Evolution vs. Unoriginality
The first claim she makes in the article is that Star Fox "never offered anything original to begin with." After making this statement, she goes on to list overhead and rail shooters such as Starblade, Space Harrier, and Star Wars on the Atari arcade and Atari 2600. To go for the jugular on this point, she includes a screenshot of a robot head from Silpheed and puts it next to Star Fox 1's Andross. She fails to disclose that the robot head from Silpheed is from an intro cutscene, and is not a boss (Though in her defense it does represent the "Big Bad":
The real problem with an argument like this is that video games as an art have been evolutionary. Sure, you couldn't have Star Fox without Space Harrier, but you wouldn't have Call of Duty without Doom or Ratchet and Clank without Super Mario 64. Truly genre-shattering or genre-defining games are rare. For every Portal you point to, there are hundreds of Calls of Duty. Does that make every FPS less of a game because there were similar FPSes before it? What was so original about Halo when compared to Half-Life or Tribes or even Quake? Yet Halo is considered one of the greatest FPSes of all time despite it not offering much in the way of original gameplay.
But it gets worse. She goes on to speculate on whether or not Star Fox 1 would be a noteworthy game if it came out on another system or from a different publisher. This is meaningless filler. It literally is asking "What if the game was what it isn't?" It doesn't matter. Star Fox was not published by Namco. Star Fox is a Nintendo title on a Nintendo system. That is part of the very identity of the game. These "what ifs" ignore that and really add nothing to the point of this section of the article.
This was a very sloppy argument and I really expected better from Emily. She has to know that games don't have to reinvent the genre to be compelling. Star Fox 1 was challenging, technologically revolutionary, and above all fun to play. Sure, its main draw outside the technological achievement was its character design, but it doesn't matter. The game may not be a Portal, but it does stand on its own and that is why it is included on all of these "100 greatest games of all time" lists that get published from time to time. Sure, the great shooters like Starblade were a base for Star Fox to stand on, but Star Fox 1 deserves its place on the great shooter shelf just as much as Starblade, Galaxy Force II, Space Harrier, or any of the others Emily mentioned.
Correlation and Causation
The next argument rolled-out was "Star Fox Can't Sell Without Gimicky Technology."
There is an old adage in the world of Statistics about claims like these: "Correlation does not imply Causation."
Star Fox's series-wide sales chart is not pretty to look at:
Yup, that's a serious downward trend. In fact, this chart is probably a big factor in why we haven't seen a new Star Fox game in a while.
Emily says that SF1 sold millions of units "because it was the FIRST SNES game to use the Super FX chip" and that SF64 sold millions of units because it "was the FIRST console game to support rumble."
She goes on to say that Stunt Race FX would probably have outsold Star Fox if it came out first, and that people bought SF64 because they wanted rumble for Goldeneye (which, according to VGChartz, sold twice the units SF64 did) and Star Fox gave them an "extra" game.
Again with the hypotheticals. Both SF1 and SF64 blew well past the 2m sales mark. In fact, Star Fox 64 was once held the North America launch week sales record until Goldeneye snatched it away a few weeks later.
She compared Star Fox 64 to Wii Play, which was recieved by the critics. While critic ratings for SF1 are hard to come by, SF64 was well-reviewed according to Metacritic and I don't doubt that critics received SF1 well, too, I just can't find the data. What an insulting comparison. I don't deny that the hardware innovations positively influenced sales, but to claim that they turned mediocre games into blockbusters is dubious and really needs some additional data support.
Gamers have POSITIVE memories of these Star Fox games. Very few have positive memories of Wii Play, assuming they played it for more than 5 minutes.
She then points to the other games, without hardware, and points to their lesser sales performance as evidence. She bases this off of ONE VARIABLE. Let's look at how Nintendo market Star Fox games, for instance. SF1 and SF64 were hyped to all ends. Game stores were sent 3' statues of Fox McCloud for SF1's release. Star Fox 1 got a huge display at Space World. SF64 had a corny infomercial and also a significant Spaceworld presence. The rest of the games in the series were not considered marketing priorities. Star Fox Adventures did receive some marketing support, Star Fox Assault got a little, but Star Fox Command got almost nothing. Star Fox 64 3D got a little, but it was in the shadow of the other N64 3D Remake, Ocarina of Time. Also, the genre taste changes that Emily mentioned were a contributor as well, but more on that later. Does she take any of these variables into account here? Nope. It must be hardware.
Once again, I am not saying that hardware didn't help the sales, especially in SF64's case. But these games stood on their own. People positively remember them. They were well-received by critics. The exact impact of the Rumble Pak on Star Fox 64 is difficult to measure, and the impact of Super FX, which WAS NOT a peripheral, is even harder to measure.
The argument sees a correlation and assumes causation when there are other variables. Instead of bolstering the claim with data, the claim is "bolstered" with hypotheticals.
So, what did Emily Rogers get right?
I'm sure most Star Fox fans agree with her here: The games, especially the later ones, are too damn short. Though I will pause and posit that Star Fox 64 has something called "replay value," meaning the game is fun to play through multiple times.
Anyway. I agree here. The Games are getting are expensive, but they are short. Emily rightly points out that this is an industry-wide problem. And trends like pre-planned DLC that should be part of the main game exacerbate the problem.
Now, you can make games longer, yes. But that is expensive, which is why it doesn't happen. 30+ Hr games are rare. Another way to address the problem is replay value. Star Fox 64 had it. Many games today, especially on mobile, have it. But many don't.
Yes, please give us a longer game. Or at least make it fun to play repeatedly. And if you're going to make it short, don't charge me $60 for it.
Blame the Fans
Emily's final section compares Star Fox to Donkey Kong. I don't agree with the comparisons she makes (The original Donkey Kong was a platformer, so there really wasn't as great a genre-shift as she claims), but there is some merit to her suggestions.
She shows that she unfamiliar with the Star Fox fanbase: "...for some reason, nobody is cool with the idea of the Star Fox franchise branching out to other genres, or trying something new and experimental. Nobody is cool with the idea of Star Fox broadening its appeal outside of a currently unpopular niche genre (shoot em ups, railshooters) so it can become more marketable."
This is forgivable, though. Sure, the fanbase has its purists. Hell, I used to be one myself and still am to a degree. But Star Fox Adventures brought a new breed of fan into the fanbase. One that is more open to the very changes Emily is suggesting.
I do see that the arcade shooter is a genre that has been supplanted. No one but a few dedicated fans are interested in them. This is not something that can be denied.
But I think Emily failed to see what Star Fox fans really disliked about Star Fox Adventures. SFAd is a better game than Star Fox Assault hands-down (SFAs had potential, but it was not met). But, I find myself more drawn to SFAs than to SFAd. Why is this? Because SFAd, no matter how much Miyamoto wanted it to be, is not a Star Fox game. Is this a swipe at the genre? No. It's a swipe at how Star Fox Adventures came to be.
While I cannot say much for the gameplay, the story for Dinosaur Planet was better than the one for Star Fox Adventures. The code repository for Star Fox Adventures was not cleaned-up prior to final compilation. The result is that quite a bit of the original Dinosaur Planet remains on that Star Fox Adventures disc. While I do not condone the use of emulators to play pirated games, the emulation community has pounced on this unclean repo and a lot has been learned. For sake of length, I will not go into much detail, but it is much darker than Scales stealing spell stones and causing the planet to break-up. How about Sabre's father killing Krystal's entire tribe? Anyone game for some time travel? How about a brewing war between god-like races? A wealth of DP information can be found here: http://www.rareminion.com/dp.html
This game was gutted, fileted, and then reassembled with Star Fox characters and elements in a manner that was not only disrespectful to Star Fox, but to the original game. The Arwing missions were pointless. The ending was a letdown with them bringing back the same Andross battled that debuted in the Expert run of Star Fox 2. Even the more open-minded fans saw through it. Now, the game did bring new people into the fanbase. Had Star Fox Adventures been built from the ground-up as a Star Fox game, I think the fans would have liked it more.
Also, the fanbase hates Star Fox Command, the closest of the new games to a classic game, though this is more over what the did to the story (what little of it there was) which many fans classify as a first-rate atrocity.
Inverse of the Flaws of Marx
The Diagnosis was wrong, but the prescription was right.
I'll just come out and say it here: despite all of its flaws and terrible set-up, I actually agree with the article's conclusion.
I will use a different analogy: Metroid. Metroidvania is a genre that is also pretty much dead. Games like Ocarina of Time showed that in the age of 3D, adventure games had to be on a whole new level.
Yet, Metroid got a move to a similar modern genre and was done in a way that retained the best things about the original while adding some new. I'm of course talking about Retro Studios' excellent Metroid Prime trilogy.
Star Fox needs a Prime. Modernize the franchise in a way that preserves its identity while allowing new generations of gamers to enjoy the series.
The story doesn't necesarilly need a reboot, though starting-over would not hurt at this point given what has been done.
Vehicular combat should remain the focus of any new Star Fox game. Vehicular combat in action/adventure games is usually done as a side-mechanic. Star Fox started with a focus on vehicular combat, so it should continue. Arwings, Landmasters, Blue Marine; let's see it all. Heck, let us fly Great Fox for a mission or two. Though we need to keep the cheesy dialog and redundant character names to keep the feel there. Vehicle upgrades. Side quests. Etc.
In the end, though I don't see it being likely. I honestly don't think Nintendo has an idea for Star Fox anymore. The series seems to be in the same hole F-Zero is in. We remain hopeful, though.
While I agree that rail shooters cannot survive in today's market, I think Emily really missed it on her reasons why the first games did as well as they did. I also think she misunderstands the fanbase. We're NOT the Sonic fanbase here. We're just like any other fanbase: the purists are vocal, but most of us just want a new game period.