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Star Fox 2 is an upcoming video game in the Star Fox series. It was originally slated to be released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, directly proceeding the first Star Fox in 1993. Argonaut Software and Nintendo co-developed the game, and it was planned to utilize an improved Super FX chip; however, the game was initially canceled in mid-1995 by Shigeru Miyamoto due to the impending release of the Nintendo 64 and the desire to use the most advanced system available for a new Star Fox game, leading to it remaining unreleased for over 22 years. However, on June 26, 2017, the Super NES Classic Edition announcement unveiled an official release of the game as an unlockable for players who completed the first level of the first game.

Currently, this article mainly describes an emulated ROM of the near-final version, which is a fully playable, very late Japanese prototype of the game made at around the time the game was canceled. It and an early tech demo that included a dropped multiplayer feature were compiled from leaked source code. This near-final game was later unofficially translated into English with the debugging features removed. However, Dylan Cuthbert has expressed dissatisfaction with this unfinished build on numerous occasions, feeling that it does not fully realize his vision.

Plot

Star Fox 2 continues the battle against Emperor Andross, who survived the previous war and seeks to conquer the Lylat system. He returns with a rebuilt army and a floating stronghold called Astropolis, and launches an all-out offensive against the Lylat system, capturing planets along the way (including his former base, Venom, which has been terraformed since his old invasion). General Pepper once again requests the services of the Star Fox team, consisting of the traditional male line-up Fox, Falco, Slippy, and Peppy, along with new female teammates Miyu and Fay. Armed with a Mothership and custom Arwings, the team sets out to defend Corneria by defeating Andross's forces before they can inflict critical damage on the planet, which includes members of Star Wolf and finally the mad scientist himself.

Gameplay

Stafox 2 map

The Star Fox 2 map.

The premise of Star Fox 2 is very different from the original Star Fox. Instead of following mostly linear paths inside predefined missions, the player moves a team of two ships freely around a map screen that represents the Lylat system. When the player's ships make contact with enemy forces, the game will go into an action perspective, piloting the Arwing directly with controls and gameplay similar to the first Star Fox, except with all-range controls and a reticle for charged lasers. When the player clears the specified objectives in that encounter, destroying all fighters in the vicinity for example, the game will go back into the main map screen, where the player can select a new destination for their craft.

The objective of the game is to destroy all enemy forces present in the map while defending planet Corneria (located in the lower left corner of the map), preventing its damage level from reaching 100% due to enemy attacks. To protect Corneria the player will have to intercept fighters and incoming missiles while also dealing with the sources of these attacks: battleships, which will deploy more fighter squadrons, and planetary bases which will fire more missiles towards Corneria. To assist the player, General Pepper will employ an immobile space station that can shoot down enemies on a limited basis — the player must also defend this installation from special enemy ships called viruses that can take over the satellite, and use its cannon to fire at Corneria.

SatelliteDefenseSystemSprite

The satellite defense system for Corneria.

If the player's ship makes contact with a captured planet on the map screen, they will be transported into another action sequence located on the planet's surface. There they will have to open the enemy's base entrance through different means depending on the level (by pressing a switch, defeating a boss, etc.). The option to quickly transform the Arwing into a Walker is suitable for ground navigation. Once the player has been able to gain access to the base interior, they will have to go through a complex and destroy the base's generator at the end. The planet will be then liberated and no more missiles will be fired from it. Starfighters from the Star Wolf team will be defending some captured planets, and they will have to be fought if the player wants to liberate one of those planets. They eventually go after the player's Arwings when some time has passed. Bosses will also be dispatched to chase the player's ships at some point in the game.

The game runs in semi-real time: when the player takes an action, time starts counting and enemies will perform actions as well. This occurs whether the player is moving around on the map screen or has engaged an enemy in battle, making it possible for enemies to damage Corneria or new enemies to launch during that time. This forces the player to think tactically and defeat their enemies as quick and efficiently as possible. At times the player may even have to leave a battle to take on other enemies that are getting too close to the planet. In this way, Star Fox 2 bears considerable similarity to many real-time strategy games.

Once the player has cleared all enemy forces present on the map, their ships will then travel to Andross' base, located on the top right corner of the map, to face one last level and fight Andross himself at the end of it. Once Andross is defeated, the player has won the game, and their performance will be scored and ranked in a debriefing screen.

Difficulty levels have a great impact on the game, changing the layout of all levels and presenting stronger and more numerous enemy forces on each successive difficulty level. Each difficulty level also contains its own bonus items (dubbed "Pepper Coins" by fans), which will be hidden inside the game's levels for the player to find and collect.

Characters and setting

StarFox 2

Title screen of the late development version, showing all of the main characters.

As other games in the series, Star Fox 2 takes place in the Lylat system. During the course of the game, the Star Fox team gradually penetrates the defense of Andross's forces and reaches his floating base, Astropolis.

Star Fox 2 features six playable characters, the highest known number of any game in the series until Star Fox Command. Primary characters include Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad, and two new additions to the team: Miyu, a tomboyish lynx, and Fay, a girlish dog with a red hair bow.

Most of the main characters in the game have an intensely positive or negative relationship with Fox McCloud and his team, particularly Andross, the game's main antagonist who has repeatedly organized invasions of the Lylat system. The supporting character Wolf and his Star Wolf team serve as secondary villains throughout the game. Most of these characters have reappeared in later games in the series, such as Star Fox 64 or Star Fox Assault, and also in other franchises, such as Super Smash Bros. Like is predecessor, this game features some clips of voice acting, most of which were provided by British voice actress Nathalie Cox.

Development and initial cancellation

Star Fox 2 cover

Placeholder SNES box art.

The game was also written as Star Fox II during development, and was extensively covered by the various gaming magazines of the time, both at its one E3 appearance as well as in the many screenshots provided by Nintendo to generate interest in the sequel. Since the leaking of the incomplete code between May and September of 1999, some individuals have managed to take and compile a large variety of screen-grabs using emulation. Though it's likely that a promotion video was put together at the time, no copies of it have ever been made public. The lack of media coverage about the compiled prototypes may be due to a fear of legal action from either NCL or NOA. Early in development, Andross or a look-alike (called "Saru", Japanese for a monkey or ape) and Fara Phoenix from the Star Fox comic (known as "Lady") were in place of Miyu and Fay. A sheep character was also designed for the game, but was replaced by Fay before the final version.

On the Internet, ROM images exist of a very early tech demo of the game, which was originally shown at trade shows. Another ROM, compiled from the latest known source code before the project was canceled, was released in August 2002 by an anonymous Nintendo employee — this version is nearly complete and contains minor bugs, debug code, and unfinished features such as a rudimentary multiplayer mode. These ROMs can be played using a SNES emulator. Additionally, a fan-made patch is in circulation for the near-final ROM — this fixes most of the bugs, removes the debug code and the unfinished features, and translates the game's dialog into English. When asked about whether or not the game would be released on the Wii's Virtual Console or the Nintendo DS, Star Fox designer Takaya Imamura said "Probably not."

While Nintendo never disclosed the official reason for its cancellation, Star Fox 2 programmer Dylan Cuthbert shares his thoughts:

Saru

"Saru" from an earlier prototype.

Fara Starfox 2

"Lady" from an earlier prototype.

"Star Fox 2 was fully completed. I was the lead programmer and whilst Giles made Stunt Race FX, myself and the rest of the original Starfox team (ie. Nintendo's artists and designers) expanded Star Fox into a full 3D shooting game. The reason for non-release was the then impending Nintendo 64 which of course was intended to be released a lot sooner than it actually was. Miyamoto-san decided he wanted to have a clean break between 3D games on the SNES and 3D games on the new superior 64 bit system. In retrospect, he could have released Star Fox 2 and there would have been over a year and a half before the Nintendo 64 came out. But hindsight is always 20/20." The staff members of IGN suggested that high production costs and internal development problems also contributed to its cancellation.

According to Dylan Cuthbert, some programming elements done for the game, such as the camera programs, were adapted and reused for the development of Super Mario 64. Shigeru Miyamoto also stated that ideas such as All-Range Mode, multiplayer, and Star Wolf scenarios came from Star Fox 2. He estimated that 30% of Star Fox 64 came from Star Fox 2. Additionally, several game concepts have been reused in Star Fox Command for the Nintendo DS — among these are the map screen gameplay element and the ability to choose from multiple characters, each with their own fighters and statistics. The concept of the Arwing transforming into a Walker was reused in Star Fox Zero. Furthermore, Miyu's flirtatious attitude was given to Katt Monroe.

Availability

This game, in varying stages of development, is available in ROM form on the Internet, although in most countries it is considered illegal to possess without direct permission from Nintendo due to still technically being copyrighted material. Nintendo has made no attempt to remove the distribution of the ROM.

Most ROMs available are in Japanese, though an English fan-translation exists. A version with an official translation can be seen in magazine screenshots, but it is unknown if it was archived or scrapped. One unofficial modification has an odd glitch in which pressing select to turn into a Walker when prompted will immediately take the player to the credits, which cannot be skipped.

On May 21, 2015, Dylan Cuthbert interviewed the Nintendo Life website. He stated that, despite canceling Star Fox 2, his team finished the game anyway, and when working on Star Fox Command, received a copy of this master ROM. He also stated that the builds floating online were far from the final product. In addition, he cited nightmarish legal issues with the now-defunct Argonaut Games as a key reason for the lack of official digital releases of games utilizing the Super FX chip up to that point. He has repeated these sentiments on other occasions.

On June 26, 2017, Nintendo made the surprise announcement that Star Fox 2 will finally be included on the Super NES Classic Edition, set for a North American and European release date of September 29, 2017. It will mark the first time the game will be officially released in over two decades, as well as the first time that Super FX games will be re-released since their original Game Pak format. On June 28, 2017, a Nintendo representative speaking to Famitsu claimed that the reason Super FX games weren't on Virtual Console was due to it being unable to properly emulate the chip, leaving Dylan Cuthbert's legal explanation unmentioned.

Trivia

  • Since its original cancellation, elements of Star Fox 2 were reworked into later titles such as Star Fox 64 and Star Fox Zero. In particular, Star Fox Command is sometimes seen as a spiritual successor, borrowing more heavily on the strategic map and multiple ship concepts.
  • Captain Shears is based on this game's character design for General Pepper.
  • The final artwork appears to differ from the leaked ROM in a number of ways. The number "2" in the logo is completely redesigned with a metallic texture, which also differs slightly between the Super NES and Super Famicom-style artwork. The four Arwings flying behind the team seem to be the same traditional model, whereas there were only two of each type in the prototypes and never with the same paint job. Andross's image in the background has a pupil in his right eye and bears closer resemblance to his usual appearance. Additionally, Miyu has larger ears lacking her left golden earring, her clothing is recolored, and both she and Fay wear reddish gloves. While this could be artistic license, it could be an indicator that the official 2017 release of Star Fox 2 will differ from the 1995 prototype in unexpected ways.
  • In the final artwork, Fox clearly wears green as he does in every other game except the first Star Fox; his promotional puppet wore similar clothing colors as Falco, except differentiated with a lighter shade and pink scarf rather than a red one. In addition, the teams' boot designs have been updated in the general style of other games; originally, they appeared to be rather formfitting, leading to a certain online theory that was later shot down by both Shigeru Miyamoto and Dylan Cuthbert.

Names in other languages

Language Name
Japanese スターフォックス2 (Sutā Fokkusu Tsū)

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