Remember 1997? The Backstreet Boys were topping the charts, James Cameron’s Titanic was about to make movie blockbuster history, and the Nintendo 64 was striding into its second year on the market. It was also the last year we got a really solid Star Fox game.
Ever since I played Star Fox 64 I fell in love with the series. The (then) amazing visuals, combined with some of the best shooting action of the console generation, and an amazing soundtrack, made for one of my favorite games of all time. It’s a shame then we haven’t seen another quality Star Fox game since. I’ll put in a smaaaaall exception for the GameCube’s Star Fox: Assault. This amounts to roughly 20 years since we first blasted off in Corneria to defeat the evil Andross.
Since Nintendo apparently can’t make a decent Star Fox game these days, leave it to Ubisoft to make a damn close runner up. 2018’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an open world space shooter/exploration hybrid in the same vein as Ubisoft’s other open world games. I would relate it to a more casual Far Cry game set in space. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then you should know the game is actually quite good! Making it even better is the inclusion of Fox McCloud and the Star Fox team, exclusively on the Nintendo Switch.
The implementation of Fox and crew isn’t just superfluous: the team is worked in fully to the story
Starlink has a fairly straightforward story so far, but it’s enough to keep me entertained. The implementation of Fox and crew isn’t just superfluous: the team is worked in fully to the story, complete with unique dialogue interactions, a special series of missions, and even an upgrade-able Arwing to pilot! If you aren’t playing Fox (then you’re likely not playing on Switch) there are a handful of original characters to take up the piloting duties. They fill out the diversity nicely, and are actually pretty cool. It’s fun to see them interact with each other, and their character development seems fluid and believable.
That being said… don’t play them.
The real kicker for my enjoyment with Battle for Atlas is undoubtedly the Star Fox inclusion. Since we haven’t had an original story for quite some time, I think exploring the options found in Starlink are wholly worthwhile. The current formula fits the Star Fox mold well: land on a planet and navigate it via ship, blast off into space at will, engage in battles on land and in the air in real time, see a planet off in the distance and hyperdrive right to it, the list goes on. Despite the differences I still always feel like I’m playing a Star Fox game even though I’m not actually playing a Star Fox game.
Nintendo has been letting up some of the reigns on their franchises. We got Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle in 2017, which crossed over the two titular franchises. The last two entries in the Super Smash Bros. series were developed by Bandai Namco. Clearly Nintendo can lend out their IPs to others and we can be rewarded with excellent video games. I’m hoping the Star Fox IP being used with Starlink is a way for Nintendo to test the waters of the fanbase. Thankfully Ubisoft put a ton of care in crafting a creative story for fans of the Nintendo franchise to delve into, and overall a pretty damn good game.
Despite the differences I still always feel like I’m playing a Star Fox
game even though I’m not actually
playing a Star Fox game.
I can really see a future in the Star Fox franchise going in this direction. For sure, I love me some space fights and melodrama, but what I really enjoy is a great video game. Give me those fights in space, but also give me some great exploration. I want to have Fox, Peppy, Falco, and Slippy on my team, but I also want to meet some new people like Starlink’s resilient Hunter Hakka and the wise robot Judge. Keep up that banter between the gang, but also give me some NPCs with their own desires, living in a world that moves without my input. Hell, I’ll even be down for more amiibo or NFC toys. There are ways to keep the Star Fox core gameplay elements while enhancing them with new ideas and storytelling.
Nintendo would do this Star Fox fan a great favor if they let the development team behind Starlink create a fully featured, brand new Star Fox game. Honestly what do they have to lose? Starlink isn’t a perfect game, but it does a ton of stuff right, not the least of which being a proper implementation of Nintendo’s anthropomorphic animal space pilots.
Hmm, now I’m wondering what other franchises Nintendo should license out to other developers. Assuming we won’t be getting another Wand of Gamelon, I think a new F-Zero could be done well with another studio. Maybe even a new Kid Icarus by someone like Platinum games. The possibilities are near endless.
What are your thoughts on Starlink: Battle for Atlas? Have you enjoyed the game and do you think the Star Fox crossover is well implemented? What changes, if any, would you want to see in a new Star Fox game? Let me know, and let’s hope for the best!