With about three weeks to go until this year's E3 press conferences, it's that lovely time of year...  The time when gamers run rabid with speculation, baseless rumors build upon one another with little credentials to back them up, and certain "industry insiders" "leak" information that tends more often to not to amount to nothing.

Still in spite of my cynical tone, I rather enjoy this part of the yearly gaming cycle, because it's satisfying both to have your wishes granted, or for them to be eschewed in favor of something awesome you never knew you wanted.  One rumor in particular that's been circling the interwebs as of late is that Nintendo has a Star Fox game planned for the Switch.  You'd think that'd please furries fans of the beloved space shooter franchise but on the contrary, it has Nintendo fans up in arms.  Apparently, this has been the project that Retro Studios, maker of the brilliant Metroid Prime Trilogy and the rebooted Donkey Kong Country games, has been working on the past four years, and it's not a traditional Star Fox title, but rather a racing game called Star Fox:  Grand Prix.

Nintendo does not have a good recent track record of taking a beloved IP and pushing it into the territory of a new genre.  In 2015, they bastardized Animal Crossing into a bizarre board game with little substance that required players to purchase additional amiibo figures in the form of the misguided Animal Crossing:  Amiibo Festival, and that same year Chibi Robo was revived on the 3DS as a woefully mediocre 2D platformer as Chibi Robo:  Zip Lash.  It's understandable given this history why Nintendo fans would be upset.  The facts Retro has been "wasting their time" with a racing game rather than something more immersive like the Metroid Prime series, and that F-Zero, once Nintendo's flagship racing title, will continue to be ignored in favor of this only add fuel to the flame.

That being said... after pondering what final form this game could take, I actually not only have high hopes it could actually be a quality game, but it could just be the shot in the arm the Star Fox series needs to be as relevant as some of Nintendo's bigger franchises in 2018.  I should note I'm not here today to discuss the likelihood of this leak being fake or not - head over to Gamexplain's probably 9,000 hour analysis for that.  Although I will add it's usually the bizarre leaks no one anticipated, like last years Mario and Rabbids:  Kingdom Battle that end up coming true, not the "leaks" that everyone would like to be true or expects to be true.

That being said, I'm here to lay down a few arguments as to why this Star Fox spin-off could be great, so hold off on one-starring this blog and sending me hate mail 'til the end.  

It's surprsingly difficult to find thumbnail sized images without the abysmal Slippy Toad and Krystal in them.

Point #1:  Retro Studios is developing it.

The biggest piece of this "leak" that has me believing it could hypothetically be a great game is the same reason why so many people would be upset if it were true...  Retro Studios is developing it.  Once an obscure Texan developer, Retro Studios is now a revered name for Nintendo fans thanks to their outstanding track record.  With the Metroid Prime series, they not only revived the Metroid franchise into 3D space, but created a universe with some of the richest, most mature environments and lore any Nintendo series has enjoyed to date.  Every installment of the trilogy is immersive, atmospheric, and plays like a dream (assuming you're playing the trilogy collection on Wii with its shockingly good motion controls).  After they were finished with Metroid, Retro Studios moved on to the Donkey Kong Country series, creating both Donkey Kong Country Returns for the Wii in, and Donkey Kong Country:  Tropical Freeze for the Wii U (which was recently ported to the Switch).  While neither of these titles were revolutionary, they were also extremely polished, tightly designed platformers that not only exceeded the quality of the original SNES trilogy, but could arguably stand among the best games the genre has to offer.

So make no mistake.  Retro Studios makes wonderful video games.

This is the main reason I have faith in this hypothetical Star Fox racing game being good.  Assuming it is real, and assuming Retro is developing it, I can't imagine the final product being as shallow or misguided as something like Animal Crossing:  Amiibo Festival.  Retro understands why Nintendo franchises like Metroid and Donkey Kong have such a fond place in gamers' hearts and have crafted many experiences that are polished, rich in content, and not only are respectful to their predecessors, but superior to them in some ways.  With a competent developer like them at the helm, I already believe this hypothetical game could have a lot of potential.

The Metroid Prime Trilogy consists of three of the best games I've ever played.  They grant Retro Studios a strong resume, which is why I'm confident they'd do a Star Fox racing game justice.

Point #2 Lore-wise, Star Fox would make sense as a racing game.

When a spin-off of an existing franchise in flung into the territory of a new genre, there runs the risk of the established lore or tone of the franchise not gelling well with the new genre's style.  That isn't the case for Star Fox and racing titles at all.  If we picture a futuristic racing setting a la F-Zero, the Star Fox universe would fit into its style like a glove.  As many savvy gamers have pointed out, one of the endings to Star Fox: Command (the most recent title in the series chronologically, and one with no canon ending as of now), Fox and Falco lose most of their funds to Star Wolf and end up becoming galaxy-famous racers in the G-Zero Grand Prix.  Star Fox:  Grand Prix could theoretically pick up from where this ending off, or if Nintendo doesn't want to overcomplicate the Star Fox timeline when making sequels, Grand Prix could simply be a spin-off where Fox and co. enter high stakes races for funds to make their space mercenary expeditions easier.

Some of the "leaks" allude to the game having a single player adventure mode, which is wonderful to hear in an age of online-only games that will inevitably be unplayable after servers shut down.  In this mode players, as Fox, get to explore a hub world, meet characters from the Star Fox universe and possibly other Nintendo franchises, and then progress the plot through races and boss battles.  The opportunity to step out of the Arwing and explore a hub world in the Star Fox universe on foot offers up some exciting worldbuilding opportunities; even small Nintendo hub worlds like Inkopolis of Splatoon fame pack a ton of details into their environments to enrich the universe the game takes place in.

This is also ignoring the fact that even if the game limits itself to the Star Fox universe, there is no lack of beloved characters players could pick in mulitplayer modes, like badass Falco Lombardi, barrel roll obsessed Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad, and cocky rival Wolf O'Donell.  Star Fox hasn't really built upon its established universe much since 1997's Star Fox 64.  I believe Grand Prix, with an explorable hub world and rich single player content, could have the potential to do just that.  Not only could the Star Fox universe easily accommodate the racing genre, the story might benefit from ti.

It wouldn't be that difficult to fit the events of Star Fox:  Grand Prix into the series' canon.

Point #3 Gameplay-wise, Star Fox could work as a racing game.

Continuing off the previous point, not only could a Star Fox racing spin-off work from a story standpoint, it would also easily work from a gameplay perspective.  Think about the basic nature of a Star Fox game - you're on rails, and you shoot things while working towards an ever-approaching end goal.  Now think of the basic nature of a racing game, you're still on rails to an extent (you can reverse, but why would you?) and you try to undermine opponents' progress while working towards an ever-approaching end goal.

Some "leakers" have claimed that the basic nature of Star Fox:  Grand Prix still incorporates the Arwing, as players take the skies and race towards the goal, shooting at enemies to try and acquire a speed boost.  You can even shoot at other players to undermine their progress.  Frankly, this doesn't sound like much of a departure from traditional Star Fox.  Moreover, the series was always built around replayability - clearing the same short campaign over and over to improve your score.  Similarly, racing games are meant to be played continuously as you gain knowledge of each course and improve your performance.  Mario Kart is great fun, but in the absence of F-Zero, Nintendo could benefit from a more skill-based racing game, and a high speed one where players must not only avoid aerial obstacles while moving in all directions, but shoot at enemies and avoid being shot at sounds like an absolute blast to me.

A racing game revolving around dodging obstacles and shooting enemies in an Arwing sounds pretty sweet to me.

Point #4 Star Fox needs to evolve.

This next point might offend some people, but I personally believe that Star Fox as a franchise has been some horribly mismanaged by Nintendo through the years that I can't even say I enjoy it as a whole.  The original SNES title was a technically impressive space shooter for its time, but its horribly low frame rate make it painful to play in 2018, particularly since its successor, the excellent Star Fox 64, is a borderline remake of the original game, borrowing the same premise, characters, and environments as the SNES title.  While Star Fox 64 is a game I and many other games have respect and nostaglia for, the franchise has been treated terribly since.

The next three games in the series - Adventures, Assault, and Command - mixed up the gameplay formula to poor effect.  Adventures was to be an original IP that later had Fox thrown on the cover in the hopes adding a familiar face would sell more units.  The ultimate result is a decent but not exceptional Legend of Zelda-esque experience whose gameplay was a radical departure from Star Fox's norm and whose dinosaur aesthetic did not gel well with the sci-fi enviornments the series was known for.  Assault brought back on-rails shooting segments that were fairly good, but they were paired with ground combat that was clunky at best, and woefully inferior to other third person shooters at worst.  Command was the best of the three, offering on-rails shooting with a strategic twist in terms of deciding where to go, but it wasn't as exciting as 64, and the large amount of playable characters and endings muddled the story.

The worst Star Fox game to date though has to be the Wii U's horribly misguided Star Fox:  Zero.  A revival of the series after a ten year departure, it borrowed the plot and environments of Star Fox 64 (which itself borrowed these from the SNES original) and featured a bizarre control scheme that forced players to look back and forth between the Wii U Gamepad's screen and the television.  It was a horribly unintuitive system that added nothing to the experience, and was there only to try to justify the existence of the Wii U Gamepad, failing miserably in the process.  It's also bizarre that Shigeru Miyamoto, the man who made his name to fame on making games accessible and easy to control for all players was justifying a control setup you would finally "understand" after you beat the game once.

What these efforts show is that Nintendo doesn't really know how to evolve the Star Fox franchise.  When the series remains an on-rails shooter, with the exception of Command, it doesn't grow from either a lore or a gameplay standpoint.  And when the series tries something new, it doesn't gel well with the series' established universe, or is just clunkily designed.  Star Fox 64 is thus the only game in the series I can confidently say I have any love for, and that is why I am open to the prospect of Star Fox:  Grand Prix.  With Retro developing it, I don't believe the final product would be as clunky as Assault, and I don't think the racing aesthetic would clash with the series' universe as Adventures' dinosaur theme did.  Star Fox gameplay stagnates when it remains an on rails shooter and up until now didn't fare well in other genres, but I believe a racing game set in the same universe could be a great opportunity for the series to evolve and grow into something better.

Star Fox has had a decent number of games through the years, but many of them failed to evolve the on-rails shooting formula or were just mediocre spin-offs.  A racing game made by Retro could be the evolution this franchise needs.

Point #5 This could open the doors for more Star Fox or F-Zero

The immediate concern of many Nintendo fans regarding this game isn't unfounded - they fear that the game is a "darned if you do, darned if you don't" scenario.  If the game sells poorly, Nintendo may just assume the interest for Star Fox simply isn't there any more and give up on the franchise entirely.  And if the title does well, better than Star Fox:  Zero did especially, they may decide the series' best future is as a racing franchise.  

However, if this franchise does do well, it could demonstrate to Nintendo that not only is there a demand for more of the Star Fox universe, but for non-Mario Kart racing franchises in general.  Shigeru Miyamoto infamously stated that the main reason Nintendo has not followed up on the franchise since 2004's F-Zero:  GX is that he could not think of a good "gimmick" that would justify a new installment... even though fans simply want another traditional F-Zero on modern hardware.

If Star Fox:  Grand Prix is real and is a commercial success, while this could "doom" Star Fox to replace F-Zero as Nintendo's alternative to Mario Kart, it also could encourage them to experiment more with the racing genre and bring back F-Zero while they're at it.  It could also make Star Fox relevant outside of Smash Bros. for the first time in over a decade and encourage Nintendo or Retro Studios to continue to try new things with the franchise that will hopefully be better than the Gamecube installments.  Either way, we wouldn't really know until we gave this game a fair chance and awaited Nintendo's next move.

It's been 14 years since the last F-Zero game... I understand Nintendo fans' frustration that Star Fox:  Grand Prix would exist at the expense of a new F-Zero installment, but if it does well and demonstrates there's a market for more competitive racing games, Nintendo may decide to create a new installment for the beloved racer in response.

Ultimately, at this point in time it's difficult to determine the veracity of the Star Fox:  Grand Prix "leaks."  Yet while most fans are crossing their fingers for it to be fake, I would actually like to see it materialize. With a competent developer like Retro Studios at the helm, I don't believe it would be as shallow as previous Nintendo spin-offs have been.  It could be a great opportunity to flesh out the Star Fox universe, and the gameplay of the series already fits a racing title well.  And lastly, it could not only evolve the Star Fox franchise in a satisfying way, but open the doors for more Star Fox content or an F-Zero revival in the future.

As of now, we have yet to get any concrete information, screenshots, or trailers about this game.  Until we do (again, assuming it's real) I suggest we all keep an open mind and hope for the best.  Sometimes, Nintendo's greatest successes are the things we didn't know we wanted to begin with.