Check out our video review:
Star Fox is a great game and was technologically impressive for the hardware it was designed for. It’s one of Nintendo’s early 3D titles and is the first in the Star Fox franchise. My friend is the one who suggested I play through the series and he also informed me of a mod or ROM hack for Star Fox called Star Fox: EX which includes a lot of additional content and changes including multiplayer support and the option to play at a higher frame rate. We downloaded it from Romhacking.net and played it via emulation using RetroArch. The Star Fox: EX page also includes a readme and we would highly suggest reading through it if you have any interest in checking the mod out.
Star Fox: EX comes with an additional map and storyline. Yes, that means there’s two maps and the mod comes with seven levels or what I’ll refer to as routes. The new map comes with new planets, locations, and bosses and a fourth route was added to the original map and it is a boss rush. As for the new plot, I’m going to quote a portion of the mod’s description from its Romhacking.net page. The Mario Bros. have decided that the Star Fox franchise no longer has a place within the grand Nintendo universe, and has set out to destroy the Lylat System forever, with the help of characters from more successful Nintendo IPs! If it’s not already clear, Star Fox: EX includes plenty of Nintendo fan service.
Star Fox: EX is quite impressive and huge. When you first fire it up, you’ll be greeted with multiple pages of options or settings to configure. These include what you might consider modifiers, cheats, and ways to customize the experience. You can choose to skip General Pepper’s dialogue, change several visual and audio elements, change your ship model, enable multiplayer, and even enable AI teammates. This is also where you can increase the frame rate to 30 FPS or 60 FPS. However, you do need to overclock your emulator CPU before you can do so. I want to mention again that you should read through the readme because it does go over what all the options do including the frame rate stuff. In addition to all these options are even more options available during gameplay, accessed from the pause menu like Freeze and explore mode which completely removes the rails allowing you to move at your own pace. The mod also comes with commands to change the view so you can view the action from different angles including a full-blown cockpit view.
One of the first things you may notice is that Star Fox: EX is easier than the vanilla game. That is assuming you don’t change certain things and it is worth mentioning that the mod does come with a Hard Mode. But out of the box (so to speak), you start with more lives and more bombs than those in the vanilla game, and by default, the Arwing’s wings cannot take damage or be destroyed but this can be changed. Star Fox: EX also includes some nice conveniences and quality of life changes and additions. The mod includes a reticle or crosshair which makes it a lot easier to aim but can be disabled, rapid fire by holding the fire button down instead of tapping it, you can enter the cockpit view in most areas, completing Out of this Dimension now takes you to the Black Hole, and you can restart the game after the credits.
Out of all the options and things the mod offers, I think the big ones are the increased frame rate and multiplayer. Star Fox: EX supports up to five players and if playing solo, you have the option to control all five ships. That’s in addition to the CPU AI Team Mode where you’ll be assisted by AI teammates. We did increase the frame rate to 60 and quickly discovered we needed to adjust or tweak the CPU overclock amount because it does have an affect on the game’s speed. As a result of the overclocking and higher frame rate, the gameplay is faster and can feel smoother at certain points but was still choppy in our experience. It should be noted that, apparently, there are some ROM hacks and ways to get the game running silky smooth.
Overall, Star Fox: EX is amazing but we did encounter issues, some of which we wonder if they are the result of limitations or maybe it was because of the emulator we were using but some appear to be just straight up bugs. The overclocking and higher frame rate does make things faster and as a result we found it more challenging to react to certain things, or in other words, we missed acquiring a lot of pickups because we just couldn’t react and get to the proper locations in time. When I played with AI teammates, they would simply aim where I would aim and I noticed one of them would sometimes do nothing and only attack sporadically. From what I saw, the AI ships will shoot at enemies on their own but in general, they don’t seem to act entirely independent. If you’re wondering if I enabled the wrong option and was simply controlling all the multiplayer ships, I thought the same thing. But I confirmed I was playing in the CPU AI Team Mode. When playing with my friend, he wasn’t able to acquire items and the default camera in multiplayer can be problematic. It is possible to fly off-screen and it can be easy to lose focus on what’s going on and where you’re located, especially when things get busy.
We encountered the issue of the game juddering or appearing to rapidly zoom in and out during gameplay. This happened in multiplayer and with AI ships, mainly on Corneria, and out of all the issues we encountered, it is by far the most annoying. During the first battle against the Great Commander on route three, when your ship has to turn around, player two’s ship and even the AI ships wouldn’t actually turn so at certain points they were just facing the wrong direction. During our multiplayer playthrough, player two wasn’t able to play in the new Tarkus stage on route six for some reason. After defeating a boss, we were not taken back to the map screen and instead were seemingly stuck flying as if the stage wasn’t complete. We theorized we defeated the boss too fast and the game just couldn’t keep up. No idea if that’s accurate, though. We ended up loading a previous save and got through the stage again and that time it registered as completed.
Some of the bugs and oddities we can understand and forgive. We didn’t go into this expecting it to be flawless. But the readme doesn’t mention most of the issues we encountered which leads us to believe we may have missed something or didn’t configure something properly or these are just issues that come with the territory. After all, the vanilla game is designed to be played solo, at around 20 FPS, and on a console. So throw in emulation, an overclocked CPU, higher frame rate, multiplayer, and new stages and customization options, and I imagine some issues are likely to arise.
According to the readme, 95% of the original stages are faithful. Apparently some enemies had to be removed to prevent crashes. As far as we can tell, nothing significant has been cut. The new map features all new planets and locations or stages and it plays out just like the original. You complete a stage and move onto the next and each stage ends with a boss. We feel the new stages are well designed and gameplay-wise, fit in well with what you see and experience in the vanilla game. That said, they are not all lore friendly but if you’re a Nintendo fan, you’ll undoubtedly get a kick out of what you see in this new campaign. There’s nods to Zelda, Metroid, Mario, and even other Star Fox games. Star Fox: EX is easier by default as indicated earlier and we didn’t have too much trouble getting through the maps. Multiple players and the AI teammates do alleviate much of the challenge.
Star Fox: EX does include some new assets which do fit in nicely with the vanilla presentation. The new backgrounds and stages look nice and some assets are ripped from other games like Star Fox 2 for example. The new music is also a great fit and we feel route seven includes some of the best new tunes. On the technical side, we encountered no major problems. We did tweak the CPU overclock amount a few times in order to get the game’s speed at a comfortable level. If it runs too fast, it basically becomes unplayable.
We had a wonderful time with Star Fox: EX. Even with most of the issues we encountered, we can’t say any of them really hindered our experience. The juddering or rapidly zooming in and out issue is the only one we found to be a real nuisance but, luckily, it didn’t happen all the time. Keep in mind that different emulators may produce different results. Ultimately, we feel Star Fox: EX is a ridiculously good and impressive mod or ROM hack and is a must play for any Star Fox fans. It expands the game in numerous ways and allows for a lot of customization. Not only that, it also makes the game much more accessible. By default, it’s easier, so anyone should be able to get through the maps and complete all the routes. And you can make things more challenging if you so desire. The mod gives you plenty of options and comes with a lot of replay value.
We would absolutely recommend Star Fox: EX. It’s one of the greatest ROM hacks we’ve ever played and you can tell a lot of love and care was put into it. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely worth playing, it can be enjoyed with friends, and if you’re a Nintendo fan, you’ll probably get a big kick out of it. If you’re looking for a reason to revisit Star Fox, Star Fox: EX is certainly a good one. Definitely check it out.