Here… and here.

Emily Rogers is one of the few journalists on the internet that seems to make sense. She’s got well researched articles, and in particular, I enjoyed the one that smacks down the hype about Nintendo’s “family friendly” approach. It certainly woke up some hedz in the Sonic fanbase about their fanatical defense of making Sonic exclusively for children.

I’m a little disheartened that she could write such a bullshit article in regards to the Star Fox franchise. Specifically, putting up an argument for why Star Fox can’t be rebooted (easily). The very nature of this article seems less about informing people about specific problems with making Star Fox relevant and seems more hostile towards the rabid fanboys online. It reads like a typical forum post.

Everyone criticizes Nintendo’s treatment of Star Fox, but who exactly is the audience for Star Fox? Last year, Japanese gamers were asked in a survey about what their top ten favorite Nintendo franchises were. Star Fox was not listed anywhere in the top ten for males or females. In fact, more women in Japan prefer Pikmin over Star Fox, and males preferred F-Zero over it as well. The “Mother” franchise hasn’t released a new installment since 2006, but the franchise was ranked at number 7 for Japanese men

Considering the Japanese aren’t really into science fiction as much as the western world, this is obvious. There’s nothing in Star Fox that appeals to the Japanese as it was made in the hands of a western developer. Western developers understand their own market better than they understand (or care about)  Japan’s. That said, we’ve no details about the demand for a Star Fox game in the western territories. The Japanese aren’t gonna pick any franchise with anthromorphic animals that don’t scream cute.

That said, the audience would be in western territories, exclusively. Unfortunately, Nintendo is not in the interest of catering to baka gaijin which is why they killed off the Star Fox franchise while continuing to make Pikmin games that don’t sell.

Contrary to popular belief, Star Fox is not an easy franchise to reboot. The franchise is too hardcore to appeal as a family game like “Mario Kart”, “New Super Mario Bros”, and “Wii Sports”. It struggles to appeal to the Titanfall/Gears of War audience because it has talking animals for protagonists. Star Fox struggles to attract small children because the characters aren’t drawn cutesy and adorable like Yoshi, Kirby, or Animal Crossing. Nobody plays Star Fox at competitive tournaments like Super Smash Bros or Pokemon. It lacks Japanese appeal like Monster Hunter, Persona, Dragon Quest, Fire Emblem, etc.

Ok, one, a game does not have to make Mario Kart numbers to be a success. Two, Star Fox was never a “family” game to begin with, and despite writing an entire post on why the family centered strategy of game making that Nintendo has had up it’s ass was nothing but a farce, it’s now some sort of necessity for Star Fox to sell. Three, if children are drawn to Ratchet and Clank and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2 franchises that don’t focus on anything cute about their characters), Star Fox is not out of the question. Yoshi and Kirby haven’t been relevant since… ever. And why would being featured at a tournament actually matter to people?

This whole statement is oddball in itself. As the entire article ousts Star Fox as being a viable franchise based on gameplay reasons alone, but does not explain why Star Fox has no appeal to any audience.  This is important later on.

The shoot em’ up genre began life in the arcades with games like Space Invaders and Space Harrier. If someone enjoyed an arcade game, they were later influenced to purchase the home console version. Unfortunately, the technology of home consoles began to rival arcades, and this forced many arcades to eventually close down. The demand and interest for shoot em’ ups was weakened, and the genre became increasingly niche by the mid 90′s.

It’s not at all technology, but rather convenience. In America at least, video games on consoles simply had more entertainment value, and you didn’t have to leave home just to play a game. Not to mention going to a specific arcade didn’t mean your favorite game was going to be there for a long time. If you enjoyed Simpsons arcade, you better enjoy it while you can because eventually it might get replaced. But buying a game from the store? You get to keep it indefinitely. Not to mention a lot of console games (outside of maybe fighters) were just that much more appealing.

The convenience of the video game console was what rivaled arcades.

Star Fox isn’t relevant today because the gameplay never offered anything original to begin with. Maybe it deserves credit for improving on existing formulas, but its contributions to the genre have been vastly overrated. Parappa the Rapper contributed more brand new ideas to the rhythm music genre than Star Fox has contributed to rail-shooters and shoot em’ ups.

Ok, the originality clause is a poor argument. Video games do not sell on original or creative ideas, but rather quality of entertainment value that is delivered. Star Fox prior to Adventure and Assault had enough entertainment value to carve out a decent audience.

The gameplay of Nintendo’s newest games such as the Galazy’s and Link between Worlds showcases “originality” in each installment, but as we see, people rush toward the games that have no originality. Every Call of Duty is derided as un-evolving, but continue to sell gangbusters until Ghosts. People do not give a shit about originality outside of content. Castlevania Lords of Shadow has unoriginal gameplay AND content, but miraculously manages to sell way beyond the CV fanbase’s expectations. Lets face it, everyone knows the Simpsons did it. But doing something first and then doing it well are 2 different things. Street Fighter 2 wasn’t the first fighting game to have special moves, but they did it extremely well to become an arcade phenomenon. Space Harrier, Galaxy Force, etc. might have been hailed for technical achievements, but no one even cares about those games these days as they have no content to speak of. That and they played like shit. It’s something that at least Star Fox can claim.

The Star Fox franchise sells best when it’s the first game to introduce gimmicky technology. When Star Fox isn’t the first to introduce gimmicky technology, it becomes just another rail shooter to throw on the pile.

“Just another rail shooter” would be something along the lines of Resident Evil Darkside Chronicles. Dead Space Extraction. House of the Dead Overkill. Time Crisis. Games where you can only move the crosshair and have to mke twitch moves to shoot enemies furiously. That shit got saturated real quickly on Wii at least.  Star Fox barely plays anything like a typical Rail Shooter. You have a CHARACTER to move, making it more about maneuverability to avoid taking damage rather than furiously shooting enemies and projectiles. If anything, Star Fox would’ve been a breath of fresh air on the Wii. Not to mention Star Fox had it’s own gameplay quirks that made it far more interesting than your typical rail shooter. Completing different objectives in stages meant gaining access to newer, hidden levels. 64 was a game that kept people interested in exploring the entirety of the Lylat System. Not just having a branching path in single levels that only lead to different areas, you actually had to work to get brand new levels during a playthrough. That adds replay value in itself.

The first Donkey Kong Country and the original Star Fox share some similarities with each other. Neither game reinvented their respective genres with innovative gameplay, but they blew everyone away with their graphics.

And DKCR does nothing special. Yet it still sells.

I’ll give her the gimmicky tech angle. Star Fox wouldn’t be anything worth of interest if not for 3D graphics. After this point, however, Star Fox has solidified it’s place as a franchise that people have demanded sequels for regardless of graphics. Technology has advanced to the point that it’s a waste of time and money to make anything gimmicky anymore. Adding to that, Star Fox 64 isn’t remembered for gimmicky tech like the first game was. How many people care about Gyromite when it’s gimmick was ROB the toy robot? Or that puzzle game? Does Star Fox not warrant any merit for being a quality title for being remembered for more than the Rumble Pak?

If DKCR is proof of anything, no video game is required to have gimmicks to sell anymore.

Star Fox Command was NOT the first game to show off the Nintendo DS touchscreen. Therefore, most people weren’t excited about Star Fox Command using the touchscreen…..Star Fox Adventures and Star Fox Assault didn’t introduce any new pieces of gimmicky technology, and therefore, most people didn’t pay any attention to them.

Command wasn’t even a rail shooter. It was a poor experimental strategy line-drawing game that shoe-horned the touch screen into the game for no reason. It was a HORRIBLE game, and sold like ass as a result. This isn’t an example as to why Star Fox can’t be rebooted. Technology is no longer an issue.

Adventures and Assault had their own issues. When you establish a gameplay element of a franchise, you establish the expectations of that audience. Adventures did not meet the expectations of Star Fox’s audience by forgoing the rail shooter mechanic in favor of being a Zelda clone as well as being a drastic departure from Star Fox content in general. Assault had the same problem, where aerial  dog fights were marginalized in favor of ground missions that were boring and tedious to play through. And the game was the beginning of Star Fox being turned into a space opera that rubbed everyone the wrong way.  People imagined Star Fox as that saturday morning cartoon of animal space warriors kickin ass, not some animu shit stain between whether or not Fox admits he has a hard on for Krystal.

Grouping Star Fox into a non-Star Fox game, making a shallow sequel, and making a strategy game killed Star Fox, not the lack of gimmicks. You can’t have an audience for a franchise that only has one or 2 games they only like. If you’re not going to build off the game in a series people like, it’s going to struggle in the long run.

Using poorly designed games as examples of Star Fox’s dependency on gimmicks is rather under-handed, I might add. Nintendo (as a Japanese company) barely cares about games that don’t appeal to Japanese tastes, so they do what any other company would and passes them off to other teams to make them. It’s a little shocking that Namco couldn’t make a decent Star Fox game themselves, but past history of talent doesn’t = good team to dole out a game plan for.

The main story modes of “Star Fox” and “Star Fox 64″ didn’t last much longer than two hours, and they were both originally released at the price of $60-$70. The best Star Fox games were designed as short games that players would replay multiple times to unlock everything. Nowadays, too many gamers care more about a game’s length instead of it’s replay value, and today’s gaming media would absolutely crucify a $50-$60 Star Fox game that is shorter than five hours long without some extremely solid online multi-player.

This is assuming that a Star Fox game would automatically be priced that high for a short length. Despite high development costs and a necessity to rake in profits, against all logic and reason, Ratchet and Clank into the Nexus released at $30. Why? because the game is incredibly short, only containing 4 worlds and having no replay value to boot. That’s awfully generous.

That said, I don’t see how a short game is automatically a non-seller. New Super Mario Bros. (both versions) are both short, piss easy, and break sales records on occasion. Sonic 4 Episode 2 only has 4 levels, tops PSN sales charts, even beating Final Fantasy. The REAL problem with short games are when they offer no real entertainment value in their short time frame. Star Fox 64 3D is a remake with no extra bells or whistles added. People have played the shit out of SF64 on N64 and Wii combined. Making a remake with nothing else besides the main game was foolish on Nintendo’s part. A short game is not bad in itself. A short game  with nothing to compensate for being short is.

That’s why games could get away with being high priced and short back then. The games weren’t piss easy where you’d beat the game in one sitting. Developers think gamers are pussies today via making games for children. And were still captivating enough for people to keep replaying them.

Giving Star Fox an on-foot adventure wasn’t Miyamoto’s mistake. That was a good idea because the action/adventure genre is the only way to broaden Star Fox’s marketing appeal in the long run.

It never was. People have expectations of certain franchises. When people like Star Fox for the space wars, that’s what the hell they want. There’s no evidence to support a game building off of SF64 would not broaden Star Fox’s marketing appeal. A couple of reviewers complaining about a remake’s game length isn’t enough

Would a Star Fox game having more stuff to do actually help? Of course. But no one wants Adventure elements in their Star Fox. If it played anything like Ratchet and Clank, no one would have a problem.

The ideas behind Star Fox Assault and Star Fox Adventures were good, but even the best ideas can end up with sloppy execution or below average results. Unfortunately, people use those two games as evidence on why Star Fox shouldn’t explore the action/adventure genre more. Yes, Star Fox Adventures sold one million units which is less than Star Fox 64′s three million units, but GameCube’s install base was also significantly smaller than Nintendo 64′s install base.

Super Smash Bros. Melee has sold more than the original on the N64 despite having a smaller install base. Metroid Prime has sold more than Metroid Fusion despite having a smaller install base. Metroid Prime 3 has sold less than Prime 1 despite having a higher install base. Skyward Sword has sold less than Ocarina of Time even with the higher install base.

What’s Star Fox Adventure’s excuse? Having little to nothing of what people enjoyed about the originals. Assault would’ve made it out better had ground missions not been a bore or so disproportionately numerous in comparison to the segments people enjoyed.

Star Fox could learn a lot from how Rareware’s “Donkey Kong Country” series reinvented and modernized the ‘Donkey Kong’ intellectual property for a new generation of gamers. The “Country” trilogy made Donkey Kong feel cool and hip again with 90′s kids who were obsessed with cool and edgy mascots like Sonic the Hedgehog and Earthworm Jim. It established Donkey Kong’s universe with an entire family of Kongs, an entire cast of enemies, and a wide selection of animal buddies.

This paragraph more or less kills Emily’s entire argument. Throughout the entire article, she hammers in that Star Fox could not be anything without it’s dependency on gimmicky technology, yet goes in to admit that Donkey Kong Country could compete by having good content. Nowhere does she praise the  gameplay which is understandable as the game was terrible. But if Donkey Kong can get away with cool content, there’s no reason Star Fox couldn’t. If anything, Star Fox has all the potential in the world to become bigger than it is. Unless she is implying Star Fox has bad content.

Going a bit further, putting Star Fox on Dinosaur Planet WAS a grave mistake on Nintendo’s part. The stories and universe of Dinosaur Planet muddled with Star Fox’s on universe by reducing an entire galaxy with a single star based in prehistoric times. Why would anyone want to move away from inter-galactic warfare with scifi elements, surreal technology, and some creepy aliens… for generic reptiles? Content fluctuation had taken hold and the Star Fox franchise had already suffered by the time we get to Assault, which seemed like a half-hearted apology at best.

More over, Donkey Kong Country really sold for the same reasons Star Fox did. Good graphics. While it is mentioned, it is made out to be a minimal factor of DKC’s success.

This goes back to what I said earlier. There is no explanation for why Star Fox has no appeal beyond gameplay reasons or blunt assumptions about audience tastes. People who are into Gears of War or Titanfall weren’t going to be a target audience for Star Fox either way, and having cute characters has never been a requirement to appealing to children. I have no idea where that came from.

Games like “Donkey Kong ’94″ and “Mario vs DK” were great.

Now you’re breaking my balls.

Nobody has a problem with Mario having two RPG series (“Paper Mario”, “Mario & Luigi”). Many Wii U owners were cool with Zelda having a Dynasty Warriors spinoff franchise called “Hyrule Warriors”. Nobody complained when Donkey Kong Country ditched the old 80′s arcade gameplay and imitated “Super Mario World”. Everyone loves when Nintendo tries experimental ideas with Kirby like “Kirby Canvas Curse”. There are no complaints when Pokémon gets spinoffs like “Pokémon Snap”.

It’s because fans of those franchises were still getting games that meet their expectations. That and no one cares about Kirby.

Compare to franchises like Sonic which keep shafting fan demand in favor of experimental gameplay elements and even worse content than a Bomberman game. People who like Pokemon’s main games can still enjoy Pokemon’s main games without being usurped by an experimental design philosophy running amok at the company. When Adventures was being made, where was the Star Fox people really wanted? People had to wait a good 9 years to get an appropriate sequel, and that turned out to be mediocre.

The real reason for Star Fox’s irrelevancy is the same reason for Earthworm Jim, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mega Man. Mishandling of the franchise. Nintendo couldn’t give a damn about Star Fox as the ideas of the series came from “American scum“. Attaching it to a zelda clone pissed gamers off. Handing it off to Namco because they didn’t want to bother further pissed people off. Shifting genres into tactical strategy further pissed people off. Consistently shitty games become irrelevant to gamers. Being attached to a specific genre doesn’t make it irrelevant by itself. Mario Galazy wouldn’t sell being a 3D Platformer had it not been Mario on the cover. There is nothing to imply that Star Fox could not sell in this environment as no one has made a game good enough to be fairly judged today. If game length is the primary issue, it can easily be rectified.

This article feels less like Rogers and more like hardcore gamer logic. Furthermore, all the “what-if” scenarios about if Star Fox had no 3D is also irrelevant and feel more so an attempt to further deride the Star Fox series of any merit just by looking plainly into it’s game rules. If a game is fun and entertaining, people will come to it. Writing off the Star Fox series based on the fact that it’s “just another  Rail Shooter” is dishonest and mis-informative. There aren’t many rail shooters that people have memories of in comparison.

And honestly speaking, if Nintendo’s wasting money on games no one buys anyway, they might as well waste it on a franchise with some balls.

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