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Old 08-27-2015, 01:16 PM
Beta Metroid Beta Metroid is offline
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Default Lost Lylat Adventures: Let's Play Star Fox 2!

Hey guys! With a new Star Fox game almost out, and all the Star Fox games anyone here cares about already covered by LPs, I thought I'd take a look at possibly the most famous almost-released game around.

For my first trick, I'm going to undermine myself and link to a very well-crafted explanation of the game's background and history!

The short version: Following the great success of the original Star Fox, Argonaut and Nintendo quickly got to work on a sequel, with even more polished Super FX wizardry. Both developers and those who previewed it at demos and shows were pretty high on it. Then the Saturn and PlayStation were out and showing off full-fledged 3D a lot sooner than Nintendo was expecting, and Nintendo didn't want to draw direct comparisons, so they quietly shelved the project, even though it was on the brink of completion. I mean, I'd take Star Fox 2 over most 3D Saturn or PlayStation games from '95, but hindsight and marketability and all that.

Fortunately, Star Fox 2 lived on...in some form. As I understand it, the "final" version of the game would include more polish and features than the one that's readily available, such as a two-player battle mode (which would have been the first in the series) and more variety/random elements in missions. But what's available still functions as a full-fledged game.

A lot of Star Fox 2's appeal comes from curiosity, but I think there's more to it than that. It's the only entry in the series besides the original that Argonaut developed (though several members were part of Q-Games, which worked on Command and 64 3D). A lot of series staples got their start here, with a battle mode, "all-range" mode, charge/homing shots, vehicles that can travel by land or sea, and Star Wolf among the more significant ones. Approaching from the other side, it builds on concepts from the first game, including a lot of stuff that was never really touched on again. It's a very significant missing link in the franchise.

Beyond that, I think it's pretty intriguing in its own right. I think there's a knee-jerk reaction when people hear that Star Fox 64 mined a lot of 2's concepts, or that Command re-imagines its gameplay, and think if they've played those, they've seen everything 2 has to offer. To me, that's like not playing the original Castlevania because you've played Super Castlevania 4, or the original Metroid if you've played Zero Mission. I mean, you could easily argue that all of the later examples are superior, but I don't think any of them "overwrite" their predecessors.

But let's boot this thing up and see for ourselves!



A nice, shiny Nintendo logo forms in space, but is immediately blasted apart.




We very suddenly transition into a space battle as the laser makes like Gamera archnemesis Gyaos and neatly cleaves a ship in half.




A few of the other ships rush forward to engage the attacker, which we see is this writhing space serpent.



It strikes again, this time taking out one of the fighters and the remaining larger craft with a single shot.




Moving at high speeds, it gets more physical with the remaining fighters. It seizes one in its jaws and tosses it into the other, destroying both.



Having very efficiently routed the (presumably Cornerian) squadron, the beast turns on the fourth wall, scarfing us up to end the intro.

Intro

This intro follows the formula for the original game's intro pretty closely: Nintendo logo appears in space, immediately leading into a scene where an early/easy boss trashes Cornerian forces, then attacks the camera. It's a cool signature of the Argonaut Star Fox duo that really sets the mood. Notably, while both intros follow the same beats, they each feel distinct. The original channels Star Wars: A New Hope's opening, with the Attack Carrier very slowly and inevitably pursuing Cornerian ships, shooting them down, and descending into the frame en route to totally dominating it.

The Mirage Dragon here is very different, initially looking quite small and scrawny, but showing off extreme speed and agility. It interrupts the logo sequence, squirms through space, and just blitzes the Cornerians with both ranged and melee assaults.

While the visual details are obviously lacking, there's still a lot of energy to this sequence. The Dragon moves fluidly, the camera angles really show off its size as it gets closer, and the combination of slicing, exploding, and bludgeoning one ship with another add up to a fun little spectacle of destruction.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-27-2015 at 09:07 AM.
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Old 08-27-2015, 02:20 PM
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Title

We glimpse our heroes from a distance, with a little moment of calm before the storm as they launch into action.

Oh, and the team has a Proto-Great Fox now! It's only referred to as the Mother Ship, and it doesn't look as elegant as later models. Still, it has some spiffy logos, and it proves extremely useful in gameplay.



Here's our title screen! Andross's visage incorporating the sun there isn't just a spiffy shot; as we'll soon see, he's moved out of Venom and is using the (very near orbit of) the sun as his new base of operations. Which may not be the smartest move, but pretty appropriate for an evil mad scientist.

In addition to the familiar Star Fox team members, we see two new characters. Miyu the lynx and Fay the poodle are (or would have been) the first playable female characters of the series. At one point, it seemed Fara Phoenix from the Benjimaru Itoh comic adaptation was intended as a playable character, but was cut during development.



We get our choice of three difficulties. There are more missions and features on higher difficulties, but each setting has aspects unique to it, so we'll be playing them all. Going easiest to hardest makes sense to me!



Danger and Star Map

Well, that's pretty much our premise. Of course, there was never much reason to think Andross was dead in the first place, since the giant face/cube that Fox confronted in the original game was...well, it's a little unclear. The Itoh comic calls it a "Telekinetic Amplifier," something to enhance his powers, and destroying it did nothing to Andross himself (though the team didn't realize that right away). That's good enough for me.

Andross launches a couple vessels that, in addition to trying to bait a lawsuit from Lucasfilm, look similar to some of the ships in the original's famous Space Armada stage. The visual upgrade between games is really noticeable.



Here's our map of the Lylat System. Most of the locations should be familiar to those who have played the original game. Corneria is in its eponymous position. Fortuna, Titania, Venom, Macbeth, and Meteor all return (and all but Meteor would return again, though Fortuna would have to wait until Assault). There's also the brand-new planet of Eladard (purple with rings), which we'll discuss more when we visit it. Then there's Andross's stronghold Astropolis, in close orbit around Lylat's sun (which may or may not be Solar. I never really got that). Finally, there's a nifty satellite gun thing positioned between Corneria and Meteor.




We'll be spending a lot more time navigating the map than we would in other Star Fox games. That's because 2 introduced a major change-up in the gameplay, injecting strategic elements. As Pepper explains, Andross has invaded a couple of planets and is launching InterPlanetary Ballistic Missiles (oh, Star Fox) at Corneria from them. He's also sent two warships (with the even more amazing name of Cannon Betrayers!) at Corneria, and they'll regularly deploy fighter squadrons to fly ahead of them and wreak havoc.

Our objective is to destroy Andross's forces, liberate the planets under his control, protect Corneria from attacks, and eventually take the battle to the monkey himself. We can move anywhere we like on the map, but it takes time, and Andross's forces will move and act during that time frame as well. If we collide with any of them (missiles, fighters, Cannon Betrayers, planetary bases, and a couple other foes we'll see later), we'll enter an action sequence. Action sequences play out in what later games would call all-range mode. The clock continues to roll in battle, and missiles or fighters can escape from us as they pursue their real goal. We can also check the overall map and bail on missions if something more urgent arises, but any enemy/boss we didn't destroy will be fully healed next time we meet.

If Corneria's damage hits 100 percent, that's a game over. We can technically win with Corneria in the upper 90s, but that will take a real toll on the score.

The proto-Great Fox also plays a major role in the action. We'll select two Arwings, and can alternate any time on the map screen. However, they're basically our only "lives", and if we die twice, the game is over. We can heal from enemy drops and occasional power-ups scattered across action areas, but the most reliable way to heal is to visit the Mother Ship. It can also instantly warp to any planet (and Meteor) that is not under Andross's control. On Normal, Andross only conquers two planets, but choosing what to liberate first can really make a difference on higher difficulties.




Behold our team, in nice, big sprite form! One of the coolest parts of this game is that there are different types of Arwings to fly, with different models and attributes. They handle very similarly to the original game, with some modifications due to swapping out rail shooting for all-range flying. We can now boost and brake infinitely, though braking won't bring the vehicle to a complete stop. The wings no longer take independent damage or break, so any laser upgrades we find are permanent as long as we stay alive. It still hurts a lot to smash into terrain (most of the time). We also have chargeable homing shots for the first time. The Nova Bombs from the original game are back. Despite the presence of lock-on, they're still not smart bombs yet, and we have to manually aim them. There are two other consumable abilities, and we can only wield one at a time.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-27-2015 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 08-27-2015, 02:46 PM
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Character Select

We get a quieter, more "cozy" version of the title theme as we ponder which characters to take into battle (much like the original Star Fox's control menu tune, a calmer rendition of its main theme). Unique to this game, we could do everything without ever playing as Fox. We'll give him a chance, though. In fact, since we can pick two of the six characters per run, and we'll be making three runs, everyone gets a turn! This is also the part where you guys get some input. Please vote on the characters you'd like to take on this first run. Once a character has been picked, they're ineligible for later adventures, so whoever goes on easy baby mode here will be unavailable for the harder journeys ahead.

There are three different Arwing types, with pairs of characters flying functionally identical machines (colored differently just to help distinguish individuals). The factors that are permanently intrinsic to each type are shield/health size, flight/boost speed, and charge time for homing shots.

There are also temporary differences: Each character has a "starter" set that we can change by collecting power-ups. This comes down to the level of laser each ship starts with (which goes single, twin, and hyper, as with most Star Fox games) and the secondary weapon they have employed. These should get some consideration, but not as much, since we can collect laser upgrades or swap our weapon types.



Fox and Falco are the all-arounders of the team. Their flight speed and charge time are average, and they start with the familiar Nova Bombs and single laser. They have eight shield units.

The shield looks different than any other Star Fox game, so a quick moment to explain it: a "normal" hit will turn a blue dot into a yellow dot. Another will turn it red. Stronger hits will immediately turn it from blue to red (or yellow to yellow on the next dot). I believe there are only two grades of damage in this game, though some attacks and hazards can rack up multiple hits very quickly. Health drops will restore a red dot to blue. Otherwise, there are a handful of different things that will fully heal you. Notably, your last dot going red means the shield is gone, and it's the next hit that does you in.



Peppy and Slippy are the tanks. They're slow in all aspects of the game, which can be really tough when you're constantly managing a clock and trying to intercept attacks on Corneria. On the other hand, they basically never die, which allows for more reckless tactics and lets you handle a lot of combat without needing to seek power-ups or keep the mother ship close. They also start off with a mere single laser, but they have a beefy 10 shield units. Adding to their durability is their secondary weapon: the repair unit. This thing will fully restore the user's shield. Note that it takes a second after summoning for the device to fly into place, and then it heals one shield unit as a time, so you may not want to wait until the very last second to deploy it. Again, anyone can use this if they find it during gameplay, but Slippy and Peppy get the most mileage out of it due to their larger shields. It's probably the best of the consumable weapons.



Miyu and Fay bring serious speed to the table. They have a mere six shield units, but their Arwings are the fastest and their charge shot is practically instantaneous (it's not so much "hold the button" as "give it a very deliberate press"). Combine that with the fact that they have twin lasers by default, and they can take down a lot of foes before enemies can threaten their fragile craft. Certain power-ups, including laser upgrades, are in set locations every time, so it's possible to get everyone twin lasers quickly, but that just means you can get Fay and Miyu maxed out at hyper just as soon. They come with a barrier item installed. The successor to the original game's Shield item, it surrounds them with a wire-frame sphere for about 15 seconds, rendering them completely invincible. It's nice to have when their max health is so low, but I'd still think the repair unit is better for longevity if you find it.

I just thought I'd mention how secondary weapons work: As you can see, you start with three. If you find a pickup, it basically gives you "That Weapon + 1." So if you have three Nova Bombs and pick up another, you get four Nova Bombs. If you have three bombs and pick up a repair unit, you'll lose all bombs, but have four repair units.

This screen really stands out for its sprite work in a series known for polygons, and I adore all the details here. There's the pure functionality of spelling out the differences between the Arwings, then there are cool details, like the background and the blinking character models. These sprite Arwings only appear in this character select sequence, but they still bothered to draw distinct models, and even the cockpits visible behind the characters are different depending on which model they're flying!



Like the original Star Fox, we can choose between four possible control schemes. I just appreciate when games allow this, especially back in the day.

Oh, and the translators, a group called Aeon Genesis, did a solid job overall, but maybe they needed a break at one point?

Well, introducing them while nitpicking is just mean. It's seriously very nice to be able to play this in English, and they manage to retain (or maybe introduce? I have no idea) a lot of personality in the dialogue. Falco's brash, Slippy spices up his dialogue with frog noises as in the original game, Pepper is excitable and on edge...it's good work. There are a few quotes that I have to believe were written by the translators with later games (re: Star Fox 64) in mind. That or there was even more carried over from this game than I thought. They do show restraint for the most part, though. It'd be pretty easy to completely litter the dialogue with 64 references. I've had to work very hard to avoid it in this thread, and we haven't even reached the game proper yet!

With that, you guys can choose our pair and we'll get to saving Corneria!

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 12-31-2015 at 06:58 AM.
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Old 08-27-2015, 03:13 PM
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Miyu and Slippy because why not?
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Old 08-27-2015, 07:33 PM
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Falco and Falco.

Did you mean Peppy instead of Pepper? Or does Pepper have a larger (and stranger) presence in this game? And, come to think of it, why does the series have two characters with such similar names?
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Old 08-27-2015, 08:14 PM
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Slippy, please.

I love Super Nintendo Slippy so it bums me out how he is viewed as lame now. He has a cool voice and prayer beads and a hat!
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Old 08-28-2015, 07:57 AM
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Heck, in the Itoh comic, that necklace contains gas bombs! Plus, he's the only one who seems to actually express his species' traits.

But even post-SNES, I've had a soft spot for Slippy. As BEAT's incredible close reading of Star Fox Command demonstrated, he has his life together way more than the rest of the team. Even in 64, he's building submarines and letting you see boss life bars. His greatest crime is getting swatted to Titania. But he has a high-pitched voice, so apparently he's terrible...

I did actually mean General Pepper. He has a tendency to freak out whenever it looks like Corneria's slightly in harm's way. His role may be slightly larger than in other games. He kind of breaks down the basic gameplay at the start of a Normal campaign (I cut out some of it), and will explain some other scenarios as they come up. He'll also announce when new enemy forces appear, when Corneria is under attack, or when certain things have been defeated. It may seem like an even bigger role than it is because the Star Fox team isn't quite as chatty as usual. The character in your pair that you're not currently playing as will usually have a couple generic lines of advice if you're taking a long time, a few lines specific to certain locations, and a few different lines of celebratory dialogue upon successfully taking down a battleship or freeing a planet.

And yeah, Peppy and Pepper in the same game/series can be confusing. Especially when Peppy becomes General Peppy in Command.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 08-28-2015 at 08:11 AM.
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Old 08-28-2015, 11:40 AM
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Slippy is most best.
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Old 09-03-2015, 08:25 AM
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Alright, time to get this show on the road! Slippy and Falco, you've got this one!



Release



As with any good Star Fox game, we get an exciting launch sequence to hype us up for the action. This one makes use of both sprites and polygons, and we get a better look at the Mother Ship as it sits in the currently calm Cornerian orbit.




Now we can take stock of our situation. The main source of the danger comes from Andross's pair of battleships and the bases he's established on Titania and Meteor. The bases will regularly pump out missiles, while the ships will launch fighters and close in on Corneria, eventually bombarding it themselves.



Helpfully, we can see how many fighters and missiles are in each group, as well as what types. There will always be between one and six, and that not only influences how many we have to defeat, but how much damage they'll do if they reach Corneria. Missiles will deal 3 percent each, destroying themselves in the process. Fighters will also dish out 3 percent, but if not stopped, will continuously circle the planet and deal damage again every few ticks of the clock.

This, plus the fact that they can actively fight/evade us, makes them a bigger priority in most situations. There's one type of missile that can be really annoying, and another that can either be destroyed very efficiently or waste a bit of time, but for the most part, destroying them is quite simple. Unless you're focused on preventing all damage to Corneria, it's sometimes perfectly acceptable to let smaller groups of missiles go if it frees you up to take care of something more serious. Fighter squadrons will make you pay big time for ignoring them.

I want to start by cleaning up the onscreen fodder before tackling one of the major targets. With the majority of Andross's forces concentrated in one place, there's a nice opportunity to go after the outlier.



After that big, dramatic launch, we begin our campaign by immediately retreating back into the Mother Ship and warping to Eladard!



Flotilla Battle

With that, we engage our first foes!



Like the original Star Fox, and unlike 64, I tend to prefer cockpit view in this game. I think the big difference is that barrel rolling doesn't actually impact your vision; instead, the crosshairs spin while the camera remains in the same position. There's a visible meter to help demonstrate when we've charged up a homing shot. Otherwise, things handle pretty similarly to Star Fox 64's all-range mode. We don't have any fancy somersaults or U-turns, though. The closest substitute is braking while turning, which is something you get used to doing all the time.

We have a surprisingly detailed radar to help us track our foes. Their dots will shrink and grow depending on their "altitude" compared to us (and eventually turn into a hollow red square if they're far above us). Power-ups will appear as green dots on the map. We also have a bar along the right side of the screen that shows our vertical position (and the little icon even noses up or down depending on whether we're ascending or descending). The number of remaining foes is plainly visible. Really, there's almost always a ton of information on display, but not in a way that gets overwhelming (in fact, I often ignore a lot of it. But it can be extremely helpful when there's one last enemy that's being an evasive nuisance).

Another cool feature: As you can see, we're fighting in Eladard's orbit, since we engaged the enemy so near to the planet. It's just a backdrop, but it's nice to see that come into play.



Flotilla Destroyed

This battle went pretty smoothly. The larger Skull Toad could take a bit of abuse, but was an easy target, while the smaller Night Fangs wasted a bit of time, but it was ultimately a good start.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 09-25-2015 at 07:11 AM.
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Old 09-03-2015, 09:01 AM
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With that squadron wiped out, the battleship on the right won't be a threat for a while. It will take some time before it dispatches more, and it's still way too far to attack Corneria itself. So we can warp back to Corneria and take care of more urgent matters, like the missile heading straight for it.

Missiles This is a really fast-paced, tense tune that captures the effort to intercept fast-flying, planet-bombing devices.



Unfortunately, we don't get to hear much of it. Not only is there just a solitary missile, but it's the most basic type (with the basic name of Planet Missile). Two charged shots will wipe it out.

For the record, 0.1 units of time is about one second of "combat mode." We expend quite a bit more time when flying around the map, since we're basically seeing "shorthand" for covering massive distances. So our two battles ate 2.3 units of game clock, but engaging a missile halfway between Corneria and the Satellite took about five. Time factors into score, and other enemies are in motion while we are, so that's what makes warping with the Mother Ship valuable (in addition to the full heal).



Falco's taken care of the first few schmucks pretty effortlessly, so let's get Slippy in on this!




The smaller Hal Birds are faster than Night Fangs, so swapping to Slippy wasn't the best strategic move. Still, this Skull Toad is more aggressive, firing the plasma balls that plagued players of the original Star Fox (with a nice visual upgrade). Slippy's massive Arwing has nothing to fear from these guys (not that Falco would have been in any real danger either).

That takes care of all the immediate threats to Corneria, and puts us right next to a battleship. Time to do some more lasting damage!



Target Description

With more significant targets like this, we get a nifty "preview" sequence, with some ambient "beep boops" to denote all the very important analysis that is most definitely going on. I appreciate the presentation with this game's HUD, menus, character select, and shots like this. Everything's still colorful and appealing, but there are a lot of details to make us feel at home in the Arwing's cockpit. And we have more logos! The Mother Ship was already sporting the Star Fox script and a coat of arms, and now we have evil skulls!

Battleship



We begin well outside the battleship, but this is more of a cinematic interlude than anything. We can just boost, point at the ship, and we should reach it at 0.3-0.5 units. There are enemies and debris out here, so shooting and rolling while boosting can help, but there's really no need to engage, as they're slow and we'll blow right past them. Once we get close enough, a cut scene takes over and we fly into the battleship (again, calling the original Star Fox's Space Armada to mind).

Despite there never being anything significant in these exterior sequences, there's quite a lot of activity. We see yet another detail of the radar (though it's obscured by all the enemies flying around it), as the battleship get a special icon to mark it as our primary target.



Transforms the Arwing, huh? Let's try that!



Well that's different!

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 09-25-2015 at 07:15 AM.
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Old 09-03-2015, 09:56 AM
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So yeah, on planet surfaces or in corridors like this, we can freely transform between flight mode and this chicken walker. The walker can't roll, and is obviously not as fast as the Arwing (though it can run at a pretty decent clip, given some acceleration time). But it automatically locks onto foes, can still fire charged shots and use special weapons, and is great for navigating through closed-in spaces. It will strafe if moved left and right, while the shoulder buttons allow it to turn. This makes it great against slow or stationary foes, since it can come to a full stop to go on offense, and evade while still keeping enemies in its sights. Oh, and even the altitude-measuring icon transforms accordingly!

In later games, I always liked the look of the Landmaster, but it offers no real advantage over the Arwing (well, I think it may be more durable in Assault's multiplayer, but I can't think of any in single-player mode), and its lack of true flight and barrel rolls are distinct disadvantages. Here, there are plenty of situations where the walker is preferable, and switching between them to get the most out of both is one of my favorite elements of Star Fox 2. Plus, it just looks so endearing when it's sprinting along. Its return is the biggest reason I'm looking forward to Star Fox Zero.



Just a short way down the corridor, we come across this curiosity: a spinning coin with General Pepper's mug on it. This is an item that I imagine would have more context in the final game. These are all over the place, scattered in different locations throughout all difficulties (so this particular one won't appear on higher difficulties). Picking one up permanently collects it, unless you wipe the game's save data. Your cumulative total is noted in the Records screen, and there are at least 45 of them.

They fully heal you upon collecting one, but otherwise, they seem to be purely for bragging rights. While this one is impossible to miss, some are hidden in absolutely devious places. They're basically the game's version of Dragon Coins or DK Coins, giving players acknowledgment for digging around.

That brings me to how I want to proceed with this LP: As mentioned, this is a game where time is of the essence. On the other hand, there are a lot of secret areas and just plain oddities in many of the larger areas. I'd like to showcase the stuff I know about, but I also want to show what runs look like when I'm trying to do my best. So I think I'm going to pass through an area as efficiently as possible, then jump back and clean it out just to show what's there.

That's a moot point for this battleship, because it's ridiculously straightforward. There's one enemy that dies after a couple shots, the coin in plain view, and a completely straight corridor with doors that open automatically.



At the end of the corridor, we reach the battleship's core. As is tradition, there are glowing spots that we need to shoot, even as they shoot at us. There are just two of them, and a couple charged shots or a handful of ordinary shots will destroy them. Its own attacks are slow and can be easily sidestepped by the walker.




With that, we see both the core and the ship itself go up in flames, and Slippy gloats about something he had no part in whatsoever! In fairness, the implication is that your teammate is causing mayhem on the outside.

Battleships will take a bit more time to defeat than fighter squadrons or missiles, at least on average (we got a softball with this first one). That's why I like to take out other threats first, if I have the luxury. Still, they're not nearly as much of a time investment as the planetary bases. Speaking of which...

Next Time: We take on Titania!

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-27-2015 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 09-03-2015, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beta Metroid View Post
Slippy gloats about something he had no part in whatsoever!
He spent the whole first game doing it. Why stop now?
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Old 09-03-2015, 05:24 PM
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Star Fox 2 is so important.
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Old 09-04-2015, 07:42 AM
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^I agree!



We're in a nice position right now: in between the two planetary bases. A countdown had begun at Titania, giving us fair warning that a missile is about to launch. Meanwhile, the remaining battleship has quietly deployed another squadron with no warning, yet another reason that the squadrons are deadlier. Titania can be out of the way, so let's address this while we're nearby.

Reaching the planet doesn't send us to its base, though. Instead, we find ourselves in orbit, and something appears in the distance...



That's right, it's the great Leon! Each base is patrolled by a Star Wolf team member (if you look closely on the map, you can see a little dot in addition to the glowing representing the base). It seems Argonaut quickly realized that dogfighting with a similar craft was something perfectly suited for all-range mode and wouldn't work so well with rail shooting.



Surprise Attack

While the composition is very different, this feels like direct inspiration for 64 (and beyond)'s Star Wolf theme. It opens with a sudden sting, and it's just delightfully over-the-top as it plays out.

We see that a lot of the team's traits were there from the very beginning. They come flying in suddenly from a distance, they get a melodramatic theme, they echo the player's abilities, and they repeatedly taunt you throughout the fight. Keep in mind that in the original Star Fox, a couple pre-battle lines from Andross and Professor Hanger's "Bye Bye!!" were the only chatter we got from our foes. Star Wolf's original incarnation basically established the tradition. Their dialogue doesn't change depending on who we're playing as, but we can't have everything in their debut, right?

Even the Wolfen itself hasn't strayed too far from this design over the years. They've gotten more detailed and given each member variants, but the spiky frame seen here has remained recognizable.

Anyway, Star Wolf members don't try to run like other fighters. They'll happily waste your time by weaving all over the place and quick turning, but they're determined to fight. We can go to the pause menu and retreat, as we can from other encounters, but they'll be fully healed the next time we clash. Like I said, they match the Arwings' capabilities pretty closely (except for secondary weapons), and will roll off our shots (even charged ones), and sending high-damaging homing shots our way.



On Normal, though, they're pretty lax about their defense, and a single laser's charged shot will deplete almost half of their shield. They have a quote when they drop below half health, and another as they're dying.



Leon did manage to delay us long enough for Titania to launch a missile, so let's take care of that before going down to the surface. Meanwhile, a dot has moved from Meteor toward...us. What could that mean?



Anyone need a couple pencils?



The Spread Missile has a minor gimmick to it. If a stray, uncharged shot hits them, they'll separate and fly in different directions, wasting some time and possibly even giving one a chance to escape the battle (forcing us to chase it on the map). But a single charged shot can destroy them both on the spot. Of course, sometimes I swear I've hit it with a charged shot first and they still split up, so maybe it depends on where the shot lands.



In any case, this pair is cleaned up in no time at all.



Yeah, that dot is definitely coming for us. Oh well.

Something that isn't so evident (probably because it flickers), is that the Satellite Defense System has been building a charge, and is now primed to fire. It never stops rotating counter-clockwise as it does this, and it will blast any missile or fighter squadron that falls into its sights at this point, instantly destroying them. Then it starts charging up again. That's why I'm not too worried about that squadron over there. I could probably clear out Titania and intercept it, if I handled things efficiently. But we shouldn't even have to worry about it! To Titania!



We have multiple targets here! Every planetary base counts the entrance as one target, so since a switch is the only other thing on display and we have three total targets, we know we have to push two switches to open the base.

Titania

This funky track calls the original Titania theme to mind.

The second planet of the Lylat System, Titania was established in the original game (well, the manual) as having no indigenous life, but was prized as a treasure trove of natural resources. We initially saw it buried in a heavy blizzard, but that was only the effects of a sabotaged "weather control machine." After it was reclaimed, the landscape took on the desert-with-mountains appearance that we've seen in every subsequent appearance (though there was also a massive body of water in the original. It's almost like not all planets are made up of a single type of environment!)



There's a bit of information overload as we arrive. We take in the familiar barren surface and mountainous backdrop, but the hopping Moai heads are new. We reach one of the switches almost immediately, and Pepper begins telling us everything we could possibly want to know about the walker mode. On Normal, we automatically transform and Pepper gives this tutorial the first time we make landfall. We can immediately transform back if we choose, and Pepper's dialogue doesn't halt gameplay, so I have no problem with making sure newbies know they have this transformation and how it works.



With one switch thwarted by the walker's mighty "can apply its weight to the ground" ability, we can fly to reach the second faster (and also pass over the base, seeing one lock is opened). The second switch is on...a slightly elevated platform! This requires us to use the walker's even more impressive "jump", or a well-timed transformation directly above the switch if you're feeling really fancy.



The base is open now, and as I make my way there, Pepper mentions that the satellite has indeed successfully shot down that squadron.



With that, it's time to head inside!

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 09-25-2015 at 07:16 AM.
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Old 09-04-2015, 08:19 AM
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We get a little cut scene of Falco just barely making it inside before the doors close. This loses its impact when you realize this is how they enter every single base.

Titania Inside

Every planet tweaks its theme for the interior section.



We can bring up a map on the pause screen to confirm that the fighters were indeed shot down. This is a feature that's easy to forget, but we never have to be in the dark on what's going on off-planet. We can also leave a planet at any time if there's an emergency. If we reach the base before doing so, it acts as a checkpoint, and we'll start at the beginning of the base when we return. In fact, we're effectively locked out of Titania's surface at this point.



We have some fire streams to weave through, with some of them moving. With proper use of boost and brake, it's not so bad. If we get hit, our craft catches on fire, which will dish out repeated damage. Rolling can put it out faster.



At the end of the corridor, we come to big square room with a massive column in the center and a locked door. There's one enemy in here, this wheeled machine that lobs projectiles at us.



This thing is a reminder to pay attention to both transformations and our radar. It will change speed and direction without warning, often coming to a halt and prompting us to fly right past it with the Arwing, then trying to leave the walker in the dust. It takes more than a few shots to bring down. Doing it quickly means getting the best use out of both forms and keeping track of it on the radar.



I blow it up at point-blank range and it drops a Shield power-up, forcibly changing my secondary weapon. I'm okay with that.





This type of core may be even more effortless to destroy than the one in the battleship. Basically the entire thing is a weak point, and it shoots ring lasers slowly from the top. As long as we keep circling it while returning fire with the walker, it should go down in a few seconds and never harm us.



Planet Clear

We've effectively cut the invasion force in half! But before moving on, let's take a closer look at Titania.
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Old 09-04-2015, 08:35 AM
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Here are a couple unusual sights right away: mechanical stalks will suddenly pop out of the ground at different points. They're harmless and invincible. Perhaps Andross's forces within the base monitoring our actions?

Then there's the blue pad. Stand on it and it will fully restore our health. These can be nice to find if we're far from the Mother Ship on higher difficulties!



The "Target" text obscures it, but this pad is labeled with the Nova Bomb logo. Standing on it causes a capsule to unearth itself, and we can pick up a bomb (or switch our weapons to bombs if we have something else).



There are some artificial and natural structures just to liven up the terrain.



These Moais are indestructible, and unlike the stalks, very mobile and dangerous. Most are hopping around, and will target us if we fire at them. A few are stationary, and will only take action if we provoke them.



This one is sitting on a Pepper Medal!



I love how integrated the game's elements are! We can actually see the missile launch sites and blow up the next missile on deck for a nice chunk of points.



There's nothing stopping us from straying outside of the area's boundaries. There's just a whole lot of flat, unchanging land. If we stay out of bounds for long enough, our partner will fly in, talk to us, and guide us back toward the base. Amusingly, if we're a walker, they'll transform into one themselves, then change to a ship to fly back.



Inside, another medal is tucked behind one of the fire streams. It can be hard to spot when flying through and trying not to get burned, and even harder to grab unscathed without transforming.

That about does it for this incarnation of Titania. There will be more to see on higher difficulties. Now, back to the war!

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 09-22-2015 at 08:32 AM.
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Old 09-04-2015, 09:52 AM
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Andross isn't just going to sit back and let us trash his fleet!



*Ahem* Meanwhile, at the maniacal Andross's floating solar lair...



Yes, the Mirage Dragon that tore up the intro has taken the field! And is poised to cut us off from both our Mother Ship and Andross's remaining forces.



Even worse, the previous pursuer is closing in on us from behind. Oh well, may as well work our way toward Meteor before they catch us.



Battle Against Mirage Dragon



The Dragon definitely gets points for presentation. It has a frantic, memorable theme, and it snakes through space with style. Its noisy laser blast calls back to the intro. An even more striking tie-in is another projectile: the remnants of Cornerian ships that it coughs up when spewing fireballs our way. It makes it seem like a spacefaring mythological monster, sending a grim reminder of the unfortunate crews that tried to slay it in the past.



This is only slightly undone by the dragon being incredibly easy. While its attacks hurt a lot, they're very inaccurate. Meanwhile, it spends large periods of time just asking you to lock on and blast its mouth. Just a few charged shots should take care of business. Following the grand tradition of the Attack Carrier in the original, it has a really cool intro, and generally just has an awesome presence, but goes down like a chump.




Still, even in death, the Dragon's committed to looking awesome. It breaks into segments, which simultaneously catch fire and burn away. Then its head comes flipping toward us as it burns, in a nice parallel of the intro, where it attacked the camera. It may be easy, but it's such a cool creature.



Though we made quick work of it, it took long enough for the other pursuer to catch us immediately after the battle.



Surprise it's another Star Wolf member who ever saw that coming.

That first shot is a shiny sparkle that signals an approaching Wolfen. It coincides nicely with the music.




These guys will get tougher on higher difficulties, but they're really no match on Normal.

Just some assorted thoughts: I continue to love the character portraits. Pigma's ears flop when he talks, the transmission jumbles as he's dying, Leon has some detailed markings.

Pigma was initially guarding Meteor just as Leon was patrolling Titania. I'm not sure exactly what spurs them to abandon their post. It may be their teammates getting killed, which would be a cool bit of character for them. We can watch for this in subsequent runs.

When Star Wolf starts chasing us, they can actually engage us if we're in the middle of dealing with missiles or fighters, which I think is pretty cool. On the other hand, it makes me wish for more possible scenarios, like Pigma joining the Mirage Dragon in this case, or Star Wolf members aiding each other, or the Dragon intruding on other battles. I can dream that an officially released version would have such things.

Reading Leon and Pigma's dialogue makes me wonder about the game's writing. Leon shows complete dedication to Wolf, while Pigma's blatantly motivated by money, and calls the heroes "punks." That all sounds totally in line with later versions of the characters, and I just have to wonder: Did Argonaut put this stuff in place and later Star Fox games followed their example right from the start? Or were they more generic (or just entirely different) and did Aeon Genesis apply knowledge of later Star Fox games to portray them like their officially released versions? I suppose it doesn't really matter, though I would be impressed if Argonaut not only invented Star Wolf, but established their overall dynamic with a handful of lines in an unreleased game.

Finally, while Star Wolf and Hunter bosses like the Dragon will typically pursue us, if they end up closer to Corneria than our characters, they'll behave like squadrons, repeatedly ravaging the planet until stopped. Usually the only time they get in that position is if we use warping, so it's something to be careful about. You can think you're clever for eluding them, then find a no-damage run ruined. I have to give props for programming these foes with multiple objectives, which make sense in context of this conflict. Why go to the other side of the system to attack Star Fox if Corneria's right there (which will either bring the team to you or destroy Corneria, and you want both as the villains here)?

Next Time: We're in great shape! No "hunters" on the field, just one base and one battleship remaining, and we're right next door to Meteor. Let's liberate it!

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 09-21-2015 at 07:20 AM.
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  #18  
Old 09-11-2015, 02:27 PM
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I hope everyone celebrating Labor Day (or Labour Day) thoroughly enjoyed themselves! Now back to work!



As we approach Meteor, there's some activity to take note of. The base is preparing to fire a missile, while the Satellite Defense System completes another charge.



Ooh, how ominous!



The second target is a bit more predictable. And I missed it before, but the analysis screen goes static before fading out if you don't press anything for a few seconds.



Welcome to Meteor! The original Star Fox's manual informs us that this was a sort of traveling amusement park, with the builders using massive thrusters to (apparently) bring it close to different civilizations. Then Andross hijacked it and used it to back up his Space Armada.

With this background, the assorted roads and man-made structures make sense: There's been a lot of activity here for a long time.

Meteor. Its laid-back, echoing tune definitely recalls the original, even with completely different composers.

A couple things quickly stand out. First, we're set down almost directly onto a power-up, hiding under the bridge. It turns out this is a Twin Blaster upgrade, so Slippy will never again have to wield a puny single laser. Power-ups like this (as opposed to those dropped by enemies) will always be in the same place in its respective difficulty setting, so if Meteor is available on Normal, it's a quick way to upgrade a character.



The other is the life bar and the "Queen Dragoon" label that appears at the bottom of the screen as soon as we arrive. This is a fun element that Star Fox 2 adds to the mix: bosses that simply wander the planet's surface. We don't get a preview of them in the target screen, and we can simply run into them without fanfare or music change. Seeing massive polygonal beings simply wandering peacefully or (as in this case) aggressively sniping us before we know they're there spices up the planetary missions. We need to defeat them in order to advance, so there aren't secret bosses or anything, but it still seems to give them a bit more "life" to see them just going about their business (before we swiftly destroy them).




And I do mean swiftly. Queen Dragoon has no defenses to speak of, and will bite it fast against our twin laser barrage. Before she was unceremoniously slaughtered, she bore a resemblance to Dancing Insector, the boss of Meteor in the original, which is appropriate. She has unique traits, though, like these cute waving antennae-eyes. From a distance, she'll fire missiles that can be overwhelming if we're caught off guard. As we get close, she switches to energy projectiles, which is an interesting behavior, but it doesn't offer her any sort of advantage.

Upon death, the entire switch mechanism will go flying out of her body, flipping and twirling around before settling to the surface. It's amusing to see, so points there.

As it happens, the Dragoon is the only boss exclusive to Normal. We'll see plenty more on higher difficulties.



With that, we can make our way inside the base. I love how these sites of mass destruction have neon "OPEN" signs when enemies crack their defenses.



I miss it in screenshots, but Pepper mentions that more fighters have been launched. Indeed, the mini-map shows that the battleship has gotten aggressive and launched two squadrons. With a missile about to launch as well, things could get hairy fast out there. So I make use of the "get a checkpoint for entering the base" mechanic and bail on Meteor for the moment.



The Satellite promptly blasts one of the squadrons, so Slippy moves to take on the other.



These ships prove very elusive, regularly changing direction with a burst of speed to break lock-ons. They burn clock, and one gets away. Not a great outing there.

Enemy Out of Range. As frustrating as it can be when it happens, I do like the "spacey," mysterious jingle that accompanies it.



The satellite charges a lot faster than I remembered on Normal, and it obliterates the missile as it passes by.



That leaves me free to clean up my mess in 0.1 space seconds.



But then the battleship launches two more squadrons. And again one fighter escapes. Fortunately, the satellite has charged up yet again and wiped the other squad off the map. Both sides have kicked into high gear.
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Old 09-12-2015, 08:03 AM
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We can finally engage the battleship, but not before we see why they're called Cannon Betrayers. (For the record, that first screenshot was not from the same run, and I just grabbed it for the dialogue).



When the Betrayers get close enough, they brandish their gigantic Planet Cannons and begin charging them. We really need to bring this thing down!



Again, this ship is pretty straightforward. There are just a few protrusions that conceal minor enemies...and a medal!



Then there are these doors that we have to shoot open, with another minor enemy behind them. There's what a health drop looks like. Star Fox 2 abandons the rings used in...every other Star Fox game in favor of capsules.




Another super-easy core, and Andross has no more ships!



He whines about this turn of events, but that's about all he can do. His only means of interplanetary warfare now is the missile launcher on Meteor, and that's one thing that didn't seem to accelerate its cycle. Time to finish things up there before we even have to worry about it!



If we make it inside, bail, and return, the target shifts from the base in general to the core itself. This game is pretty good with these little details.

Meteor Inside



The door to the next room is locked, but turrets in the pillars are the only things close to dangerous here. A few load-lifting bots are running around, and one of them's carrying the switch.



Again, it flips all around before coming to a landing.



The second room is also locked, and requires us to destroy this large spinning enemy. It will move rapidly around the room, then come to a stop and open up to send out overwhelming sprays of ring blasts, at which point it's vulnerable. It takes a bit of abuse to kill, so Slippy in walker mode is a fine choice here. We can simply park right in front of it and take it down in one cycle, ignoring the few dents it may put in our massive health bar.



As it happens, I actually take down this specimen unscathed, and it drops another repair unit. Slippy is functionally immortal.
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Old 09-12-2015, 08:27 AM
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Another core is swiftly shredded by the mighty twin lasers.



Meteor is free, and we get a nifty departing shot!

Now, let's take a closer look at this place before moving on.



There are some small buildings and a power-up capsule, in addition to the blaster upgrade under the bridge that we picked up.



Blowing up Meteor's on-deck missile yields a medal!

That's...about it on the surface. We saw the bridge, the roads, Queen Dragoon, and a couple turrets already.



Inside, destroying the cargo of one of the load lifters will reveal another medal inside. And that's about all there is to see here.

We now return to our ongoing mission!



We've got him right where we want him!



After clearing the map of the last of Andross's forces, the Mother Ship will automatically warp to our location so we can take the fight to the monkey himself. But before we can get inside...



Oh snap!



Let's see, Wolf's debut had already established: his condescending attitude, spiky shoulder pads, a custom-made Wolfen, and an injured eye. Interestingly (to me, anyway), the wardrobe and the distinct ship wouldn't return until Star Fox Assault.



Now that's just harsh.



Wolf is a bit more determined to break our lock, roll away attacks, and send homing shots our way than his comrades were.
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Old 09-12-2015, 08:57 AM
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Ah yes, the legendary O'Donnell/Toad feud!



He may be the toughest boss we've faced yet, but he still takes a ton of damage when we connect, and we can end this without much of a fuss.



While we definitely see Leon and Pigma blown up, Wolf's sputtering ship clearly escapes, with him swearing revenge. It's cool to see that they already had plans for this guy to be a big deal.



Andross again rages impotently, and this time we complete our warp to Astropolis.

Something to note here: Once you destroy the last target on the map (so not counting Wolf or Astropolis), you lose the opportunity to change characters. You also get no chance to visit the Mother Ship and heal before fighting Wolf. You will automatically heal before the final mission, since you visit the Mother Ship, but you'll want to make sure you're happy with the character you're using leading up to the endgame.

Also, time stops being a concern once we engage Wolf, because there's nothing that can harm Corneria from this point on, but it still tallies our total time, so I feel pressured to speed if I'm trying to to do a "serious" run.




When we arrive at Astropolis, a cool cutscene ensues, showing all six Arwings take off to engage enemy forces.



Our own vessel will shred enemies with the appropriate lasers as we make our way inside.



Astropolis. I really like this one. It sounds urgent, with some triumphant bursts balanced by an unsettling bass.

With that, the final stage is underway! We have fire streams to dodge, and then this swinging wall to evade. If we shoot it, it will stop momentarily.



We come to a fork in the road, guarded by a turret. Let's head right!



The next room is full of wall blasters, with a medal sitting right out in the open.



We need to defeat the door itself in order to advance, and when it's sealed shut it will deflect our own shots back at us.



More enemies try to shoot, then retreat behind cover. Then we come to a wall.



A turret will emerge from any point on the wall, take some shots, then fade back in. We have to be quick on the draw to destroy this thing, which then lets us through.
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Old 09-12-2015, 09:24 AM
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The two paths converge here, and the map indicates another room to the south. But there's no time for that!!



With a whopping four nodes, this core is marginally tougher than the absurdly easy ones we've destroyed so far. Marginally.



The familiar Andross cube from the original game returns (though updated to match his new look). Destroying this is a complete formality, as it's stationary and doesn't fight back.



It retreats into this shaft, and we automatically pursue it. Meanwhile we reprise the Intro from the original Star Fox. It's a good tension-builder, and works fine for this sequence. It's just weird, as it's the only piece of music to be straight-up reused from the original (some are alluded to).



Things get trippy, and the cube is encased in a giant mask. Time to end this!

Andross. I love that intro! Otherwise, it's a bit repetitive, but it can keep you on edge, especially with those held high notes.



This fight is really straightforward. The mask will occasionally shoot out several streams of fire. Taking a hit can set the Arwing on fire, which will do additional damage beyond the initial contact. As in the original, we have to go for the eyes. Making it somewhat tricky is how Andross will make slight turns on his own, and much more violent ones as he takes hits.



Andross will typically position himself front and center, and this fight will play out like the traditional rail-shooting boss battles of the original. But it is still in all-range mode, and Andross can sometimes be a jerk and change elevations, or outright move across the arena. With there being no real frame of reference in the arena itself, this is where watching the radar and our elevation meter is extremely helpful. I've sometimes fallen into the trap of waiting for Andross to readjust, treating it like a rail-shooting fight, but if you use the tools on hand, you can trim a lot of the nonsense out of this battle (and remember the braking quick-turn method).

Again, I really appreciate all the detail put into the HUD. It's easy to forget about, but so useful.



The damage starts piling up, so I opt to burn a repair unit. With three in reserve, why not?



Once both eyes are destroyed, the mask shatters and the cube is left bare. This time, it actually will move around, as well as shed tiles that can ram into us and obscure its position.



Still, just a few shots will take it down. Normal mode has been conquered!

Next Time: We'll look at the ending and the roads not taken in Astropolis. We'll also see what the other planets look like on Normal (since they have different layouts on other difficulties).

Meanwhile, votes are open for which pair will take on Hard mode! The candidates are Fox, Peppy, Miyu, and Fay.
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Old 09-12-2015, 09:38 AM
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Still want to see Miyu but let's bring Peppy too just to mix it up. Having two of the same ship doesn't seem like a good idea anyway.
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Old 09-21-2015, 06:35 AM
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The space station starts to go up in flames, and our character needs to escape (via cutscene). He's briefly knocked end-over-end, but regains control and boosts out of there. This sequence has no music, only the sound of flames, blaring klaxons, and the Arwing engines. I think it's a pretty effective choice.




Astropolis sinks into the sun as Slippy and Falco escape, and have a bit of a miscommunication. At least they look pretty neat against the solar backdrop.




We get a nice, relaxing sequence to catch our breath, as the whole team returns to the Mother Ship and we see more of this neat background. There's some actual voice acting here, and Fox doesn't hog it like he did in the original! Presumably General Pepper says "good work Star Fox!!" and several team members chime in:

"It was a team effort!!"
"What a mission!!"
"Adios, Andross!!"
"Let's head back to Corneria!!"

Supposedly the devs made a serious push to provide voice acting for the entire game, but it just wasn't in the cards. It's nice to hear some of the teammates' 16-bit voices, at least (though determining who's saying what is a bit of guesswork).



With that, Star Fox heads home, having once again saved the Lylat system.

Credits

Man, Star Fox can just knock credits tunes out of the park. I love that percussion, and the soft, quiet moment near the start.



"Access Granted: Executing Staff Roll Sequence"! Amazing.



So many machines get fancy logos on them in this game!




So yeah, the composer of the original Star Fox--Hajime Hirasawa--left to form his own company shortly after completing his work with that game. His work on Star Fox definitely influenced the composers on 2, though.



If you're not going to go with "Star Wolf," you could at least call it the "Wolf Pack." Come on.

All gaming credit sequences should spotlight the enemies and/or the locations. Those are always the ones that stick with me.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-27-2015 at 09:47 AM.
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Old 09-21-2015, 07:16 AM
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With a look at Andross's goofy mask and a stylish appearance of "The End" (yet another SNES Star Fox tradition), this campaign has indeed drawn to a close.




Records

The original Star Fox scored you but...it erased the one high score on display every time you turned off the console. You can add the Records screen to the list of franchise staples that Star Fox 2 invented. And wow, that music is just so pleasant and peaceful...

Again, this game shows off great sprite work when it gets the chance and offers very comprehensive information. We get to "blast" our initials (I went with NORmal) in, it shows off our pilots, score, time, the planets we liberated, battleships, missiles, and other vessels destroyed, and whether the campaign ended with Astropolis, Corneria, or our Arwings' destruction (and an accompanying graphic). It also shows the total amount of medals found, though that's a cumulative total from all of our runs.

Alright! With our first run concluded, it's time to look at the remaining roads not taken in Normal. We'll start by reviewing the rest of Astropolis. As you'll recall, we run into a fork in the road early on, and we took a right the first time. Let's go down the left branch!



This path leads to a room dominated by a fiery/lava floor, forcing us to the edges if we stay in walker form. Of course, the edges have wall turrets and this odd, wall-climbing creature.




The way forward is locked, and the switch to open the door is floating among the lava. To proceed unscathed, we have to fly over it, then transform in midair and drop down. It takes an awareness of momentum and the Arwing's transformation mechanics that haven't been tested up until now. With objectives like this, Star Fox 2 seems to foreshadow Super Mario 64 more than Star Fox 64. It won't be the last of this kind of thing, either.



With the way forward open, we have to blast our way through barriers in the next corridor. Certain spinning obstacles don't react to our shots, though, and we just have to sneak past with good timing.



If by chance you don't shoot the right shutter here, this medal is very easy to miss. If you do shoot it, it's right there in plain sight.



Now we come to the point where the branches converge, and we move north to engage Andross. But if we check out this room to the south...




We get a medal, a healing pad, a blaster upgrade, and a repair unit? This is just unfair. Poor Andross doesn't have a chance. The healing pad's a bit redundant the first time, since collecting a medal fully heals you. But since collected medals are plucked from the game forever unless you wipe all your records, the pad's useful for later runs.



We're locked in the room and hassled by this turret. It can retract into the floor and pop up at other locations. It's also really durable for a non-boss enemy, and we need to destroy it to open the door. But with the small arsenal we've stumbled upon, this is a slight inconvenience at worst.

That's all there is to say about Astropolis (on Normal). Let's tour some planets!

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-27-2015 at 09:50 AM.
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Old 09-21-2015, 08:01 AM
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Let's pull up the map here:



On Normal, Andross will never invade Macbeth (the orange planet near the top of the screen) or Fortuna (the blue planet near the bottom). If I had to guess why, it'd be that both planets have some environmental quirks that may be a bit demanding for a first-time player, and they felt that trying to ease up would just strip their identities. Fortuna is also very close to Corneria and outside of the "attacking lanes" of the other planets or battleships. Titania's out of the way too, but when both are invaded on higher difficulties, it's a real pain to manage, so maybe they wanted to spare rookies that situation.

So that leaves us Eladard and Venom.



Eladard gives us a change of pace right off the bat. It eschews switches or bosses and instead guards its entrance with a barrier.

Eladard This may be the MVP of the Star Fox 2 soundtrack. It's frantic, upbeat, and mysterious all at once.



Eladard is definitely the most industrialized of the planets we've visited. Its landscape is similar to Meteor, but unlike the flying theme park, we see a skyline full of sci-fi skyscrapers. Between the music and the visuals, this is a pretty nice location, and it's a shame that it's the only one to never appear outside of this game.




Take a "concept Star Fox 64 would recycle" drink.



Here's Eladard's missile platform.



Furthering the "bustling metropolis" imagery are the hard-at-work construction bots, moving crates around with electricity. Just like on Meteor, they make no effort to attack us, but of course we can find goodies by disrupting their work!



Those include a blaster upgrade, smart bombs, and health drops.



One crate is being transported by air. Shoot down the bird (or ship, or robot), and the crate will burst open, revealing a medal! I like that this can easily be dismissed as a generic fighter that isn't attacking at the moment if you're focused on other things. But if you look at it and see it has cargo, it's a safe bet that it has something of interest.

Eladard Inside Okay, I was including this variant when I said the Eladard theme may be the best in the game.



The first room inside the base is interesting, but dampened by how puny the enemies are. The switch to proceed is on a raised platform. Enemies are waiting on the other side, and will occasionally jump to take potshots at us. We can jump onto the platform, but then we're sitting ducks. So do we just charge ahead firing like mad? Do we strafe around the platform and take them with cover nearby? If one direct hit didn't blow them up, this could be a tense situation.



The next room is very similar to Astropolis's lava room, and it's definitely intentional. Here, we have to destroy the strange wall-crawling foe in order to open the door (and it drops a blaster upgrade, which would be extremely lucky if this were a serious run and not showing off this one planet). The same enemy is in the Astropolis room, but is just a red herring.



This room also illustrates the importance of the very thorough radar, which is so easy to ignore in the heat of the moment. It shows that this is a square room, but we see a wall cutting into the real estate. Sure enough, it's not real, and there's a medal concealed behind it.



That's about all there is on Eladard this time around! The boss is an extremely easy core that we've seen elsewhere.
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  #27  
Old 09-21-2015, 08:34 AM
Beta Metroid Beta Metroid is offline
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Venom

Both the original Star Fox's manual and the Itoh comic mention that Venom was peaceful and lively before Andross set up shop there. The idyllic green landscape and laid-back music attest to that.



There are some large rocks breaking up the flat terrain, with one of the switches mounted atop one.



Flowers and giant mushrooms...Venom has really made an impressive rebound from the barren wasteland Andross reduced it to! The second switch is in the shade of one of the shrooms.



Big scorpion-like critters (or robots/vehicles. Can't really tell...) roam the surface.



I just discovered this medal when preparing this post. You have to stomp on a mushroom (not the one by the switch), pushing it into the ground and triggering the medal! This game is crazy awesome about rewarding you for leaving no stone unturned...which again, feels really weird with the "Corneria is never safe!" race against the clock premise. But I still have a lot of appreciation for hiding places like this.

Venom Inside



The first room inside the base just has two raised platforms (with ramps, so we don't even have to jump): one with the switch, the other with a turret.



The second room has two wall turrets, and the door itself needs to be "defeated" in order to advance. Again, it can bounce your own shots right back at you, so getting careless is the main danger here.



Then we reach the core. I didn't get a close-up, but you can see a medal placed on the far side of the room. This is where the incredible easiness of the core fights can work against trigger-happy players. If it were more dangerous or had some form of defense, you may circle as you fight and get a better look at the medal. But since it can be brought down in about three seconds, you can defeat it without moving. The big flashy core, its shots, and your own shots can obscure the medal, and a player can easily trash the core and destroy the base before ever realizing it's there.

That is just about all there is to see on Normal! We have some great music, intriguing secrets, and nice environments, but nothing really threatening.

Next Time: We step it up a notch and begin a Hard mode run! Miyu and Peppy have a commanding lead in the polls, so unless there's a sudden demand for Fox or Fay, we'll save the "F"s for Expert.
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Old 09-24-2015, 08:41 AM
Beta Metroid Beta Metroid is offline
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So, we've thwarted the return of Andross and saved Corneria. But what if...he was slightly more threatening and competent? Star Fox 2 answers the tough questions!




Things kick off in much the same way, but we immediately see escalation on the higher difficulty. Andross has four Cannon Betrayers at his disposal now, though two of them are staying home. He's also upped the ante on bases, invading three planets instead of two. He's once again taken the Meteor, and we'll finally get to see Fortuna. Of the highest concern is that he's trying to re-establish operations on Venom, which has been on the road to recovery since his initial defeat.




The lynx and the hare go into action! Peppy looks a little more wizened than his initial appearance, coming closer to resembling what would be his eventual role as the wise old teammate. He thinks Andross stinks!

Miyu is bold and confident, which sounds like another Falco on the surface, but she's more fun-loving and positive than Mr. Why'd you have to shoot down that bogey that I wouldn't stop whining about, Fox? She blows a kiss to...someone.



Just like on the Normal run, Eladard is wide open and one of the fighter squadrons is passing right by it, so we can take the opportunity to get at it quickly.



We're looking at four missiles of the "conjoined pencil" variety, four Hal Bird schmucks in the far squadron, and a blend of Night Fangs and brand-new Sky Kickers in the one we're about to engage. The latter can be really quick and evasive, so it's even better to take these guys down now.




When dealing with squads of small, weak fighters (or missiles) that will try to flee as often as fight, Miyu's definitely the better choice. There may be a full second difference in charge time between her and Peppy's homing shots (without actually timing it in any concrete way, I'd say Miyu's is less than half a second, while Peppy's is well over one). Miyu's twin blasters right off the bat give her homing and standard shots more punch, and a bigger hit box for the standard. And she can keep up with most enemies trying to flee.

That goes to show you just how annoying Sky Kickers are: I consider it pretty good that only one got away and didn't waste more than two time units.



With just one left, it takes no time at all to blow it away with a single homing shot. It only wasted an instant of map travel time.



I decide to just take out this Cannon Betrayer while we're right here. This is a risky move with the missile and squadron closing in (at least if you're trying to avoid any damage to Corneria, which I am), but we have Miyu's speed on our side. Plus the Mother Ship's right next door, which offers two benefits: We can warp to Corneria to intercept the other threats very quickly, and we can fully heal after dealing with the battleship, so we can afford to be a bit reckless even with Miyu's frail Arwing.

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 09-25-2015 at 07:21 AM.
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  #29  
Old 09-24-2015, 09:00 AM
Beta Metroid Beta Metroid is offline
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The "outside the battleship" segments aren't any more substantial on Hard, and we can get inside within 0.3 of game clock. I mean, it's cool that they made it look like this really hectic scenario, with small fighters buzzing around everywhere. It gives your partner an implicit mission to occupy themselves with while you're inside, so there's that. But "point at the ship and boost" will always get through this with little to no consequences.



The corridor juts out, forcing us to one side. It isn't much of an obstacle, and if you're high-tailing it through this section, you can easily miss the medal directly behind it.



Then we have more spinning walls that we can shoot to freeze momentarily. The trick is that they don't stay frozen long, and they actually have some momentum, so they won't stop at the exact point when you shoot them. It takes a bit of forethought to get by unscathed at full speed. The walker is immune to such petty threats as walls, but is obviously slower.




We saw this thing on Normal, and it still does its very best to try to fake us out.



With that, we reach the core, which has four nodes on Hard. This particular core also boasts a pair of wall turrets, which is encouragement to keep circling (or take them out). Damage can rack up if we park.

Certain areas remind me of how this game handles shadows. It renders distinct ones for the Arwing, the walker in midair, and the walker on the ground. I continue to be impressed with the little details.



It will indeed, Peppy. We took a persistent threat out of action, and we still have ample room to clean up the small fries. Let's warp back to Corneria!




The Spread Missiles are disposed of in a single shot and 0.1 space seconds.



And the Schmuck Squadron lives up to expectations. Everything's running smoothly!

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-27-2015 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 09-24-2015, 09:54 AM
Beta Metroid Beta Metroid is offline
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We have a moment to breathe now, and an opportunity to take our pick of major targets. I opt for Fortuna. It's not the closest target, but its position makes it a bit inconvenient, so I figure may as well get that base out of the picture while things are relatively quiet and we're at least within reasonable distance. Engaging Fortuna basically takes you out of the missile/squad lanes from everywhere except Eladard and battleships on the right. Conversely, it can be tough to intercept missiles launched from Fortuna if you're at just about any other base or battleship (except maybe the right one), and they don't have far to travel. To sum up: Fortuna is probably the most disruptive location for a base, and there's rarely a good time to deal with it. This is just a "not particularly bad" time.



Of course, if we want to reach the surface, we have to get through Leon!




While his craft doesn't seem any more durable, Leon's definitely a sharper pilot on Hard. He'll deflect both standard and homing shots regularly, and keep throwing out homing shots of his own (which only Wolf did with any kind of frequency on Normal). Miyu's quick charge, faster turning to keep him in sight, and twin lasers are all very helpful in keeping this fight relatively short. She can't take too many charged shots, but at full health, she's the clear choice for this fight.



Leon may not have stopped us, but he made our situation a lot more pressing. Meteor's on the brink of launching a missile, and Fortuna itself is pretty close. On the plus side, the Cornerian satellite is primed to fire. Let's try to shut down Fortuna before its missile launches!

It's time for Peppy to come off the bench! Planetary raids are by nature longer and more hazardous than battleship raids or clashes with fighters/missiles, so Peppy's tank of an Arwing is a safer option than the battle-damaged Miyu.



It's switch-stomping time!

Fortuna

This is a strange one, alternately soothing and militaristic. I like it a lot, and it fits the setting well, but it's definitely unusual.



The fifth planet of the Lylat system, Fortuna is fiercely natural. It's teeming with overgrown flora and fauna. In the original game, Andross was able to somehow take control of this wildlife, which the Star Fox team resolved by blowing a lot of them up. This included the giant multi-headed bird-dragon (and King Ghidorah stand-in) Monarch Dodora, whom the manual refers to as "the planet's spirit" and also more than a match for state-of-the-art weaponry. (In SNES Star Fox, the Arwings are brand-new dangerous prototypes). The Itoh comic had the team find a more nonlethal method to liberate the Dodora and Fortuna, and the great beast actually played a key role in the defeat of Andross.

The first time around, Fortuna had a shocking amount of environments, with a grassy meadow, ocean, and plain (there were even different creatures around the ocean shores and the depths). We're sticking to the ocean this time, which hosts fish and giant water-skimming bugs.



One of the switches is on this little patch of land, and it reveals that the base entrance is on the ocean floor. Well, what to do about that?




There's a (water-bound) ship cruising around the area, and the second switch is on its deck. It takes a bit of finesse to transform and drop onto a moving target, especially if enemies are around. Meanwhile, Meteor fires its missile...
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