The internet was recently set ablaze by a dump of Nintendo assets known as the “Gigaleak.” This batch includes incredible finds, like early Yoshi prototypes and even Luigi files in Super Mario 64. But my favorite part has been hearing the Star Fox 64 cast speak with crystal-clear clarity via new digital audio files.
The sad reality of Nintendo 64 games—most older games, actually, and still some today—is that a lot of the assets had to be compressed to fit on the storage medium, in this case a cartridge. This obviously affected the graphics, but it also made audio files scratchy and less clear than the original recordings. One might argue that this wasn’t as big a deal for Star Fox 64, since most of the time the characters were supposed to be speaking through radios anyway, but the uncompressed voice files that just got leaked—like a crystal-clear “Do a barrel roll!” from Peppy—are still a real treat.
Just listen to my beautiful boy Slippy in all his froggy glory.
While I’m still partial to the semi-vocal sound effects used for character chatter in the Super Nintendo games, it’s hard to argue there isn’t something special about these Star Fox 64 voices. And now it feels like you’re right there in the room with the voice actors, which in turn helps more of their personality shine through. It probably wouldn’t have been worth including all these lossless files in the actual game—N64 cartridges were expensive enough already!—but the part of me that’s fascinated with how games are made had a great time listening to these scattered, context-less voices in a giant playlist.
This weekend’s leaks also included a ton of Star Fox 2 assets for unused characters. In addition to a very surprising (both because the franchise is about anthropomorphized animals, and the general lack of representation in Nintendo games) presence of an (amazingly cool) Black woman, the developers also concepted hippo, cow, bear, sheep, and lemur members of the Star Fox crew. There even appears to be an unused version of Fara Phoenix, a fellow pilot and early love interest of Fox McCloud, who only appeared in rather obscure Nintendo Power comics.
Other finds abound. Folks have managed to dig out an early version of the Star Fox 2 title theme in one of at least four prototype builds. Another version of the game has a debug menu over a rotating cube, and we’ve also seen assets containing hilarious portraits of the main cast being very animated about… something.
Dylan Cuthbert, the lead programmer on Star Fox 2, has provided running commentary on the Star Fox leaks. At first, he was amazed that someone had uncovered a text tool he created almost 30 years ago, but later said he felt the leaks were “intrusive,” as they deal with private source code developed over years.
It’s hard to overstate the enormity of the appropriately named Gigaleak. We are learning so much about old-school video games and prototypes that, in some cases, it’s completely changing history. Uncompressed Star Fox 64 voice files might seem like small potatoes among the huge revelations being dropped on a regular basis, but knowing these files are still floating around Nintendo somewhere does make one wonder why they haven’t been used in updated releases now that space is less of a factor.
In any case, let’s hear it for my darling son Slippy and the rest of the Star Fox squadron. Your voices are finally, truly, being heard.