New details have emerged on the Retro Studios pitch Star Fox Armada for the Wii U, which was sadly never developed.
YouTube channel Did You Know Gaming spoke with former Retro Studios artist Eric Kozlowsky, who came up with the concept for the game.
Not only would the game have had a puppet visual style reminiscent of the series’ early promotional images, it would have had a major focus on online multiplayer.
“It made sense – you know, Retro, at the time, rebooted [Metroid Prime] and Donkey Kong Country. And I was like, ‘yeah we can reboot another Nintendo franchise’,” said Kozlowsky.
Unlike the likes of Star Fox Adventure or Star Fox Assault that had the player character on foot, Star Fox Armada would have retained the space combat gameplay of the early, successful, games in the series.
For the game’s story, players would have been tasked with rebuilding Corneria and the Lylat system in the wake of Andross’s defeat in Star Fox 64, by gathering resources and allies from nearby systems.
As a result, the game would’ve focused on building your own squadron – both within the story, and with friends.
Unlike the short linear experiences of the early game, Armada would have featured an explorable Great Fox from which missions are accepted, akin to Mass Effect’s Normandy ship, with resources earned through missions either used to upgrade vehicles or sent back to Corneria. Optional side quests would have enhanced the mercenary aspects of Fox and his team.
As for Wii U GamePad integration, the action would occur on the TV with the GamePad showing ship and mission data like a ship’s control panel.
The story would be playable in co-op, with one player controlling the action on-screen with a Wii remote and nunchuk and the other taking the role of gunner using the Wii U GamePad, as well as handling ship repairs. This could even be done online with multiple friends controlling multiple ships.
A battle mode would have also been included, offering more traditional dogfights. And players could design their own animal characters.
What’s more, the game would’ve featured an intriguing mechanic seemingly similar to the Souls games’ invasions, whereby other players online could interfere with missions just like Star Wolf do in previous games. This also had Miiverse integration.
“You and your friends have your own team like Star Lion, you know, and you’re a lion character. And you could go on multiplayer missions and stuff like that,” said Kozlowsky. “I was thinking of the Miiverse, and you could say like ‘oh man, Star Llama came in and took me out. I’m putting up a bounty if anyone sees Star Llama, I’ll play them 500 credits in-game to take them out’.
“And I thought that would be a fun Miiverse integration, because Miiverse at the time was really cool and there was a lot of opportunity there.”
The online features were the major selling points of the game, with Kozlowsky describing it as an “evergreen” title complete with DLC. The intention was for Star Fox Armada to be “Nintendo’s very own Star Wars”.
So why wasn’t Star Fox Armada developer? Kozlowsky pitched the game in 2013 to Retro Studios management, but it was never seen by Nintendo.
“Retro’s leadership and [Nintendo producer] Kensuke Tanabe would ultimately decide what’s the best direction to go for the studio,” said Kozlowsky.
“I’m sure they were talking with [Nintendo Japan] about what makes sense for the studio to work on based on personnel, Nintendo’s portfolio [of games in development] at the time, and what the studio [staff] wants to work on at the time factors into it a bit…but ultimately a lot of those decisions came from [Japan].”
The game was instead followed by Star Fox Zero in 2016, which became the worst selling game in the series. No new Star Fox game has been heard of since.
You can watch the full video below.