The interplanetary tyrant Andross and his armada are once again threatening the galaxy. Fox McCloud and his team of mercenaries are called upon once more to form the Star Fox Team. Pilot 3 different vehicles like the classic Arwing starfighter in up 15 missions that you can choose a path from to reach your final destination. The action shifts from traditional on-rails forward scrolling to full 360 degree arena environments when needed.
In most levels of Star Fox 64, the player controls one of the vehicles piloted by Fox McCloud, usually an Arwing, as it travels on a fixed-rail that generally moves straight forward. The player's vehicle can be maneuvered around the screen to dodge obstacles and shoot incoming enemies with laser cannons. All vehicles can also charge up their laser cannons to unleash a powerful track-on laser.
As well as the forced progression of the main game, some levels and bosses take place in "all range mode" (available only with the Arwing during single-player), where the player can move freely around a rectangular arena and engage in combat with various enemies. The Arwing has one new maneuver it can perform in all range mode; it can Immelmann up-and-over to change direction (called a U-turn in the game).
Returning from the original Star Fox game are wingmen that fly beside the player in Arwings and are sometimes pursued into your field of vision by enemies. The longer it takes you to save the wingmen the more damage they will take, eventually leading to their destruction. If one of the wingmen has been shot down that wingman cannot help the player in the next mission, but returns after that. Extra points are added to the player's score by keeping all of the wingmen's health meters full. Although it may seem like a burden to keep your wingmen alive, the extra points you get from the enemies that chase them on-screen are vital to achieving the medals on some levels. Also with out Slippy you cannot see the bosses life bar.
There are a few secret levels that can be found in levels. There are different places you have to fly in to get these hidden levels.
Among Star Fox 64's features is the vastly hyped in-game sampled voice speech that replaced the chatter from the original game. However, the original chatter, referred to as Lylat in the language option-screen, can be enabled. This feature is not available in the US version of the game. The game relies much more heavily on dialogue than the original, and together with the cinematic sequences, they drive the story forward. This dialogue has also become the target of parody in recent years, especially the repetitive phrases of Peppy Hare (particularly the phrase "Do a barrel roll!").
One route through the gameInstead of the fixed series of levels of the original (determined by the difficulty level chosen), many of the levels branch out to two different levels, with the "upper" branch requiring the player to accomplish a certain task. If the task is completed, the end of the level will read "Mission Accomplished." However, if this task is not achieved, the ending will read "Mission Complete", and the player must take the "downward" route. The levels correspond loosely to the difficulty levels of the original Star Fox, with routes colour coded blue, yellow and red to represent the easiest, medium and hardest levels of difficulty, respectively. Many of the forced paths bring the Star Fox team into contact with the Star Wolf team, a nemesis squadron originally slated to appear in the unreleased Star Fox 2.
Finally, to add replay challenge, the game features awardable "medals," which are earned by accomplishing a mission with all wingmen intact and having achieved a certain hit total. These totals are often a high percentage of the total enemies on the stage, leaving little room for error. Obtaining medals results in unlocking bonus features, such as a sound test and the ability to fight on tank and foot in multiplayer mode. Acquiring all medals unlocks a new "Expert" mode in which there are more enemies per level, the player's Arwing takes more damage (a direct collision with solid obstacles will destroy any of the Arwing's wings in one hit), and Fox wears sunglasses similar to his father's. Acquiring all medals on Expert mode unlocks a new title screen for the game.
- Characters in the game speak, which is new to the Starfox series.
- Many levels branch into two levels, giving the player choice on how to play the game, instead of a fixed level path.
- First appearance of the Star Wolf team: the evil alter egos of the Star Fox team.
- Awardable "medals," which are earned by accomplishing a mission with all wingmen intact and having achieved a certain kill total.
- 15 vast levels.
- 3 unique vehicles, which include the Arwing, Landmaster tank, and Blue Marine submarine.
This game is also known as Lylat Wars in Europe.