New translation of 'Star Fox' designer's interview sheds light on the series' furry characters
shmuplations.com is, in its own words, "a repository of Japanese game developer translations, covering primarily (but not exclusively) older arcade and console games". Recently, they featured an interview that originally ran in the November 21, 2002 issue of Nintendo Dream with Takaya Imamura; video game character designer for the Star Fox series. The interview was designed to highlight Rare's then-recently-released Star Fox Adventures, but also covers Imamura's early work with the franchise.
For furry fans, this information is interesting, as he discusses the creation of some iconic furry characters, including Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare and Krystal (also, Slippy Toad). Imamura also reveals how Shigeru Miyamoto not only introduced the furry aspects to the series, but also always intended the series to be a bit more "mature" than the average Nintendo game.
Imamura reveals that he was originally not very sure about the furry aspects of the original Star Fox, and had to be reassured by his British co-creators (Argonaut at that time) that it wasn't that weird.
I was planning on drawing more cool characters in the F-ZERO vein for Star Fox, but then Miyamoto blindsided me with “how about animal characters?” and I was like, “…come again?!”
The interview confirms the inspirations for the original team. Falco, despite the name, was originally intended to be a pheasant. Fox's species (and signature red ascot) was inspired by the Fushimi Inari Shrine and its myriad fox statues, though Miyamoto suggested a mustachioed penguin at one point. Slippy, meanwhile, is an amphibian for rather arbitrary reasons.
From there, I asked myself, what should I do for one more character?, and I was like, oh yeah, how about a toad? (laughs) My thinking was that it’d be more interesting to swerve hard in a different direction with the final character, so I dared to add a toad (laughs).
Imamura's first sketch of the original Star Fox team is included with the piece, accompanied by their original names: Falcon, Rabby and Toad.
Miyamoto also contributed to their backstory.
Originally, Fox and the others were members of the Cornerian army, but Miyamoto said “let’s make them outlaws, sort of like the Foreign Legion”, and that’s when they became a mercenary unit.
Imamura also reveals how Star Fox 64 greatly changed the characterization of one of the original team members.
In the Super Nintendo version, Peppy’s age was in line with the other characters, but for the N64 version I decided he should be more of an uncle-type figure and aged him up.
Important Star Fox 64 supporting character General Pepper's Beatles inspiration is confirmed, but the interview even goes into the origins of the tanuki who appears in training mode. Imamura talks about the series' main villain's name, how it changed from East to West, and why he's a monkey.
There is a bit about how Star Fox and the Rare game Dinosaur Planet merged together to form Star Fox Adventures; the last game Rare made for Nintendo before they came under rivals Microsoft's ownership. There were rumors that turning the game into a Nintendo-owned IP was a move to either keep a new IP out of Microsoft's hands, or to make sure the game stayed on a Nintendo console. However, the few interviews available of both Rare and Nintendo employees don't back this up – and the decision, though made by Miyamoto, was amicably agreed to.
The interview has a long section discussing a comic that was released only in Japanese known as "Farewell, Beloved Falco" that attempted to bridge the gap between Star Fox 64 and Star Fox Adventures, especially explaining why Falco isn't with the team at the start of the latter game. This comic's creator, Shigahisa Nakaue – who would go on to a greater role at Nintendo after this interview was published – chimes in.
Finally, the interviewer asks Imamura what character he's most "attached" to:
That’d be Krystal. Krystal is a character that had been around since the early versions of Dinosaur Planet, and as that game was making the transition into a Star Fox game, they asked, “so, should we get rid of Krystal?”. but I thought it’d be a waste to scrap her, so when I visited Rare, I drew a ton of pictures…
Imamura reveals a surprising inspiration in Vampirella for the new, adult version of Krystal he essentially created. However, once you see the connection, it makes sense. Krystal is a character who has famously struggled to keep her crotch sufficiently covered in every game she has appeared in her Adventures costume. Seriously, there were notable "upskirt" opportunities (readers can Google their own sources) in both Adventures and in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate where she appeared as a helper character. This was by design – Krystal's sex appeal, not her tendency to accidentally flash players – and was apparently not only approved, but spurred on by Miyamoto.
Miyamoto and I were both aiming to add a little sex appeal, I guess? I think Miyamoto’s always wanted to add that flavor. […] I think somewhere in his mind, Miyamoto’s always pictured Star Fox as somewhat mature, and he’s been saying things like “wouldn’t it be good to add a slightly sexy character?” since the beginning.
That's just a quick summary of the interview. Any English-speakers interested in the history of the Star Fox series should read it all.