference to Star Fox. James also mentions a son (though not by name) as his inspiration to participate in the F-Zero races. He also makes an appearance in the series anime in his self-titled episode which shows a flashback of him during his mercenary days. His partner went by the name of O'Donnell, an obvious reference to Wolf.
James and Fox appear strikingly similar. The telltale sign that one is looking at James McCloud is that he is never seen without his sunglasses. However, Fox is sometimes seen with sunglasses. Besides the sunglasses, there have been various other differences between Fox and James. In Star Fox 64, James has a narrower head and darker fur, while in Star Fox Command James wears a yellow scarf rather than a red one. Also in Star Fox: Assault, James is grey fringed, in comparison to his son, Fox's white striped forehead.
James McCloud was voiced by Mike West in Star Fox 64 and by Jim Walker in Star Fox: Assault. These are the same actors who voiced his son Fox McCloud in the same games. In the Japanese versions of these games, James is voiced by Tomohisa Asô and Hirohiko Kakegawa, respectively.
- On the Expert difficulty mode in Star Fox 64, Fox wears a pair of sunglasses and looks almost indistinguishable from James. Also, Fox's name doesn't appear during transmissions he sends out during the course of Expert Mode, further referencing his appearance as James, as James has the same color box around his mugshot as Fox's.
- James is seen without his shades in the comics, revealing blue eyes. This is the only appearance to date in which his eyes are revealed.
- When James McCloud reappeared in the Venom Sea in Star Fox Command, in the third ending "Dash Make a Choice", his Arwing is located on-screen as a semi transparent icon. Due to James' widely accepted death, it's as if he is a ghost, for none of the wingmates can see him, only Fox and the Anglar enemies. Oddly enough, his ship is a physical object unlike in Star Fox 64. In addition, James pilots a newer Arwing model from Star Fox: Assault. This is because he shares the same statistics as Peppy, even sharing the same character theme (which is a remix of the Aparoid Homeworld penetration and Peppy's sacrifice cutscene during Star Fox: Assault).
- According to the Nintendo Power comics, the hidden space whale who releases items from Sector Y is Fox's dad.
- Wolf's advice to Fox "Don't hesitate, when the time comes, just act!" is something of a pun on James's own catchphrase.