Never give up. Trust your instincts.
In honor of the late Rick May, I thought I'd put together a piece on StarFox 64. Rest in peace, Mr. May. I hope your family and friends find peace as well. You will be fondly remembered for your contributions to gaming for years to come.
The collection of prints in the picture above are hanging in my office. I think they're the best pieces of gaming art I have. That might be because of their quality, but it could also have something to do with my love of the StarFox franchise. Out of all of Nintendo's successful series', there's just something about StarFox that has always resonated with me.
When I try to boil down why I enjoy the StarFox series so much, two things come to mind. First off, I love the idea of a team of characters working together. A group of personalities that vary wildly, but they all come together to help one another when it counts. That comradery, that bond between everyone on Team StarFox really makes me appreciate the characters so much more.
The second thing I love about the StarFox franchise is how it's tied to innovation. Most of the mainline StarFox installments aimed to innovate on small or large scales. Sometimes the innovation doesn't sit well with fans, as with the unique control scheme in StarFox Zero. Other times the innovation really wows players, just like it did with the Super FX chip implementation in the original StarFox. That said, I think the biggest innovation the series brought to the gaming industry would have to be the introduction of rumble.
With those being the two elements that I love most about the StarFox series, it's not surprising that StarFox 64 sits atop my list when it comes to favorite installments. StarFox 64 took the personalities we were introduced to in the original game and greatly expanded them through the use of more dialog, and voice acting. It also introduced the gaming world to controller rumble, which has become an industry standard since. Those two aspects came together to create an experience I'll never forget.
When I first heard the voice acting in StarFox 64, I was blown away. Yes, it was low quality and quite goofy, but it seemed to fit for some reason. It was just surprising to see Nintendo take that route with a game, as they weren't really known for voiced titles. Hell, they don't really dabble too much with voice acting to this very day! For whatever reason, they felt the move to include voice acting in StarFox 64 was the way to go, and that decision paid off bigtime.
Those characters and their cheesy dialog helped expand the StarFox universe in a billion different ways. It makes the series feel more alive, and it brought out deeper layers in the characters. StarFox 64 feels like a cartoon come to life, with some over-the-top personalities looking to take you down, and more tender moments spoken between Team StarFox. That dialog set the tone for the game, and also sticks in the minds of gamers to this day. Countless fans of StarFox 64 can recite numerous lines of dialog perfectly all these years later, and I'm definitely one of them.
While the inclusion of voice acting was definitely a surprise, the Rumble Pak was the real show-stopper. If there were home consoles/games to include rumble before StarFox 64, I am unfamiliar with them. Even if there were, there's no doubt that StarFox 64 was the game to put rumble on the map.
Once again, Nintendo decided to take a chance with the StarFox series by making it the showcase for brand-new tech. An accessory that you plugged into the back of your N64 controller, the Rumble Pak was an absolute beast. It added quite a bit of weight to the N64 controller, and the vibration it kicked out was intense. I will never forget the moment I sat down and played StarFox 64 with a Rumble Pak for the first time. It was such an unbelievable experience, and it really helped to immerse you in the game. It made every nook and cranny of the game that much more exciting, as you were waiting to see just how the Rumble Pak would come into play.
Nintendo has had many moments in its history that lead to industry-wide adoption, and the Rumble Pak is definitely one of their biggest. It's hard to imagine game controllers without rumble nowadays. Sitting down to play a game without rumble instantly makes it feel like you're missing something. We're trained to expect that physical feedback now, and when it's not there, the whole experience feels off.
Rumble nowadays is more sophisticated than ever, and new platforms continue to push the envelope. The Switch includes HD Rumble, which provides a whole new layer to the rumble experience. Sony is doing something similar with their PS5 controller as well. Whenever a new piece of gaming hardware is introduced, you can bet rumble is going to be a standard feature in the controller. What was a shot in the dark with StarFox 64 ended up being a must-have feature going forward, and that's a pretty amazing feat to pull off.
While the StarFox franchise may be struggling to find itself in today's day and age, its legacy is undeniable. There was a time when StarFox showed us the path ahead for the game industry, even when the industry didn't know it yet. StarFox 64 was at the forefront of that movement, and deserves to be remembered fondly for it. I also happen to think it deserves to be remembered for giving us a wonderful cast of characters, unforgettable lines, and a focus on the importance of working together.
StarFox 64 will forever hold a special place in my heart. It brings up such fond memories, and did a lot for gaming in general. While I'm always eager to see where the team heads next, I'll never forget where they came from.