Star Fox 64 – also known as “Lylat Wars” in PAL regions – is the sequel to the classic Star Fox on the Super Nintendo. It was developed and published by Nintendo and first released in 1997. The game was critically and commercially successful, selling over four million physical copies, making it one of the best-selling games on the Nintendo 64.
Actually, Star Fox 64 is considered to be more of a ‘reboot’ of Star Fox, rather than an actual sequel, and it plays similarly to the SNES original. You take the role of Fox McCloud, with a group of animal wingmen who fly with you in ‘Arwing‘ type spaceships. These undergo both ground and space missions, shooting down enemy craft, protecting each other, and encountering the occasional boss battle.
The game is mostly presented in full 3D, with characters, environments, enemies and bosses all modelled out of fairly simple polygons, with starfields, explosions and other special effects using 2D graphics. Gameplay is ‘on rails’, meaning that you follow the same path through a level each time. That said: Star Fox 64 does have branching paths that unlock if you complete certain objectives, which adds variety and re-playability to the game. The on-rails sections are flown in “Corridor Mode”, and there are also free-flying sections, where the Arwing can fly freely through an area (within constraints) – which are in “All-Range Mode”.
The game starts in third-person mode, with the camera behind the Arwing, but a press of the ‘C’ up button brings the view into cockpit mode, allowing first-person play, although – to be honest – that isn’t the best way to play the game (but it does look impressive).
The Arwing has a default laser that can repeat fire, and can also be powered-up to provide a more powerful ‘lock-on’ blast. It also comes equipped with a limited number of Nova Bombs that act like a ‘smart bombs’, which will destroy most enemies on screen or do greater damage to bosses. The Arwing can boost and do ‘barrel rolls’ to help evade enemy fire, and can also perform U-turns (the latter: only in “All-Range Mode”). Arwings are vulnerable to enemy fire and crashes into the scenery and will explode if they take too much damage. You can fly through silver and gold rings replenish your ship’s shields, and you can also collect other power-ups to get weapon upgrades, wing repairs, extra lives, and extra nova bombs.
Fox’s wingmen will periodically attack enemies and will also require help to remove an enemy on their tail, if they’re being chased. If you don’t destroy an enemy that is pursuing your wingmen they will retreat to the mothership for repairs, which will make them unavailable for the remainder of a level, and at the start of the next. Given enough time, though, they will eventually come back. Each wingman will also provide a different form of assistance to you – if you manage to keep them alive. Slippy Toad will scan bosses and indicate their shield levels; Peppy Hare provides gameplay advice, and Falco Lombardi occasionally locates alternate routes through some levels. Other supporting characters will also make special appearances in some stages.
While the Arwing is the primary craft used throughout the campaign, some levels do feature new vehicles, such as The Landmaster Tank, and even a submarine called The Blue Marine, which are welcomed new additions.
Although Star Fox 64‘s main campaign is single-player only, the game does feature simultaneous split-screen multiplayer for up to four players. There are three types of multiplayer games: Point Match, where you have to shoot down an opponent a certain number of times; Battle Royal, where the last player standing wins, and Time Trial, where you have a certain amount of time to destroy a set number of enemy fighters. Also: earning medals in the single-player campaign unlocks The Landmaster Tank in multiplayer, which is the only place it can be used with fully-upgraded lasers.
Star Fox 64 also features ‘Rumble Pak‘ support throughout, and initial copies of the game actually came bundled with the vibrating peripheral.
A stereoscopic 3D remake was released for the Nintendo 3DS 2011, and a re-imagining of the game – called Star Fox Zero – was released for the Wii U in 2016. Star Fox 64 is also available for the Nintendo Switch online service (at the time of writing).
More: Star Fox 64 on Wikipedia