STAR FOX 2 / Nintendo / Super NES
All right ... Star Fox 2 is a confusing mess to explain. First of all, it was never commercially released, or even finished (thus the NR rating.) It went very far into development, though; an almost-complete beta was made, and sat gathering dust in some Nintendo warehouse until some anonymous former employee dumped the ROM and released it to the Interwebs. But ... somehow a few different dumps appeared, in various stages of completion. And then there were all these different copies that only worked with certain emulators. And then they were all in Japanese to boot! Aeon Genesis translated the game ... but you had to get the right ROM out of this soup to actually play the most-complete version in English. I stayed away from the game all these years because I never could find a solid explanation of exactly which ROM you need to apply the full translation patch properly to, but finally I sorted it out.

I think. Despite being technically complete, the game seemed way the hell too easy and short - though the English translation patch did seem to fully apply. So I'm not entirely sure I got the "most complete" version after all, but if I did, then the game clearly was only at 80-90% or so at best and still needed a lot of polish. It plays like it's still in a "debug mode" where you barely stand a chance of dying, and certain AI routines are lacking, like the Star Wolf members who use the same simplistic approach over and over and over again making them predictable cake to shoot up every time. But I did actually get all the way through it, fight the final boss, and see an ending/staff roll.

While the core gameplay and Super FX 3D style is retained, Star Fox 2 adds an interesting real-time-strategy twist. The entire game plays out from a one-screen map with Corneria in the lower-left corner, and Andross' floating death fortress in the upper right. In between are various planets, some of which Andross starts out controlling. Corneria is under constant attack from missiles fired from Andross's battleships and bases, and sorties of enemy fighters also launching periodically from the bases. It has one gun protecting it that can automatically blow up lone missiles, but if multiple groups of enemies approach at once they'll get through and damage the planet. When Corneria takes 100% damage (I think) it's game over.

So you have to move around this map in real-time, intercepting incoming attackers while also taking out the battleships and bases. When you enter combat, the game switches to the standard Star Fox 3D style, but there's some new twists there too. The sorties with enemy fighters (and occasional ambushes by Star Wolf members and Andross bosses) play out more like Wing Commander as you duel within a certain area rather than constantly moving forward on rails. Approaching the bases and battleships operates on rails in standard Star Fox style, but once inside you can switch to a new Land Walker mode that allows you to move about freely, and some of the bases can even be explored in non-linear style to find hidden Pepper Coins. Perhaps most interestingly, the other enemy groups and missiles continue to move in real-time while you're engaged in battle or raiding bases ... and you'll get updates from Pepper if the Corneria guns shoot something down (or if they hit the planet) while you're in the middle of a mission!

The game may be technically "complete", in that you can see all of it and complete it with an ending, but it looks like it would have gotten a lot more polish had it been scheduled for release. An interview with one of the programmers of the time claimed that Miyamoto axed the game late in development because they expected to launch the Nintendo 64 much sooner than they actually did, and Miyamoto didn't want to bother with any more clunky 3D on the old system when it was the focus of the new one. As it turns out it would be 2 years from when Star Fox 2 was formally canned before the N64 launched in Japan, so it's doubly a shame this wasn't polished up and finished. As it is it's an interesting demo; in its 100% complete form it could have been a nice swan song for the SNES, however.
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