Gaming Culture Star Fox

What My Hatred of Slippy Taught Me About Toxic Masculinity

I owe Slippy Toad a giant apology. Star Fox’s companion has been ragged on by everyone in the 20ish years since Star Fox 64. People have had no problem absolutely bashing on Slippy with little to no vocal support for him. I am complicit in this hate and I’m here to tell you I was wrong. Not only am I here to tell you that Slippy is in fact good, he’s also the most important member of the whole team.

Star Fox 64 is one of my favorite games of all time and I replay it at least a couple of times a year. Through all of those playthroughs, I have hated Slippy. Something about him just rubbed me the wrong way. I never wanted to hear his communications and wrongly attributed that I had to save him way more than the other teammates. I even resented Slippy; as the tech person on my team he is responsible for scanning bosses and letting me know their health bar. If Slippy’s knocked out, you fly in blind. I would hate Slippy for getting in trouble but even more pissed with Slippy out of commission. It was a no win situation for Mr. Toad.

Star Fox 64 Opening

Why feel angry at Slippy? As with most of the internet, my reasons were simply “annoying.” What qualities specifically?  A higher pitched voice for one thing. That’s an awful reason to hate my helpful friend; sounding more effeminate is not a crime and is definitely misogynistic of me to call that a negative. His voice isn’t even piercing, he’s literally just voiced by a woman. Slippy also embraces what popular culture would deem as “feminine” qualities. He’s much more vulnerable, meaning that he voices more fear in tough situations but much more excitement and praise in positive ones. Slippy wears his heart on his sleeve and is much more open than the rest of the team. By comparison, Peppy is more reserved and even keel (the father figure) and Falco is moody and aloof. Out of everybody, Slippy will be the first to hop in and shout with excitement and lavish praise. 

Slippy can handle the heat

So why is this a bad thing? Well popular culture tells us boys that we shouldn’t embody Slippy’s qualities. Be the leader and courageous like Fox, wise and sagely like Peppy, or cool and detached like Falco. Slippy on the other hand represents all the things we’re meant to squash. Don’t show excitement or fear, being vulnerable will only weigh you down. In other words don’t be feminine the men need to get this done. It’s no wonder we look down on him from a boy club perspective when reviews cited him as an “annoying, croaking pest.” And while many would have you believe that Slippy is incapable of getting out of a situation by himself, don’t forget how often exhibits a and b also get in trouble. I have to think that our supposed collective hatred of Slippy is born out of the misogynistic perspective that vulnerability is weak.

Enough about the internet’s hatred for him though; I want to talk him up. Remember how I mentioned that he’s the most important member of the team? He is responsible for displaying the health meter of bosses for every single level. This is vitally important! Pepper will offer tutorial advice (“Do a barrel roll” being forever immortalized) which is helpful only in the first few levels. Falco allows you to take different paths and routes, but these can be few and far between. Slippy meanwhile is helpful on every single level! As the resident tech person, he’s also responsible for different vehicles. He made the submarine and the land master possible! Did I mention he’s also a capable fighter pilot? Clearly Slippy is pulling more than his fair share of weight on the team. What does he get for this? Absolutely roasted

Slippy Star Fox Quote
Watch it!

Slippy deserves your respect. Writing him off for an effeminate voice and perceived lack of coolness doesn’t cut it. He is no less a hero just because he reacts to big scary things happening on missions. Slippy is absolutely busting his butt on every single mission and behind the scenes. I’ve turned a corner on my irrational hatred of this space toad and you can too.

Gaming Culture Star Fox

It’s Time to Rethink Star Fox

Star Fox has had a rough go of it. The series hasn’t had a true hit since Star Fox 64, which is celebrating its 20th (!) anniversary. Currently, Star Fox stands as Nintendo’s sole blind spot as all its other flagship series continue to find success. Adhering to older game styles have proven to be successful with new games this year (see: Sonic Mania). Star Fox’s place as a top Nintendo series seemingly prevents a success like that; $60 is just too steep. With the series currently on hold with the most recent failing on the Wii U and Star Fox 2 finally being released as a pack in with the SNES classic, Star Fox’s path to success is by rethinking the series’ place as a AAA title.

Star Fox 2

Star Fox’s best games are enjoyable because of their single-minded gameplay approach.  The third person aerial combat provides Nintendo’s trademark accessibility through its simplicity; one button to shoot and one button for bombs. The game also had Fox and team never leave the cockpit of their respective arwings, landmaster, and blue-marine in both the Super Nintendo and N64 games. Further iterations attempted to have the animal heroes fight on foot with negative results.

This places the series in a tricky position. Fans want new games to adhere to the N64 formula while also expanding on it. This formula has not aged especially well though; while the gameplay is still engaging, the game is thin on content. One run through the star map (~7 levels) takes under an hour. Anyone familiar with how to navigate the star map can take the multiple run throughs necessary to see all the levels within a few short hours. This makes charging $60 for a new game a tough proposition. But this is where that change in mindset could benefit both Nintendo and fans; by moving Star Fox from console headliner to a more budget friendly downloadable game fans can get the Star Fox gameplay they want without having to tack on unnecessary modes or gameplay tweaks.

Star Fox Adventures
Remember this???

It would help to think of Star Fox as another modern-day game type; rogue-like. Indie games like Galax Z, Spelunky, and Dead Cells are a perfect way to reinvigorate the Star Fox series. While their gameplay is very different, these games offer tight focused single player campaigns that satisfies players much in the same way the original Star Fox games do. Their campaigns are segmented into discrete levels with each subsequent mission increasing the gameplay difficulty with a final challenge building on everything that came before it. These games are also meant to be repeated. Also like Star Fox, when you run out of lives you restart at the beginning. Rogue-like game feel complete with just this campaign as players receive a full experience by the time the credits roll. There is no need for a multiplayer component or larger variations on the core gameplay.

Star Fox Train Fight

Players also don’t feel cheated out at their smaller price point. This is the perfect area for Star Fox and a way for Nintendo to focus on a smaller number of levels to fill the campaign star map. No need for weird platforming sequences or on foot combat, keep the players and the animals in vehicles at all times. Include a multiplayer component if you must, but just don’t make it the focus of the game. There is also no reason for any shifts in control schemes either, just keep it to the two buttons and the joysticks. Star Fox fans would agree, we’re all happier when we’re fighting giant robotic ships in arwings. By moving away from thinking of Star Fox as a headlining act, Nintendo can effectively please everyone who wants a taste of that old nostalgia.