Just yesterday, Eurogamer posted an interview with several former Argonaut employees detailing the creation of the Star Fox series. The story starts with our heroes creating a game and showing it off to Nintendo bigwigs, who were rather impressed. Jez San says: “I walked up to [Don James] and showed him our game, and his jaw dropped — both for the demo itself and also the way it defeated their protection.” From there, things only got better for the start-up:
They flew me out, put me up in the Kyoto Royal Hotel and I met with the big guy. They told me they wanted to do three games with us, and explained their desire for us to teach them our 3D technology.
The team was eventually sent to Nintendo’s headquarters in Japan to work on the original Star Fox game from there, in an effort to streamline communication. San goes on to explain the relationship between Argonaut and Nintendo:
I think it’s safe to say most of the code of the games was written by Argonaut and Nintendo’s input was more on the creative side. Shigeru Miyamoto and his team produced and designed the game and we did the technical stuff – Argonaut was also responsible for the hardware and software design of the Super FX chip, of course.
Dylan Cuthbert mused on the meager beginnings the company had:
… at the time Argonaut was kind of living pay-cheque to pay-cheque; I seem to recall that there were around twelve of us in a house in North London, and working out ways to persuade Jez to sign our pay-cheques each month was a running meme.
San also mentions the creation of the Super FX chip, the first of its kind, and then discusses with the interviewer what it was like to work with Miyamoto:
He didn’t design games up front, like western game designers would do. He had ideas and liked to play, refine and evolve. He especially liked to iterate – he did a lot of trial and error. It really felt like he would be flying by the seat of his pants much the time.
At the same time, Krister Wombell says that Nintendo as a company was “very professional” and that they had a process to get a game from zero to finish. Eventually, the relationship between the two came to an end. San mentions that the team attempted a 3D platformer demo using Yoshi, and that was when the romance ended. Argonaut went on to create Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, but Nintendo put out Super Mario 64, “which had the look and feel of our Yoshi game.” He elaborated:
I’m of the opinion that Nintendo ended our agreement without fully realising it. They canned Star Fox 2 even though it was finished and used much of our code in Star Fox 64 without paying us a penny. … I’m not bitter, but I do feel that Argonaut was used and then spat out by Nintendo. I also feel they undervalued us; we could have done so much more.
All in all, though, the Argonaut team is proud of their accomplishments, and although they may have parted ways with Nintendo, the product of their relationship lives on today.