Star Fox 2: Back From Obscurity

Star Fox 2: Back From Obscurity

Unearthing a 16-bit treasure

Alex Legard

Written by for Retrospectives on

Star Fox 2 is a fun shooter for SNES and it has some interesting history so allow me to explain what it's all about in this retrospective.

When Star Fox 2 was nearly completed in 1995, it was around the time that Nintendo 64 was in development. Since Nintendo was making the transition to N64, they were concerned that releasing the 3D Star Fox 2 on SNES would discourage their customers from buying N64s. They were also concerned that gamers would compare Star Fox 2 with 3D games on PlayStation and Sega Saturn which isn't fair but they were worried nonetheless. So, they made the move to N64 but not before completing the localisation and testing for Star Fox 2 and leaving it in their archives. 22 years later in 2017, Nintendo finally released Star Fox 2 on the Super NES Classic Edition and they also created an interactive manual for it. In it, Nintendo shared never-before-seen concept art and design documents.

Star Fox 2 screenshot 1
Prepare to listen to him gloat throughout the whole game

In Star Fox 2's story, Andross has returned as he survived his defeat by the hands of Star Fox's squadron and now, he has a new army to help him take over the Lylat system. Corneria's forward bases have fallen and the planet itself is now under attack so it's up to Star Fox to save the day! Now, he has 2 new allies (Miyu and Fay) and 4 new enemies belonging to mercenary squadron Star Wolf (Wolf O'Donnell, Leon Powalski, Pigma Dengar, and Algy). The story is pretty minimal and leaves many unanswered questions such as "How did Andross survive?" and "What is the origin of his new army?"

Star Fox 2 is substantially more innovative than the original. First, you select a pilot. You can pick any of the 6 good guys then any second character as your wingman. Different pilots have unique advantages and disadvantages such as Fox and Falco having a balanced ship, Peppy and Slippy having increased health but decreased mobility and weapon recharge speed, and Miyu and Fay having increased mobility and recharge speed but less health. You also have 2 lives; 1 for your main pilot and 1 for your wingman.

Star Fox 2 screenshot 2
The Lylat system map looks rather nice

You begin in the Lylat system map and the first thing you'll notice is Corneria's damage gauge. It starts at 0% and if it goes up to 100%, you lose. You'll see missiles head towards it and you can intercept and destroy them after a short battle. The goal is to destroy Andross's planets and carriers. The planetary stages are awesome because there are different kinds. For example, some are covered in water and others feature lava. They usually have an indoor segment as well where you can switch your Arwing to walker mode and sometimes, there are hidden goodies. Carriers are a little different because you must fly past hordes of enemies to reach the carrier's interior then you have to destroy the core. The complexity of these stages increases with difficulty and on harder difficulties, you'll find more rooms. On the Lylat map, members of the Star Wolf squadron will sometimes attack and you'll have to defeat them to continue.

After you defeat Andross's first wave, Andross will gloat a bit and spawn 2 more carriers that you have to destroy. After destroying the carriers and beating Star Wolf himself, you then go to pay Andross a visit. Andross's lair is another 3D indoor space like the carriers. At the end, you battle Andross but it's more frustrating than fun because of all the issues that space fighting inherently has. Nonetheless, after a little bit of trial and error, I finally put the evil scientist Andross back in his place and saved the Lylat system once and for all.

Star Fox 2 screenshot 3
Star Fox 2 has many nice-looking stages like this one

Despite how most of the ships seem to be triangles attached to bigger triangles, Star Fox 2 looks surprisingly good as it contains a solid amount of detail (just look at the cutscenes) and it has a killer soundtrack, too. Where Star Fox 2 falls apart is its framerate and input delay. Yes, I know that it's a Super NES game and it has technical limitations but I still feel like these problems make it much less enjoyable during the free-flying sections. I have a few other gripes so let me go through them one-by-one. The crosshair lingers on the edge of the screen after you make a big turn and it doesn't adjust itself back to the center of the screen and I also wish you could strafe left and right without turning the whole ship. You can double-tap L or R to evade attacks but it's just not the same.

Anyway, the final Andross fight is the only part of the campaign that I didn't really find enjoyable. It's hard to dodge Andross's projectiles and on top of that, my bullets don't hit Andross nearly often enough. When I aim for the eyes, I can't tell if I'm aiming too high or too low. After you destroy the mask, this cube thing flies around for a bit and you only have a short time to destroy it. You can either destroy it right away or it quickly flies away and then there's very little chance that you'll destroy it in time.

Star Fox 2 screenshot 4
Andross is defeated and the Lylat system is saved!

Fans of the original Star Fox will find Star Fox 2 to be a very different experience simply because the on-rails gameplay of the original doesn't exist in this sequel. However, I still think that it's a good game in its own right and you should definitely give it a try.

Gameplay video for Star Fox 2 thumbnail
Gameplay video for Star Fox 2 11:27
Super NES Classic Edition Trivia

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