Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ben's Gaming Memories - Star Fox

Well, here we are. It's been a long (LONG) wait, but Star Fox Zero is finally here. Nintendo Wii U fans are finally able to jump into the world of Star Fox once again, and join the fight to save the galaxy. Although, it's also kind of a bit strange... I mean, this is Star Fox -- we actually got a brand new game! This is a series that was once near and dear to a lot of people, but then faded away into obscurity. It was one of Nintendo's main IPs, but the scary thing is that it has been so long since Star Fox Command, that the kids of today may not even know what this series is. Outside of Super Smash Bros, the Wii virtual console, and the very limited print run of Star Fox 64 3D, this is a game series that had nearly completely vanished with no real future in sight. Those of us who got a Wii expecting the next big game to be released on it were disappointed, and while the 3DS remake that came out many years later was nice, it was just the same old thing and it was even lacking an online mode -- something many of us were hoping the Wii would improve on, and Command only touched on. But this has finally all changed. Star Fox Zero was announced for the Wii U, and we are now able to play it.

It's at times like these I can't help but look back on my experience with the series and realize how "different" it was for me... While many may have just picked up and played through each game, for me it was a journey filled with twists and turns, and anything but normal.

The first time I ever laid eyes on Star Fox was at my grandma's house, upstairs in my uncle's room. This is where he kept his brand new SNES system, and his games, and it was where me and my cousins would spend time when they came from out of state for a visit. While we would mainly play other games like Mega Man X, Star Fox was one that we would try from time to time, but never get too far. Although it's 3D graphics blew me away at the time, the game was really hard for me to play, and I rarely lasted long past the first level. It's kind of funny to look back and see just how bad I was, but I guess for a young kid jumping into something so different like that wasn't easy. I mean, sure, I also played Top Gear 2 which was 3D, but in Star Fox you could move to all edges of the screen, and crashing meant you died (and I crashed a LOT). Even so, it was something I wanted to like, but was physically unable to. So, I stopped playing.

After giving up on Star Fox, a few years passed and the Nintendo 64 came out. These were true 3D games that (once again) blew me away, and were ones I couldn't get enough of. Mario 64 was easily my favorite game back then, but I was always on the lookout for something new also. That's when Star Fox once again entered the picture.

The first time I remember seeing SF64 was at Toys R Us when I was shopping with my mom, aunt, and cousins for a present for my upcoming birthday. While my memory is a bit fuzzy on what we all actually bought, I still remember being down an isle of the store next to one of their display TVs and seeing the advertisement for the upcoming Star Fox 64. The Star Fox team was back, and once again I was interested! Although, I wouldn't be getting it. Not for a long time. As my birthday was on the 19th, and the advertisement was for a game that wouldn't be released until 11 days later, asking for it didn't even cross my mind, but it was something I would remember in the years to come.

Awhile later (possibly months) when my cousins were visiting yet again, I remember going to the local video rental place and renting SF64. Of course I didn't play it... It was my cousin who chose to rent it, and he was the only one to sit there and play as I watched. I still did have fun seeing him go through the game, but actually he never did make it that far. He let the bomb go off in the early stages, he let Slippy get knocked to planet Titania, and he got a game over shortly after. Funny how I still remember it, but I guess seeing him fail is what made me think the game was just as hard as the SNES version, and it's what kept me from renting it again at first. That all changed though when I got sick sometime after. Typically when I was home from school and had to go to the doctor, my mom would allow me to rent a game, and the game I chose that day was Star Fox.

For whatever reason I took my N64 over to my grandma's house to play it (I assume we were going to stay there awhile that day and my mom let me bring it so I could play my new rental), but I remember sitting there on the couch slowly making my way through the galaxy up until I ran out of lives and got a game over. Yeah, I still wasn't the best at it.

It wouldn't be until multiple rentals later that I got good enough to make it through most of the game with no problems, but when I finally got to that point I did the unthinkable. I completely freaked out, shut off my N64, and swore off playing the game ever again. You see, Andross terrified me! When I finally reached Venom and he first started talking to me, his voice creeped me out, but when I actually got to him and saw he was a giant talking head that seemed to take no damage when I shot him (during his intro animations), I RAN SCARED! I rushed over to that TV, shut off that console as fast as possible, and that was that. I was done. This Star Fox "ban" I set for myself would go on to last years. Until I was in middle school at least.

I'm not sure why I decided to do it, but when I was around 13 I wanted to give SF64 a try once again; however, the game was no longer available for rental. I didn't know why, but it was no longer on the shelves, and I couldn't get myself to ask the adult at the counter what happened, so I asked my dad. I remember him walking into the store only to come right back out and tell both me and my mom that it was only for sale and not for rental anymore. I figured that was that, but shockingly my mom asked how much it was, and told my dad to buy it if it were cheap -- and so he did. Just like that the very same copy I had rented and played for years was mine (yes, the local shop only had one copy of each game, and in some rare cases it had two), and I was excited. This is when I finally beat the game (I actually would turn down the volume of the TV so I didn't hear Andross), and learned of the secret passages and what not from looking it up online (although I did know some things about it already from looking at guide books in Walmart).

Star Fox 64 quickly became one of my favorite games, and at school me and my friend Ian would spend a lot of time talking about it during PE and stuff. Soon my other friends got involved as well, and we actually started role playing Star Fox outside at recess. We would get on the swings, pretend we were flying Arwings, and go on adventures with each of us pretending to be a different character. There were even times where other kids would join in with us and we would assign them another character. I remember once we assigned someone we knew the character of Bill, and we decided to blame him for everything and have him screw up all our missions. Not sure why we decided, but the ironic thing was that the very next class we had gave us a news story where someone named Bill messed up some farm equipment or something -- of course we blamed that on "our" Bill as well. Really though, this is what lead to the creation of my next big project, and the next in line of RPG forums following Cyber Net (which, as some of you may know, is where NGR gets its roots).

"Star Fox Online" I called it. It was a simple forum that used the same RPG level system used at CN, and when members joined they were assigned two teams. We had the Star Fox team (which I joined), and the Star Wolf team (which my friend Ryan joined), and we would have RPG battles on different planets. Of course there was also general discussion forums, but we mainly used the site to keep doing what we did at school -- RP Star Fox. Sadly the site was short lived, but we did have a lot of fun with the time we spent there, but it never did take off quite like CN.

Adventures was something I didn't expect to ever play. I saw it advertised, I saw the demos at Walmart, I saw the guide book at Walmart (and read parts of it), and I remember seeing people talking about it on Nintendo's Nsider forums. It seemed cool, but for some reason I never saw my parents buying it for me, and I never did think to ask them; however, it did happen. It was getting close to Christmas and I was playing Star Fox 64, when for whatever reason I told my mom about how Slippy messes up and gets sent to Titania, and that's when she made a comment along the lines of "oh, you have a Star Fox game?" Thinking about it now, how did she not know that? Especially after how much I played it in front of her? Anyway she went on to say how she picked the game up for my cousins, and asked if I would like it as well -- that's when I said yes. Thing is, she never did buy the game for my cousins as the copy she bought was actually for me, but I really didn't care what they got or didn't get, I was just happy to open the game for myself on Christmas day and play it. Then, I wasn't so sure...

Funny to say this now, but Adventures also freaked me out. No I wasn't scared off by a giant Andross head, but I did get disturbed by the spirits you saved and how they lived inside Fox's body. It bugged me when it happened to Krystal at the start of the game, and it bugged me when it happened to Fox and I noticed his eyes glowing purple with the thing living inside him. The whole idea of this greatly disturbed me, and kept me from pushing along many times. I went through some sections of the game during that winter break, and one of my cousins came over to help me do it, but it wasn't until later when I got the game's guide book that I finally completed it myself. I think some of the dinos also disturbed me as I never knew what was waiting for me around each turn, but upon seeing the full game ahead of time in that book it gave me the courage to keep on going. Even though it bothered me, that game did leave a lasting impression on me, and I can still remember where I was and what I was doing in life when I cleared each part of it. Of course later on my friend Ryan got it as well, so we would talk about it at school from time to time (we both hated the button mashing part, but I think that's one of the reasons we were able to play the Metal Gear Solid games no problem. Star Fox Adventures helped train us).

When Adventures had come and past, Star Fox Assault was the next big game on the radar, and I was excited. Of course Nsider was talking about it, but the hype didn't really set in for me until that day I was home sick from school and we stopped by Walmart on our way home. That was when I heard the "Star Fox team is back" advertisement (which reminded me of the N64 days), and got to see some of the game's action for myself. It was a game I couldn't wait to get my hands on, and the moment I did I rushed over to my mom's work where my GCN was (yes, the house that burned down last summer) and jumped right into the multiplayer mode to play against my dad. We had always played the N64 game together, but with Assault we finally had a game with a fully fleshed out multiplayer mode to enjoy. We actually spent a lot of time playing that, he would also play it with me and my friends when they came over -- it was one of the few games he actually enjoyed to play, and I enjoyed to play with him. We'd sometimes make up our own games, but most of the time we did just flat out battle each other. It was a lot of fun, and one of the reasons I consider Assault to be possibly my favorite in the series. While I did like it's single player mode well enough, it was the multiplayer and the ability to get in and out of your Arwing, Land Master, and Wolfen and battle on foot that sucked me in.

After Assault came out my friends and I did revive our Star Fox Online forum for a short amount of time, and it was active with members on both teams fighting each other, but it was once again short lived. We had fun with it just like we had in the good old days, but it wasn't something that was there to last. This was the last time that site would ever be used, and we silently closed it's doors once there was no one else around to care. "Welcome back; your last visit was on Sep 2 2006, 04:49 PM" It's really been that long, huh?

(It's kind of cool to see Zero bring back
the walker as well. It seems like we're
slowly getting SF2 piece by piece!)

Star Fox Command was a game that I was excited for, yes, but when I got it I was completely let down. I rushed home to play it, and I even talked some other friends of mine into getting it, but it wasn't something that lasted long. I played versus mode with one friend at a school event once, and I went through the story and unlocked all of the endings, but it wasn't anything great. It took ideas from the canceled Star Fox 2 (which is all I'm going to say about that one), but was pure dog fight free range mode stages that got very repetitive. Putting aside how it's story felt like a fan fiction with no true ending, it was an extremely basic game, and one that didn't live up to what Star Fox was before. Of course it left me wondering how they would continue the story with how many changes they made, but it wouldn't be until a couple years ago that I would get that answer -- they would follow it up with a full on reboot. Well, at least they would after a rerelease of Star Fox 64 for the 3DS. That was pretty nice to see, but the fact that they changed some of the lines spoken by the characters felt a little bit off. Still, at least it was something!

While I'm going to leave my feelings of Star Fox Zero out of this article, I can say that I bought the game day one and am currently still playing it at this time. It's brought me back to my childhood, but it is also something different. Every time I turn on the Wii U and pick up that controller I begin thinking about the past, and I can't help but wonder where they will go from here. Will they keep going on with this reboot? Will we return to the original timeline set? I guess we wont know the answer until the time comes for Nintendo to get back to it. Either way, I've been on this ride for a very long time, and I hope to continue riding it for the rest of my life.