Sunday, October 25, 2015

The History of Star Fox (Part 1: 1993-2002)

You can also watch a video version of this article here.

While never as massive as Mario, Zelda, or Pokemon, Star Fox has been one of Nintendo's flagship series for over two decades. It all started in 1993 with a revolutionary game that brought 3D gaming to the masses.

The first game in the Star Fox series actually had its roots in a prototype called NESGlider, that was being developed for Nintendo's first home console, the Nintendo Entertainment System. The prototype was inspired by a game named Starglider, released in 1986 for the Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, MS-DOS, and Apple II, among other platforms. Starglider was developed by a British company named Argonaut Software. Argonaut was formed in 1982 and eventually worked on Star Fox with Nintendo EAD.

The prototype was then ported to Nintendo's next console, the SNES. However, the developers weren't satisfied with the 3D abilities of the Super Nintendo, so they decided to make special hardware in order to increase the SNES's 3D capabilities. This led to the creation of the very influential Super FX chip.

The Super FX was a coprocessor that allowed the SNES to render 3D polygons. The chip was included in the cartridge itself, which made games with the chip more expensive than other Super Nintendo games. Partly because of this fact, only a few games were made with the chip, including Dirt RacerDirt Track FX, and Vortex.

Star Fox was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Katsuya Eguchi. Miyamoto is one of the biggest names in gaming and had a hand in creating iconic Nintendo franchises such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, F-Zero, and Pikmin. He created puppet characters for Star Fox that were eventually photographed for the cover.

Eguchi had previously worked as a designer on Super Mario Bros. 3 on the NES/Famicom, but this was the first title he directed. He would go on to direct Animal Crossing, Wave Race 64, and serve as a producer on Wii SportsNintendo Land, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

The characters were designed by Takaya Imamura, who would later be a producer on Star Fox Command for the Nintendo DS. Hajime Hirasawa composed the music.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Guide to the Earliest Animated Films (1900-1915)

The field of animation has been one of the most interesting and creative forms of film and its history goes almost all the way back to the beginning of movies.

The first example is a short two-minute film called The Enchanted Drawing from the year 1900. It was not entirely animated as it included live action footage, but it was the first movie with animated sequences as far as I am aware.

It consists of a man (in live-action) drawing a picture of a male face on an easel, as well as other objects such as a cigar and a glass of wine. He takes the drawings off the paper and they turn into real items. Also, the man in the drawing magically changes his facial expressions and this is where the stop-action animation part comes in. So it really isn't an animated film in the traditional sense, but it qualifies enough to be included here.

The Enchanted Drawing is a cute, gimmicky film that's definitely worth checking out to see the roots of animation.

The short was directed by a man named J. Stuart Blackton (he also starred in the film) who was born in the UK but came to the US at age 10. He is often referred to as the father of American animation.