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  #91  
Old 10-30-2015, 10:20 AM
Beta Metroid Beta Metroid is offline
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Just some assorted post-game thoughts here:

I've talked a lot about Star Fox 2's legacy in the Star Fox franchise. I also said near the start that I believed it held up as a game in its own right, and doesn't deserve to be viewed as a mere prototype for Command or the all-range parts of 64. After this project, I stand by that. I have the not-so-controversial view that rail-shooting Star Fox is the best Star Fox, so I do think 64 is the superior game. On the other hand, I don't think 64 all-ranges as well as its lost predecessor. 2's levels are certainly a lot more interesting than 64's all-range ones, even if you need to put Corneria at risk to experience a lot of it. It has the superior land vehicle by a mile, and the music's a pretty close call.

The entirety of Command compares much more directly to 2. Personally, I'll take 2 most days of the week. Again, the areas are just more interesting, the Arwing and walker combine to add more depth to the gameplay, and I prefer the way 2 handles bosses. Command's selection of different ships is one clear advantage it holds over other released Star Fox games, but 2 has multiple ships of its own. Command still has more, but the ability to swap secondary weapons and upgrade lasers in 2 gives you an impressive amount of customization nonetheless. Advantage is still with Command, but it's a thin one. Also, 2 was going to have battle mode with the different ships available, while Command had a ton of ships and a battle mode, but limited you to the default Arwing in it for reasons I cannot comprehend.

So, I think 2 holds its own as a satisfying game, but it still has problems. Of course, the version that's *ahem* available is not the final version. Developer interviews have hinted that, in addition to the battle mode, the final version has slightly more polish to the visuals. Most importantly, the developers mentioned there being more variety and randomization in the "almost-finished" product. That's a key thing, because if you know exact level layouts and power-up locations, there isn't going to be much challenge on any mode.

That and the lack of balance are the game's (or this version's) biggest weaknesses, in my opinion. With all the buildup of the Planet Cannons, they do comically little damage, while a single fighter can tear Corneria to shreds if given a minute.

Bosses are all extremely allergic to all weapons, and the few that can adequately protect themselves have to cease all attacks of their own to do so. Wasted time is more of a danger than dying. And that in itself isn't bad. This is a different game with different rules, so bosses that incorporate the timer into their design rather than slavishly imitating original Star Fox opponents is a good sign. But the very best bosses in 2 (aside from Andross) manage to be threatening/interesting in spite of their glass jaws. I consider big, intimidating aliens, monsters, robots, and vessels a major part of what makes Star Fox so memorable, and simply tweaking some of these guys' HP/damage values would go a long way.

Then there's our crew. Again, I love getting different Arwing models, and that they're reflected in the visuals and even the cockpits. But Fay and Miyu are just so superior to the original Star Fox team. Now, I have a blast playing as them and think that it's awesome that the ladies from the mysterious unreleased game are the most powerful forces in the Star Fox franchise. But in gameplay terms, something was clearly overlooked here. This is like Mario Kart 64, where the lightweights have the best acceleration AND top speed (and off-road, though less important). It was mentioned earlier that it didn't seem like a good idea to roll out a duo of the same type, and that's absolutely true...if you're talking about the tanks or all-arounders. Miyu/Fay is hands-down the best possible pairing, whether you're shooting for speed, score, or survival, on any difficulty. Rookie players may want more durability, but as soon as you're familiarized with the controls and mechanics, the only reason to switch it up is for the sake of variety and giving the boys a chance.

Star Fox 2 seemed to have an impact on more than just its own series. Maybe I'm crazy, but it feels like it shares some DNA with Super Mario 64. There are assorted platforming sections and moments where you have to land precisely from a flight, which feels like moments with the Wing Cap. You have some un-Star Fox-like stuff, such as pushing blocks around and hitting switches. Then there's the whole medal collectathon, which feels right there in the evolutionary ladder between Super Mario World's Dragon Coins and Super Mario 64's stars. You even have invisible walls to slip through to reach some. The wandering bosses call Unagi the Eel to mind. Then there's Titania, which has a pyramid with a hidden medal, stomping invulnerable stone enemies, a towering spire, and a bird soaring around the desert with a MacGuffin in its clutches!

Some of this may just be naturally-occurring traits of early 3D platformers. But looking at the credits, it's not like Nintendo was just publishing an Argonaut product. Quite a few Nintendo staff members worked on this game. I don't think it could ever go beyond speculation, but certain things like Klepto the Condor are just too similar to ignore.

While messing around and showing off some of those last concepts, I noticed one more thing.



Since Slippy and Falco's Andross-defeating dialogue didn't seem to fit together at all, I'd just assumed that each character had their designated line, and that was it. But it looks like there are different lines depending on who the pairs are. That also got me wondering what difference it makes if only one teammate survives the run. But man...even on Normal, that's about 20 minutes per run, for all possible remaining combinations. We'll see...maybe it's something I'll upload in the future.

For now, I'm calling this a wrap! I'm still happy to talk Star Fox with anyone who's interested, but I'm putting the game down for a while. It's been fun!
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  #92  
Old 10-02-2017, 11:46 AM
Beta Metroid Beta Metroid is offline
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Well, this is a bit awkward... Star Fox 2 is officially on the market! Just to catch anyone up who may have missed it: On September 29, 2017, Nintendo released the SNES Classic, which is a mini-console with a pre-loaded collection of 21 SNES games, including Star Fox 2. Unfortunately, I don't have the means to record this particular version of the game, but for completion's sake, I'd like to discuss some of the differences between this and the version that has been floating around. I've only had the game a few days at this point, so this is far from comprehensive, but I'll share what I've noticed so far.

First, the title screen has been slightly changed.

This is an entirely new translation. I'd call it a downgrade from the Aeon Genesis version, but it's harmless.

There seems to have been quite a bit of thought put into game balance. Of course, I have no idea whether this occurred back when the game was in development, or if these were recent tweaks solely for this 2017 release. In the old version, attacks seemed to only deal either one-half or one shield unit of damage. Now I've taken hits that deal one-and-a-half or two shield units.

Remember how I talked about everything doing three percent damage to Corneria, even the giant, terrifying Planet Cannons, which take forever to charge and get a big dramatic cutscene when they fire? Missiles now do five percent each, while fighters are reduced to two. Making missiles hit slightly harder than fighters makes sense, since they don't actively avoid you in combat, and they only hit once, unlike fighters. When the hunter bosses ravage the planet, they deal five percent each. The more striking change is the Planet Cannon, which now does 50 percent. That feels a lot more in line with the presentation of the threat. It sounds harsh, but you're given ample warning and time to stop it. Similarly, allowing the satellite to get hijacked by Brain Spoilers now has more severe consequences, as its shots deal 20 percent to the planet.

The lock-on feature is absent, which drastically changes gameplay. Charge shots are still there, and are still extremely potent, but dogfights are vastly more difficult now. Maybe it's because I'm very familiar with the game at this point, but I don't mind this. The game offers a much more detailed radar than Star Fox 64, and using it makes the dogfights more than manageable. The lock-on did trivialize a lot of the missile/squadron encounters. It's not like in Star Fox 64, where you were trying to survive several waves of foes and obstacles.

Fay and Miyu no longer come with twin blasters out of the gate. I talked about how they were just comically better than the guys in the beta version, and while that was a lot of fun, it's more balanced here. Combined with higher-damaging attacks making their frailty more of a liability, and the lack of lock-on making their rapid charge less of a boon (and increasing the relative value of bombs, making Fox and Falco slightly better prospects), they don't run away with the MVP crown like they did in the unreleased version. They're still probably the best characters and I definitely favor them in the SNES Classic version, so there's no need to be upset with their nerfing.

If any space encounters occur in the asteroid belt on the map, there's a brand-new, asteroid-themed backdrop! There are also asteroids in the playing field that can cause collision damage. I didn't expect this addition at all, and it was a nice little surprise.

Expert mode is now locked, and to access it, you need to beat Hard "under certain conditions." I'm not sure what the exact conditions are, but I suspect it's either earning at least a B rank or preventing all damage to Corneria. I beat it with a C and Corneria taking 10 percent damage, which didn't unlock Expert, then achieved it with a B and 0 percent.

As the above may have tipped you off, the star system of ranking has been replaced with a standard letter grade. The game now shows how much you scored in each category, which includes total time (there's a time limit that you have to finish under in order to achieve a time bonus. It appropriately differs between difficulties, and gives you an actual reason to be efficient even once you hit the endgame and Corneria can no longer be damaged), enemies/targets destroyed, battleships destroyed, planets liberated, damage to Corneria, and pilots alive. It also uses a gauge to indicate how close you were to the next rank. At least according to that, it seems like plain old A is the highest, with no S or anything. But I haven't had a good Expert run yet, so we'll see.

What really interested me were the Pepper medals. They seem to be in the same locations as in the beta, and they continue to be shared across all runs and refill your health upon collection. But now, getting all of them within a particular difficulty gives you a nifty reward:

The reward doesn't kick in on the run that you collect the last medal, but on all following runs of that given difficulty, a new location appears on the map. Pepper describes it as a secret base. The visuals look like Venom, but at night, with several buildings and structures (some of which look extremely homey for a military base). Several of the enemies found on Venom are positioned on the perimeter. They're completely stationary and will not attack, though they can be destroyed and yield points. I wonder if they're meant to be sentinels for the Cornerians. Also, the Venom boss Kamantis is one of them and it's really weird to see up close.

More importantly, the area features each of the three special weapons (shield, bomb, repair unit), a blaster upgrade, and a power-up that restores the lock-on shot! You can visit this area as often as you like and the power-ups will respawn, so you can arm both characters to the teeth (though the clock will roll while you're there).


That's all I've got for now! I hope others are having as much fun with this game as I am!

Last edited by Beta Metroid; 10-10-2017 at 06:58 AM.
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  #93  
Old 10-10-2017, 07:34 AM
Beta Metroid Beta Metroid is offline
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Okay, I've made more headway into Star Fox 2, and learned some things!

Collecting all of the Pepper medals:

If you gather all of them on all three difficulties, there will be a "Perfect" next to the medal icon on the high score screen. Also, the title screen is changed, replacing Andross's face in the background with Fox's. It's interesting the series tradition of title screen changes based on completion start here.

It turns out there is a ranking beyond A! It's achieved by earning at least 250,000 points, which I was never able to do in the...earlier version. That may be because, contrary to my speculation upthread, time is a significant factor in scoring. In order to break the 250,000 threshold, I've found that you're basically required to play on Expert and finish in less than 200 time units. That's assuming Corneria goes completely unscathed and both pilots survive. I've seen people finish around 110, and Corneria can sustain some damage in that case, but if you seem on pace for a finish in the upper 100s, Corneria taking a hit is basically grounds for resetting.

I'm sure there are already pros out there that don't need it, but for mere mortals like myself, this likely isn't even worth attempting until you've secured the reward for getting all Pepper medals on Expert. Even then, it's no gimme, and juggling a perfect defense of Corneria with a speedy time is a substantial challenge. The game's strategic elements really shine with this goal.

Earning the highest rank has an intriguing reward of its own:

The two characters that you won with are endowed with twin lasers right out of the gate, much like Miyu and Fay were in the beta. It doesn't matter how much playing time either one gets--you can never play as the second character, and they'll get the reward. I have yet to see what, if anything, happens once all characters are upgraded, but I'll report back once I find out.

I really like how these rewards impact how I approach the game and replays. The medals encourage exploration, which doesn't do much for the score, but helps players learn the layouts of the different areas, as well as power-up locations and other things to seek out or avoid. The medal hunt also features some of the game's most clever features, and things you may never see on a high-scoring run (like the weird tunneling centipede on Titania, or the climbable cityscape on Eladard). Seeking out the medals helps your mastery of the levels, while their reward makes subsequent runs significantly easier. That puts you in a position to go on efficient runs, and the reward for scoring high further increases that potential.

The only downside is that once the emphasis shifts from exploration to efficiency, there's very little incentive to return to exploring, other than your own curiosity. The medals are permanently wiped from the game unless you clear all data. I would have liked 3D Mario-style "faded" medals to appear in their place, just to give me something to seek out once my memory of their exact locations has faded. But that's just a personal wish. I still haven't earned everything, and there have already been more elements to the game than I was expecting, so we'll see if it has anything else to offer.
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  #94  
Old 10-10-2017, 02:49 PM
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Mr. Sensible Mr. Sensible is online now
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Awesome write-ups! I'd been wondering what the differences were between the old ROM-dump beta and the new SNES Classic release.
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  #95  
Old 10-12-2017, 04:05 PM
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Kishi Kishi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beta Metroid View Post
I have yet to see what, if anything, happens once all characters are upgraded, but I'll report back once I find out.
I'm pleased to report the reward is small yet gratifying: The music on the character select screen changes to the Corneria music from Star Fox 1.
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