Star Fox Hack Boosts Its Notoriously Choppy Framerate

Star Fox Hack Boosts Its Notoriously Choppy Framerate
The romhack is on the right, running at a better framerate but also much faster than the original. (Gif: Nintendo / Kotaku)

Earlier today, Star Fox received a patch that allows the 1993 Super Nintendo classic to perform as if it was taking advantage of an advanced accelerator chip, boosting its framerate from the single digits to something nearing a more modern game.

When Star Fox launched almost 30 years ago, it was a technical marvel. Thanks to the Super FX processing chip (developed alongside the game by Argonaut Software), the sci-fi dogfighting simulator did the impossible by rendering polygonal 3D graphics at a time when bitmapped 2D visuals were the norm. And while the ravages of time come for us all, Star Fox is still considered an iconic piece of gaming history despite what today may be considered an abysmal framerate.

Thanks to an enterprising developer named Kando, however, we can now experience Star Fox outside the confines of its previous barely-better-than-a-slideshow presentation.

With help from brilliant software engineer Vitor Vilela (whose work accelerating games with the SNES SA-1 chip we’ve covered previously), Kando was able to produce a romhack that lets folks emulate Star Fox as if it was running on a follow-up Super FX revision known colloquially as the Super FX 2. That chip — best known for its use in 1995’s Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island — features double the clock speed, naturally lending it to these sorts of framerate improvements.

Sadly, it’s not perfect. As you can see in the above video, increasing Star Fox’s framerate also noticeably speeds up the game, which was developed around such limitations and thus feels very strange otherwise. Plus, you’re still not getting 30fps, much less 60.

But as a proof of concept, it’s good to know that such a thing is even possible with just a few changes to the game’s code. The next step is figuring out how to maintain Star Fox’s original pacing, a far more difficult issue that I’m sure someone much smarter than me is working on at this very moment.

In any case, you can grab Kando’s patch on Romhacking.net. Good luck!

 

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