Nintendo Should Learn a Lesson From Matthew Gafford's Star Fox Cartoon

Nintendo Should Learn a Lesson From Matthew Gafford's Star Fox Cartoon

If Nintendo wants its mascots to show up in more media outside games, a multi-episode animated series like A Fox in Space isn't a bad idea.

The recent release of Star Fox Zero for Wii U means we've been seeing a lot of flying foxes lately. Not just in-game, but in other media as well.

The most talked-about supplementary Star Fox project is Star Fox Zero -- The Battle Begins, a fifteen-minute animation that sets up the titular game's story. The video, released on April 20, generally went over well with its audience. Comment threads on the video's YouTube page contain endless requests for a Star Fox movie or mini-series done in the same cell-shaded animation style.

Though Star Fox Zero has garnered mixed reviews since its release on April 22 (its aggregated Metacritic review score is currently sitting at 71), the game's weird experiments with motion control have seemingly done nothing to dampen people's enthusiasm for Fox McCloud himself. The vulpine space fighter is as popular as ever, as are his friends -- and his foes. There's just something inherently awesome about animal-people flying sleek, uncluttered vehicles through outer space, across the treacherous surfaces of alien worlds, and straight into the claws of evil apes and wolves.

Star Fox's effortless aura of cool is seemingly what inspired illustrator / animator Matthew Gafford to put together a related video of his own: A 13-minute video called A Fox in Space. It's the first part of a planned series, unless Nintendo pulls the plug on the project (don't do it, Nintendo).

Gafford's project is very different from Nintendo's own animation. Most noticeably, it foregoes the former's clean looks in favor of a rougher, more washed-out look that greatly resembles hand-animated cartoons from the '70s and '80s. There's certainly a Ralph Bakshi vibe at work here, though A Fox in Space isn't nearly as adult as Fritz the Cat.

A Fox in Space does feature a dusting of grit, however. The language is a bit blue at times, and Fox winds up hanging out in interstellar dive bars more than his Nintendo-licensed counterpart (not by his own volition). There's also less action and dog-fighting in favor of characters sitting, talking, and bristling at each other.

Not to criticize Gafford's work for its seeming "lack of action;" his characters all emote very well through their body language, and again, the whole production pays tribute to the work of Bakshi's era. Intense physical fights may be in limited supply, but the characters are built well enough that you're satisfied just watching them interact.

A Fox in Space can actually be regarded as a little something for older fans of the Star Fox franchise (it's over 20 years old!), whereas the blazing action in The Battle Begins is suitable for young new recruits to the franchise as well as veterans.

Nintendo can't officially endorse A Fox in Space, but it should take a cue from the episodic format of the show. The Battle Begins is a good one-off, but it could've been more. It still can.

We're excited about future episodes of Gafford's production because we love the world Fox McCloud populates -- much as we love the lore and environments that form the building blocks of our favorite games. If Nintendo is really looking to increase the visibility of its mascots and franchises, making multi-part online series starring those mascots isn't a bad place to start.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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