Atari 2600 Star Fox FAQ and Scoring Guide

September 11, 2003
Version 0.80
===============================================================================


Table of Contents:

1. Introduction

2. Star Fox Story

3. Controls

4. Scoring table

5. Main Game
   5a: Practice Mode
   5b: Mode A
   5c: Mode B

6. Origins of Star Fox and Mythicon, Inc.

7. Frequently Asked Questions

8. Special Thanks
===============================================================================


1. Introduction
----------------

Thank you for reading the Star Fox FAQ.  This guide covers the video game Star
Fox for the Atari 2600 home console system.  In this guide you will find tips
for surviving the enemy drones and a table to show you how many points each
enemy and crystal are worth.

Additionally, I will also answer some common non-game play related questions
that often appear on the Game FAQ message board for this game.  Yes, itís true!
The first Star Fox game was not on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

I hope you will find this FAQ both interesting and informative, whether you are
aiming to max your score, or want to learn more about the very first Star Fox
game.




2. Star Fox Story
------------------

It is the distant future, the month of August in the year 4024.  A friendly
robot freighter has crash-landed on the planetoid Beta-7, located within
your quadrant.  This freighter holds a cargo of extremely valuable
trimetalisium energy crystals.  An enemy star cruiser with a squadron of
fighter drones is on route to Beta-7 to confiscate this precious cargo.

Your mission is to race to Beta-7 and recover as many of these important
crystals as you can.  Destroy any enemy fighter drones that you encounter.
Recover the trimetalisium crystals before the enemy beats you to them!


3. Controls
-------------

Star Fox is compatible with the Atari 2600 standard controller or a ball
controller.

Game Select Switch:
The Game Select switch on the Atari console will allow you to select 1 which
game mode you wish to play.  There are a total of 3 game modes, 2 of which have
an additional option of selecting 1 or 2 players.  This gives you a total of 5
options to choose from.

Game Reset Switch:
Starts the currently selected game mode.

Difficulty Switches:
Not used in Star Fox.  Their position does not affect game play.

Standard Controller:
Use the joystick to move in any direction you wish.  Tap the red fire button to
shot your ships laser.  Hold the red fire button for to shoot a steady stream
of laser.

The red fire button can also be used to start a game mode from the game
selection screen.

Ball Controller:
The Star Fox manual states "BALL CONTROLLERS work very well with STAR FOX.
Higher scores should be possible."  Personally, I have never used an Atari ball
controller and the Star Fox manual does not give any further directions.  If
you are playing with a ball controller, you will have to figure out the
controls on your own.


4. Scoring Table
--------------------

Ramming an enemy drone :  10 points
Shooting an enemy drone: 100 points
Collecting a crystal   : 200 points

Maximum possible score: 9999 points.


5. Main Game
--------------

All right, its time to get into the good stuff, the main game.  Are you ready
to experience the true Star Fox?  Without further delay, lets get into the 3
modes for this game!

   5a. Practice Mode (1 player only)

Practice mode is indicated on the game selection screen by a man standing next
to a happy face.  Practice mode is just what it sounds like, a mode used for
practice.  There is no scoring in practice mode and you have unlimited lives.

This is the perfect place to get a feel for your ship so lets go over some of
the flying rules.

Your ship can move in any direction, but can only fire lasers directly to the
left or right.  You can't shoot up or down or at a diagonal.  You can continue
to move freely while shooting your laser so feel free to hold the fire button
as you fly through over Beta-7 planetoid.

Speaking of Beta-7, see that orange at the bottom of your screen?  That's the
planetoid.  This is where objective of your mission is located, the
trimetalisium crystals.  However there is a slight problem.  The crystals have
ionized the gases to such an extent that your horizontal drive is useless at
low altitudes.  In other words, you can't move left or right whenever you are
in the orange area at the bottom of the screen, only up and down.  Additionally
you cannot fire your laser while in the ionized gas.

When a  trimetalisium crystal appears in the atmosphere, it will bob up and
down within the orange layer, but never move horizontally.  Your job is to
swoop into the atmosphere and pass over a crystal to collect it.

In Practice Mode, you will face all but the strongest enemy fighter drones, but
you will never face more than 1 drone at a time.  The first drone you meet is
fairly large, fairly slow, and fires few shots.  As you continue to play, the
enemy fighter drones will get smaller, faster, and fire more frequently.  Both
you and your enemy can be destroyed with a single hit.  You can also destroy
your enemy by ramming it.

In Practice Mode you have unlimited lives.  If you are destroyed, simply press
the fire button to continue.  Every time you destroy an enemy fighter drone, a
stronger one will take its place.  However, pressing the Game Reset switch on
the Atari 2600 console will reset the enemy fighter drones back to their
easiest variety.

Spend as much time as you like honing your skills here, when you are ready for
the real mission, press the Game Select switch to move onto your real mission.

   5b. Mode A (1 or 2 players)

Welcome pilot!  Have you finished your training simulation in Practice Mode?
If so, then you are ready to travel to Beta-7 and engage real enemy drones! The
trimetalisium crystals must be recovered.  The enemy is gunning for you, so
make every move count!

Mode A is identified on the Game Selection screen by a single man for a 1
player game, and 2 men for a 2-player game.  At first glance, Mode A looks
identical to Practice Mode, but there are some important differences.

1. You have 3 lives.
2. Scoring is enabled.
3. Enemy drones become more powerful after every 2000 points.
4. The strongest enemy drones can appear.

Now, lets learn about your enemies.  The enemy fighter drones are surprisingly
intelligent for an Atari 2600 game.  Even the most basic enemy can put up a
good fight.  While you are flying above the orange gas atmosphere, the enemy
fighters will attempt to circle behind you and attack with missiles.  If you
reverse direction to face the drone, it will again attempt to loop behind you.
The drones rarely attack from the front.  If a fighter drone feels you have too
much of an advantage, it will attempt to flee and return moments later at a
different angle.  If you are in the orange gas of Beta-7, the enemy drone will
position itself above you and drop bombs.  As if that weren't bad enough, after
every 2000 points, the enemy fighter drones will be replaced with a stronger
model.  In order to succeed, you must get a handle on space combat, so lets go
over some tips for destroying your foes.

Your foes are a bit more maneuverable than you are, so rather than trying to
out fly them, you need to learn to anticipate where they will go.  An important
thing to remember is that unless a drone is in bombing mode or fleeing from
you, it will be attempting to keep itself directly behind you.  You can use
this to your advantage by rapidly reversing directions to face the drone.  This
will cause the drone to keep moving in an attempt to get behind you, and the
more it moves, the less chances it has to attack you.  Hold the red fire button
and move your ship in a tight circular motion as you work to keep your foe in
front of you.  Time it right and your foe will loop right into your laser fire
and explode, scoring you 100 points.  Whenever possible, you want to hit your
opponent from behind.  Though they don't do it often, the fighter drones can
shoot you from head on, especially the more advanced models.

An alternative to shooting your foe is to ram it.  Ramming a fighter drone will
not harm your ship, so don't hesitate to do so. Ramming a drone is easier
than shooting one, but will only earn you 10 points, significantly fewer than
shooting a foe.  Nonetheless, ramming will be an important part of your quest
to max your score.  As the enemy drones become smaller, faster, and deadlier,
they also become extremely difficult to hit.  Even the most basic drone can be
a challenge to tag with a laser, and the smaller models seem almost impossible!
You'll soon find that ramming your enemy is much more effective, despite the 90
point difference compared to shooting one.  After all, what good is that 90
extra points if it costs you a life to acquire them?  When you reach the final
two versions of drones, you may even discover that ramming 10 of them can take
less time than trying to shoot just 1.  The best way to ram an enemy is to face
it, and then quickly turn and swoop into its path as it attempts to circle
behind you.

If you are hit, the game will display how many lives you have left.  Press the
red fire button to continue play.  If in 2-player mode, the other player will
take their turn after a the other player loses a life.  The game is over when
all 3 of a players lives are lost.

Regardless of how you destroy a drone, another one will arrive a few seconds
later.  Use this time to snag a trimetalisium crystal as quickly as you can.


There is a trick to collecting the trimetalisium crystals.  They appear just
off-screen behind you as you are flying.  So rather than flying great distances
to the left or right, travel in one direction for a few seconds, than quickly
reverse direction.  Almost immediately, you should find a crystal floating in
the atmosphere.  You must dive into the atmosphere to pick up the crystal, but
this can be trickier than it sounds.  You are most vulnerable to your enemy
when you are trying to retrieve a crystal from the atmosphere.  Remember that
once  your ship enters the orange gas, your ship will not respond to left or
right movements of the joystick until you leave the atmosphere.  Although you
can position yourself directly above a crystal and lower yourself onto it, I
strongly recommend against doing so.  This maneuver leaves you very vulnerable
as it requires you to come to a complete stop above the crystal.  Not only is
it difficult to line up correctly with the crystal from above, but the fighter
drones will drop bombs on you as you lower yourself into the atmosphere.  A
better method is to swoop into the atmosphere at an angle.  Even though your
horizontal engine drive will kick out, your horizontal momentum will carry you
right into the crystal if you dove into the atmosphere close enough to it.
Then you can quickly rise up out of the atmosphere and move clear of the bombs
the enemy drone will begin dropping on you.  Each crystal you collect is worth
200 points.

Your goal is to achieve the maximum score, 9999 points.  If you accomplish this
feat, you have mastered Mode A.  Once you reach this score, the game will not
change the fighter drones, the models you are facing are the strongest there
is.  The game will continue at its current difficulty until you lose all of
your lives.

   5c. Mode B (1 or 2 players)

Welcome back pilot.  How did your mission in Mode A go?  Pretty tough wasn't
it?  Well don't relax!  Itís only going to get tougher.  This mode is for
experts only!  Only the best of the best will survive here!

Welcome to Mode B, identified by a Man and a Diamond on the selection screen.
Two men and a diamond for the two-player variation.

So, you have scored 9999 points in Mode A and consider yourself an ace pilot?
Well, you've come to the right place to prove it!  Its time to return to Beta-7
for another round of trimetalisium crystal gathering.  But this time things
will not be so easy.  The same rules apply here as in Mode A, except for one
very important difference.

Ramming an enemy will destroy your ship.

That's right!  That ramming strategy you used in Mode A to handle the strongest
of drones and boost your score won't work here!  Sure you will still get 10
points if you ram an enemy, but it will also cost you a life.  This simple rule
change completely changes the flow of the game and separates the men from the
mice.  Do you have what it takes to truly be a Star Fox?

In order to survive here, You must master the art of luring your enemy into
your laser and avoid their potential counter attack.  At first this isn't too
difficult, but by the time you have 4000 points, the enemies are so fast and
small, you may find yourself frequently being destroyed by a counter attack, or
accidentally ramming your foe and losing a life.  You must perform extremely
tight circles and be ready to quickly rise or lower your altitude to avoid your
enemy as they circle around you and fire their missiles.

I have yet to max my score in Mode B but one tip I have found is that you may
fare better by concentrating on avoiding your enemies rather than destroying
them.  Gather the crystals to increase your score and change directions to
maneuver an enemy drone out of your way.  Accidentally ramming your foe is a
huge threat here, making direct combat risky.  An alternative way to battle your
foe is to pursue your the drone when it tries to retreat off-screen.  Quickly
give chase and fire a stream of lasers.  Your ship is faster than the drones
in horizontal movement and they do not try and loop behind you while
retreating.  This is your best opportunity to destroy the more advanced models
later in the game.

By all means, experiment in Mode B and find what works.  I will continue to
test new strategies in this mode and try and find more weaknesses to the enemy
drones.  Until then, good luck!



6. Origins of Star Fox and Mythicon, Inc.
-------------------------------------------

In 1983, a company called Mythicon, Inc. released 3 games for the Atari 2600.
These games were Fire Fly, Sorcerer, and Star Fox.  Mythicon, Inc.'s marketing
strategy was to sell quality video games at the bargain price of only $9.95.
However, things did not pan out as well as the company had hoped.  The games
sold poorly, and players felt the quality of the games were poor.  All 3 of
Mythicon, Incs titles frequently found themselves in 99-cent bargain bins. In
fact, my copy of Star Fox, which I purchased off of E-bay, has a 99-cent tag on
it.  When the video game industry collapsed later that year, Mythicon, Inc.
closed its doors and the small company dispended.  Now all of Mythicon, Inc.'s
titles are somewhat of a rarity, even on auction sites like E-bay.

Mythicon, Inc. was such a little known company that most people have never
heard its name, but I have been doing research into them for some time now.
A difficult task indeed with so little information sources available to go on.
Like all their games, Star Fox was meant to be the first game in a series.  On
the game box, it reads "Game 1 in the Star Fox series."  After Mythicon, Inc
disbanded, the Star Fox series came to a screeching halt... or did it?  Now, 20
years later, I have successfully contacted a former programmer of Mythicon, Inc.
And through a phone conversation, the storyline started in the Mythicon Star
Fox game just might get a second life...


7. Frequently Asked Questions.
-------------------------------

Q: Did Nintendo make this game?
A: No, this game was produced by Mythicon, Inc in 1983.

Q: Is Fox McCloud in this game?
A: No, this game was created well before the Nintendo Star Fox series was made
and the two are not connected in any way.

Q: Who is the pilot in this game?
A: The pilot is un-named.

Q: If this is the first Star Fox game, could Nintendo get sued for using the
name?
A: I can all but guarantee you that Nintendo will not be sued.  Mythicon, Inc
went out of business 10 years ago, so all the living employees have gone onto
other things.  Additionally, when Mythicon, Inc copyrighted their game, they
copyrighted it under the name of Star Quest.  The copyright was filed before
the game was actually released.  It looks like when the game was released,
Mythicon. Inc decided to rename the game Star Fox but did not make any changes
to the copyright filed.  So according to US Copyright records, this game is
called Star Quest.  Nintendo now has a patent on the name Star Fox so no future
games can use the name.

Q: Who was the programmer of this game?
A: His name was Bruce De Graff according to the Mythicon. Inc programmer I
talked to.

Q: You said the Star Fox Series might continue.  What do you mean?
A: Please read my answer to the next question for the answer to this one as
well.

Q: What is with your obsession of this game?
A: An obsession you call it? Heh I guess you could call it that if you want to.
Well fair enough I can answer that.

I am a bit of a fan-fic writer. I purchased an old Atari 2600 on E-bay a while
ago. One day while I was looking up some reviews for the old Star Fox Super NES
game I noticed this one here for the Atari. At first I thought the name was
some kind of mistake, but further research revealed that this game does indeed
exist. Well ever since I was a little kid it has been a dream of mine to own
the rights to a video game. One of my goals is to not write fan-fiction, but to
write fan-fact. To write something and have it be an official continuation of
the story.

This game fascinated me for reasons I can't quite grasp. This game is the true
Star Fox game, the very first. This game was, as far as sales go, a total flop.
In fact all 3 of the games made by Mythicon, Inc did poorly and found their way
into 99-cent bargain bins. After about 1 year of business Mythicon, Inc
disbanded forever, abandoning everything they were working on. Somewhere locked
in a vault is a game called Diver that was never released, and possibly never
finished. Since this game did so poorly in sales, and the staff has gone onto
other things, I saw a chance to go for my childhood dream. This game does
indeed have a story, a very simple one, but one that has so much potential to
go much further than this game ever took it.

I did a lot of researching. I actually found the workplace of one of Mythicon,
Inc's former programmers. I set up a phone interview and within a week, I was
able to talk to him. Unfortunately he was not able to contact the person that
you would consider the "Head" of Mythicon, Inc and though he gave me the name
of the man that specifically programmed the Atari Star Fox game, I have not
been able to contact him. The person I talked to worked on a different game.
Nonetheless, I told him about what I wanted to do. Though he couldn't help me
purchase the copyright for the Star Fox game, he did encourage me to continue
the storyline. So I now have verbal authorization to continue the storyline of
the Mythicon, Inc Star Fox game, which is in no way related to the Nintendo
franchise. So to continue the storyline I am going to have to change the name.
Instead of Star Fox I am planning to call it Space Fox. I am currently in the
process of developing the next chapter of the storyline.

So I don't have any documentation or official forms saying I now have the
rights to officially continue the games storyline. All I have is the verbal
permission of a programmer of the former company. Although legally verbal
permission is all I need, its not something that can be proven should the
extremely unlikely happen and I be taken to court. If Bruce De Graff wants
to sue me over it, I'll cross that bridge if it ever comes. But as of now, I
have permission from an official representative, and thatís enough for me.
Itís sort of like having a license on the story. I don't own the original
story, but I will own everything I make from this point on, and it will be an
official connection to the original story.



8. Special Thanks
--------------------

I'd like to extend special thanks to former Mythicon, Inc. programmer,
Mr. Thorston Bradsher for helping me to learn more about Mythionc, Inc. and
Star Fox during an interview held earlier in the year.  You're the best Thor!