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Why was Star Fox 2 canceled?

The unreleased SNES game makes its worldwide debut later this year

Star Fox Nintendo

It’s taken more than 20 years for Nintendo to release the sequel to Star Fox, simply called Star Fox 2. For the first time, the Super Nintendo game will be playable this September, when it’s included among the 21 games installed on the SNES Classic Edition.

Star Fox 2’s official release marks the conclusion to one of Nintendo’s most high-profile cancellations. While an alpha version of the game has been playable with SNES emulators for years, the fall release of the SNES Classic Edition will make this hardly played, unfinished project widely available to the masses. (That is, assuming they can even get their hands on the system.)

Work first began on Star Fox 2 at both Nintendo and U.K.-based Argonaut Software not long after its SNES predecessor, which launched in 1993. The game followed the plot of the previous entry, with the Star Fox crew picking up its fight against Andross. The gameplay changes from Star Fox were vast: Players controlled two ships that could travel anywhere throughout the space system, entering fights with other ships as they encountered them on the map. There was also a damage counter on home planet Corneria that went up to 100 percent; players had to defend it from getting attacked.

Nintendo showed off the game at the 1995 Consumer Electronics Show, and magazines at the time featured screenshots of Star Fox 2. But the project was quietly canceled not long thereafter, leaving only an early build ROM in its wake for players to discover later on.

In 2015, former Argonaut Software developer Dylan Cuthbert told Nintendo Life that Star Fox 2 was “about 95 percent complete” before Nintendo nixed it. The reason to drop the game, he said, likely had to do with the Super Nintendo’s popular competitors changing the graphical landscape.

"It was the summer of 1995 and the PlayStation and Saturn were suddenly doing very well in Japan," Cuthbert said. "I think that caught Nintendo off-guard. The decision was made because they didn't want the old-gen 3D going up against the much better 3D of the next generation, side-by-side.”

Nintendo went on to release Star Fox 64, the official second game in the series, in 1997. Cuthbert later started up Q-Games, a studio that developed both the Nintendo DS game Star Fox Command and a Nintendo 3DS port of Star Fox 64. Both titles borrowed some of Star Fox 2’s innovations, like splitscreen multiplayer, the map screen and multiple playable characters.

Shigeru Miyamoto said in 2015 that he’d “rather have people play a new game” in the Star Fox series, rather than the decades-old Star Fox 2. For many of us, Star Fox 2 is that long-awaited new, true Star Fox game. We’ll get to check out the full Star Fox 2 on Sept. 29, when the SNES Classic Edition is out. (We’ll have to beat the first level of Star Fox to unlock it first, but that’s way easier than finding a ROM on our own.)

The next level of puzzles.

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