The cancellation of Star Fox 2 frustrated a generation of gamers. The original Star Fox marked a huge success for Nintendo, with its Super FX chip that proved to Nintendo fans that, with a little help, the Super NES could perform feats beyond anything the Genesis could muster at the time. Its sequel, sporting the new "FX2" chip, was one of the mostly hotly anticipated games of its time, serving as a last stand for the 16-bit generation against the coming tide of next-gen.
Then one day, not long from when gamers were hoping to have the 3D shooter in their hands, it was unceremoniously erased from Nintendo's lineup. No press release was issued, and no reason given. By the time many had truly realized it wasn't going to happen, it was too late for their protests to be heard. Much legend has stemmed from the untimely demise of Star Fox 2. As the years progressed, more information has surfaced about the reality of the title's development, and it has raised as many questions as it has answered.
So why was Star Fox 2 cancelled? For years the official company line has been that the title was dropped and the project switched over to development on Nintendo's new 64-bit console. Supposedly much of the gameplay made it into the next-gen iteration, and gamers weren't really missing much of anything. Now, years later, these claims are apparent damage control designed to win angry fans over with a new product. Star Fox 64 was designed by a different team, and featured a very different design from its fallen brother.
While an early trade-show demo had made its way into the hands of the internet-savvy public back in 1999, it wasn't really enough to provide any concrete answers. Last year, an anonymous source obtained the final source code for Nintendo's most sought after lost treasure, and compiled it into a form that could run when burned to the sacrificed cartridge of a properly-equipped Super FX2 game. The fox was finally out of the bag, and what it revealed was surprising.
First, it was apparent that the title was in the final stages of development. Previously some had claimed that the title was as little as 70% complete at the time of its cancellation, and that delays in development were responsible for its cancellation. Clearly this wasn't true, as the leaked version had only to disable some debug features (a framerate counter, infinite health, and some menus to allow testers to skip around) to have a complete, releasable product. Equally startling was the fact that it represented a more radical game design than anyone had anticipated.
Star Fox 2 was to bear little resemblance to the rail-shooter that preceded it. Much had been said about it "all-range flight," the term Nintendo used to describe its free-roaming levels. What many didn't realize was that there were, in fact, no on-rails levels at all. Instead, players were treated to a mix of freespace dog fighting, mission-based planetary excursions, and even indoor corridor crawling, thanks to the Arwing's new-found ability to transform into a bipedal walker.