Fox McCloud: portrait of a soldier. His Father – fallen in battle. The peaceful planet of Corneria – terrorized by the scientist Andross. He has no choice but to lead a team of mercenary fighter pilots through treacherous and unforgiving Lylat system to take down the tyrant.
Fox and his team fight their way through countless star systems, engaging in dogfights and dangerous missions. Constantly in the line of fire, Fox’s nerves wear thin. His stress steadily rises until the point where he literally stares death in the face; then, he snaps. After making it to the planet Venom and defeating Andross ( the hard way), a chain reaction is set off in the base which promises to engulf Fox in flames and take his life. As the screen fades to white, you hear the voice of James McCloud – Fox’s father – urging him not to give up. He tells Fox to follow him, and he races after his arwing and out of the exploding fortress.
Once you’re in the clear, Fox looks around, but there’s no sign of his father’s ship. It’s not because his father flew away before Fox could find him; It’s because he was never there. He was an illusion, brought on by the stress of Fox’s impending doom. It’s called an acute stress reaction, commonly known as shock.
One of the symptoms of an acute stress reaction is visual and auditory hallucinations. After what Fox went through to get to Venom, fueled by seeking vengeance for his father, it’s only natural for him to have undergone some kind of psychological trauma. He was the leader of Star Fox. He had to protect his teammates every time there was a bogey on their tail that they couldn’t shake (looking at you, Peppy). He carried his team on his shoulders – a burden to great for one fox to carry. He was likely at the end of his rope during his battle against Andross, so it’s only natural that he would hallucinate his father – a person whom was probably a source of comfort for Fox growing up.
Star Fox 64 may be just a simple arcade-ey space shooter, but it’s also about one hero’s personal struggles. Fox has to fill the shoes of his father as the head of Star Fox, and the fate of the galaxy rests in his ability to lead. It’s about proving yourself, but it’s also about vengeance. Fox is driven by the sole desire to kill the man who killed his father; which is why he chooses to go into his fortress alone. It’s not a smart decision, as he could have used the backup, but it was a point of personal pride and honor for Fox to be able to defeat Andross. In his mind, he would either kill the evil mastermind, or die trying – a welcome ultimatum for a man stretched to the breaking point.
Despite its family-friendly stylings, Star Fox has always been a decidedly hardcore game that deals with sometimes dark themes. It also lends itself perfectly to speed runs, and wouldn’t be out of place in an arcade. The Gamecube was home to a decidedly different type of Star Fox game, a Rare-designed third-person action adventure originally intended to be a whole new IP called Dinosaur Planet. And although the 3DS has seen a re-release of Star Fox 64, a true successor to the series has yet to materialize.
Perhaps, with Shigeru Miyamoto stating that the company is returning to its hardcore roots on console, now would be the perfect time for Nintendo to resurrect the franchise for a whole new generation of players.
I suppose we all remember those who have passed how we want to remember them. For Fox, he imagined his father telling him to never give up. It was the validation and encouragement that he needed to give himself; that everyone would turn out fine if he just kept pressing forward. That his wasn’t the end for him. There would new galaxies, new friends, and new fights to win. And now Fox knows that he’s capable of all these things and more, because of a few imagined words from his father, which were a beacon of light in the darkest time of his life.