Starwing, or Star Fox everywhere outside of the EU is something of a technical marvel. It was the first SNES game to use the Super FX chip, it was one of the first game to try and use 3d polygonal graphics. Due to the ground breaking nature of this, the game received an awful lot of hype. I can still remember the advertisements being everywhere, and I was 7 when this came out.
The game, and story
Starwing is an on-rail shooter, which has either first or third person perspectives. You take on the role of Fox McCloud, the leader of Star Fox, and you battle across the Lylat system to defeat the evil Andross. There is the usual symbology of good vs evil, light vs dark, but on the whole, playing through the game I didn’t notice a story. Andross is bad, go beat him.
As Fox, you pilot your Arwing (Star Wars rip off), shoot lasers, upgrade lasers, and shoot bombs across 5-6 levels in a pretty empty star system. Due to the technical limitations, Starwing couldn’t fit much on screen. This means the great City of Corneria has 2 buildings… (Screenshot later)
The graphics for Starwing were revolutionary. I say WERE, as it it looks like a turd now. Starwing, does not stand up well to father time. Seriously, it looks like shit.
Most people use the Corneria level as a demonstration of how Starwing looks. To be honest, that gives a false representation. It is one level, and yes, it does look OK, and in 1993 it may have looked amazing. But look at the above image. This is your view for 90% of the game, below is 10%.
It might have been good in 1993, but as I mentioned in some other reviews, using a technical or graphical gimmick always ages your game badly, and Starwing really is a case in point. The world is empty, the enemies are indistinct, and the bosses are blocky.
My imagination fills in a lot of the blanks, as most of the bosses appear in Lylat Wars/Star Fox 64, so playing Lylat Wars first meant I could understand some of the missing information. However, it really is a bland, simple game.
You could argue the graphical advancements are a good thing, but personally, to me, no, they are terrible. To me, this is one of the worst looking SNES games I have played.
The easy/medium/difficult difficulties offer a nice variation. Normally the difficulty on a game just changes the strength of enemies, in Starwing it changes the paths/boss/difficulty. So there is a surprisingly large level of depth and replayability to the game
Starwing also tries to introduce voice acting. However, I wish it didn’t. The text appears on screen, which is fine. But the text is accompanied by a “wah-wah-wah” noise that sort of sounds on a par to waka-waka from Pacman, but 13 years later…
Starwing did introduce a damage meter which was pretty cool for the time. Most games prior to this had a binary reaction to environmental damage, you hit something you’re dead. Starwing did away with this, as you could now fuck up and not instantly die.
I am unsure if this is a full game, or a tech demo. So while it can be given some points, for trying, and being advanced at the time, it loses more for not feeling like a proper game.
The graphics also induce the same kind of feeling of motion sickness and nausia that early 90’s Japanese anime did. I am pretty sure if you play this long enough you’ll have a seizure. I can only manage 30-45 minutes playing this game, before I have to turn it off.
Starwing isn’t a terrible game, it just isn’t very good. It relied on a graphical innovation, that has sadly not stood up well. Play it out of curiosity, or to say you have. But seriously, go play Lylat Wars instead.
Pros: Multiple paths, tried/did innovate graphically
Cons: FUGLY, beaten with the ugly stick, the “voice acting”