Opinion: What 'Star Fox' needs to survive
Let me explain.
Reason 1: Star Fox evolved
The flying shooter is a dead genre, especially on consoles. During the GameCube/PS2/Xbox generation, the GameCube was the only console with such games; two StarFox games, and two Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games.
Of these four games, calling StarFox Adventures a flying shooter is really stretching it; an action-adventure game with a tacked on mini-game inspired by flying shooters would be more accurate. Two of the others (StarFox: Assault and the third Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike game) featured on-foot levels.
The Star Fox series has notoriously bounced from one video game studio to another; Rogue Squadron studio Factor 5 was bounced from Nintendo to Microsoft to Sony in rapid succession.
None of those games were sold as part of the flying shooter genre to begin with; Star Fox games are mostly bought by Nintendo fans – and, to a lesser extent, furries – while the Rogue Squadron games were sold to Star Wars fans. There wasn't really a flying shooter consumer base then, and there certainly isn't one now.
What did in the genre was the release of mega-hit Halo: Combat Evolved. The series featured first person shooting, but also allowed players to control all manner of tanks, jeeps and other vehicles. Plus, as the series progressed, flying machines. The Halo series has influenced console shooters more than any other series from the last decade, and successfully subsumed the flying shooter into the shooter as a whole.
Nintendo has no first-party or even second-party exclusive Halo-esque shooter series, period. This is like going into battle without a weapon. Nintendo needs a weapon. The Metroid series has been touted as Nintendo’s Halo, but don't let the body-armored, helmeted main character, use of first person perspective, or even the shooting fool you. Metroid is about exploration first, combat second.
The closest Nintendo has to a series that could easily shift to Halo mode is Star Fox. Admittedly, Star Fox: Assault – an early, aborted attempt at Star Fox-does-Halo – wasn’t inspiring. Still, the problem was not so much that its foot levels were on foot, but that they weren't very good.
Reason 2: Foxes are meant to be seen, not just heard
Of course, it would also be counter-intuitive to use the first-person perspective, for the same reason. Obviously, on-foot levels should remain in the third-person. Halo is the inspiration – not the end all, be all.
This is where the Star Fox series would be able to differentiate itself from other shooter series. The Star Fox video game genre might be shooter, but its story genre is a funny animal parody of space opera.
This parodic bent, plus the series’ trademark campiness, is where it can stand out. Shooters are often – somewhat by necessity – dark and somber. A lighter, funnier shooter might be the next big thing. At the least, a group of furries would be a breath of fresh air after all those beefy, hyper-masculine space marines.
Reinvention of Star Fox as a Nintendo version of Halo would be the best thing for the series — granted that the gameplay is adequate, Nintendo doesn’t balk at the concept and allows it to have modern online multiplayer, and the writers don’t create the next Shadow the Hedgehog.
This may seem like a call for Star Fox to become just another follower rather than a leader of innovation, or even a bit "anti-Nintendo", but I don't see that the series can do anything else. It’s what Nintendo needs to do if they intend to go after the “hardcore” gamer again.