Star Fox 64 was one of my favorite games growing up. I was actually a pretty big sci-fi geek thanks to my uncles introducing me to Star Wars when I was four or five, so I guess it was inevitable. The first time I tried it was actually at an event held at my elementary school. Some stations demoing various multiplayer games were going, and I played the four-player battle mode against some fifth graders. I remember really enjoying the multiplayer space battles - so much that I went out and bought the game.
Now, in the end, I don’t think the multiplayer quite stacked up to the single-player campaign, but I’ll never forget that first Star Fox experience. And after trying out the enhanced battle mode on the 3DS version at E3 last year, I rediscovered that feeling all over again. It’s led me to conclude something: apart from continuing to build on the things that made previous games great, the future of the Star Fox franchise lies in online multiplayer.
Wii U being such an ambitious system means that we can finally see a really fleshed-out multiplayer battle mode - and one that we can take online. Nintendo just has to make sure they do it right, incorporating all those things that make other multiplayer and online games tick to some capacity, but fitting them in just the right way so that they function within the parameters of Star Fox‘s gameplay.
But to fully incorporate multiplayer-friendly features, they’ll need to find a way to include a lot of them in the single-player campaign as well. I think Star Fox Command offers a good solution for this: multiple playable characters, each with their own ships with unique parameters, weapons, and so on. In Command, Fox’s Arwing II was pretty well-rounded: standard single shot lasers and lock-on, with average bomb capacity, shields, and boost. Slippy’s Bullfrog is a bit beefier, with more robust shields, greater bomb storage, and powerful plasma shots at the expense of lock-on and boost.
Keep that same general idea intact, add in a few more significant differences, like lock-on shot behavior patterns, ship-specific secondary weapons, and unique maneuvers, and you’d have a good foundation for a solid multiplayer experience. It’d also keep the single-player open to character selection options, which would enhance replayability oh-so-much. Don’t just flesh out the good guys, though: let us play as the bad guys, too, with a comparable but still asymmetrical set of ships to pit in team battles online. Heck, give Star Wolf their own campaign; Star Fox seems to have slowly been moving in this direction anyway, what with the increased roles of and character development for the villainous characters in the more recent games.
I don’t know if it’s necessary or desirable to include ground combat as well, but if they can pull it off it’d make a nice complement to air combat, a kind of third-person shooter mode perhaps not unlike Kid Icarus Uprising in terms of its unique blend of simplicity and complexity. Give characters unique land weapons with diverse traits and craft some good multiplayer maps (again, Uprising is a great foundation), and as long as it doesn’t take too much away from the primary air sections, I daresay it’d make a satisfying secondary battle mode.
What about the format for online play? There are tons of options, ranging from the obvious free-for-all battle mode to the already-mentioned team play - and I think they could expand that even further to include a conquest mode, where massive teams of online players cooperate and compete to try to gain dominance in the Lylat System by eliminating enemy ships in various sectors. It’d be another good opportunity to re-use good ideas from Command, such as the multi-battle site map setup for wide-scale battles, by implementing them on the Wii U’s touch screen (if that wouldn’t be too demanding on the hardware). Or at the very least we might see an emulation of the similar mode from the Star Wars Battlefront games.
In any case, I think I’ve made my desires plain: I want a mighty and robust online multiplayer system for Star Fox, and I think Wii U can deliver. Apart from that, as long as we get the same healthy blend of on-rails and all-range shmup goodness that people fell in love with long ago. What do you think? Do you agree that there should be a greater focus on multiplayer? Got any ideas of your own to contribute? Do you think that we’ll see Star Fox on Wii U at this year’s E3? Share your thoughts in the comments!