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Scrapped Star Fox Armada Would Have Used MiiVerse For Memorable Multiplayer

It's plain to see that Nintendo has favored some of its characters over others. There is of course the enormous "Super Mario" franchise, the regular "Zelda" releases every few years, and new "Pokémon" games with each new console, but its other iconic brands haven't had quite as much time in the spotlight — the "Metroid" franchise, for example, was dormant until 2021's surprise "Metroid Dread." Back in the Wii U days, another franchise almost made a triumphant comeback, with a focus on multiplayer that might have made it Nintendo's first live service success: "Star Fox."

Now, "Star Fox" was represented on the Wii U eventually with "Star Fox Zero," which was received pretty well, save for its control scheme and a short playtime. But a scrapped pitch that came years earlier would have brought a "Star Fox" game to the console with a more unique art direction and mechanics that made proper use of the capabilities of the Wii U and Nintendo Online. Sadly, the game that would have been called "Star Fox Armada" never left the drawing board. 

Details on this would-be "Star Fox" entry were revealed in an interview conducted by DidYouKnowGaming?, which sat down with Eric Kozlowski, a former artist for Retro Studios — the in-house Nintendo development team behind "Metroid Prime." Should the game have come to fruition as the initial pitch laid it out, "Star Fox Armada" could have been an impressive feat for Nintendo in the early 2010s.

The game continued from Star Fox 64

Kozlowski provided DidYouKnowGaming? with a full 12-page-long document containing the original pitch for "Star Fox Armada," which originated in 2013. It essentially contains everything there is to know about the canceled project, but the document isn't available for the general public to peruse. The pitch reportedly says that it would have been designed after the original "Star Fox" promotional material — that is, the sports mascot or fursuit-like characters from the initial games' advertising campaigns and box art. 

Kozlowski said that bringing "Star Fox" back to its roots made sense at the time, as Retro Studios was already working on reviving dormant brands for Nintendo. "I thought it would be really cool after 'Tropical Freeze' to ... continue that Retro legacy of rebooting Nintendo franchises that hadn't gotten a lot of love," Kozlowski shared.

"Star Fox 64" was a huge inspiration for "Star Fox Armada," and as such the story for the canceled game took off right from the end of the Nintendo 64 title as if no other games had been released since. It wasn't going to be as on-rails as the early "Star Fox" entries, though. Instead, it would have been mission-based within an open world. But the story and looks weren't the only legacies of "Star Fox 64." In fact, a core multiplayer feature would have perfectly paired one of the game's best (or worst) moments with the technological capabilities of Nintendo at the time.

Other players could show up as Mii invaders

To talk about the multiplayer aspects of "Star Fox Armada," one has to remember just how integrated with Nintendo properties the Miiverse was on the Wii and Wii U. Miis were everywhere, and it was hard to go far without running into a game with some kind of Mii integration. Like characters in "Super Smash Bros. U" or "Mario Kart 8," and opponents in "Wii Sports Resort." "Star Fox Armada" would have used the Miiverse in a more unique way than just copying their faces and pasting them onto characters. 

It was actually going to feature a multiplayer invasion system that could be compared to the online systems of the "Dark Souls" games. In "Star Fox 64," Star Wolf would sometimes come into a player's game and attack, destabilizing their flow and giving them another thing to worry about avoiding. In "Star Fox Armada," instead of Star Wolf, other players' Miis would sometimes enter a world and try to take you out. 

One criticism of earlier "Star Fox" games was how short they were, as there was little to no reason to keep playing once the campaign was beaten. "Star Fox Armada" solved this with side missions, the possibility of DLC, and multiplayer battle modes, including this invasion system — it also let players set bounties on one another. "I thought that would be a fun Miiverse integration because the Miiverse at the time was really cool and there was a lot of opportunity there," Kozwalkski said.

Star Fox Armada never left the pitch stage

As is the case with many pitches in the gaming industry, "Star Fox Armada" never left conceptual development, and the "Star Fox" game fans got years later — "Star Fox Zero" — wasn't quite as revolutionary as "Armada" could have been. Kozwalkski said that this was due to a variety of factors, but ultimately it was up to producer Kensuke Tanabe and Nintendo leadership as to what the studio would work on. DidYouKnowGaming? goes on to say that this was actually one of the reasons Kozwalkski left Retro Studios because he didn't feel like the leadership was listening to pitches, that they stood no chance to get approved and turned into a real project.

Kozwalkski reiterated the early draft nature of the "Star Fox Armada" pitch and emphasized that it never left the pre-planning stages of conceptual design. He and "Star Fox" fans everywhere were probably disappointed that the "Star Fox Armada" pitch never turned into anything, and we don't know whether we will see another "Star Fox game" anytime soon. But the titular character remains one of the most popular "Super Smash Bros." fighters ever, and "Star Fox Zero" ended up using puppet visuals for its marketing, at least. 

Retro Studio's re-emergence into the industry with "Metroid Prime Remastered" could indicate a return to some of Nintendo's other long-dormant series, too, though the team has yet to reveal what it's got in store next for Nintendo fans. There are rumors of a Switch "Star Fox" game in development, after all.