Where did Psycho Fox go wrong? Pretty much any way you slice it, Psycho Fox was Sonic the Hedgehog before Sonic the Hedgehog. Levels are huge sprawling affairs, with multiple paths at differing elevations. We have a cute cartoony animal mascot whom one can reasonably say is possessed of attitude. He has a set of personal physics that rely quite heavily on momentum, and allow him to reach ridiculous speeds. Arguably, Psycho Fox has the edge on Sonic thanks to a mechanic where reaching a high enough speed lets him skip across the surface of a body of water rather than sink to his death. Then on top of that, we have power-ups that let you take on other forms with differing stats, like switching characters in Super Mario Bros. 2, and a pet bird which follows an incredibly nice arc, clearing out oncoming enemies and resting on the ground to be picked up and thrown again instantly.
And yet, nobody really seems to have any love for Psycho Fox. The fact that it wasn’t particularly popular at the time is somewhat understandable. Platformers in its vein were much more popular on the NES, while the SMS was known for more exploratory intellectual games. Still, platform obscurity isn’t a barrier to people first discovering games through the internet, and between the the unique physics and multipath levels, Psycho Fox would lend itself wonderfully to tool-assisted speed runs. Besides which, the similar Sonic the Hedgehog was the game that made the Genesis a success to begin with, and the spiritual successor to Psycho Fox, Decap Attack, wallows in similar obscurity for that system.
Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. While most games for the NES, SNES, and Genesis were careful to scrub all of the decidedly Japanese imagery from their games for international appeal, games for the Sega Master System practically revelled in it, with bouncing daruma as enemies in the original Alex Kidd, and “shinto sticks” activating the character transformations in Psycho Fox. The ending of the game in particular is one of the most astoundingly Japanese scenes to play out in any game to have a North American release.
A collection of caroony animals gathers around a shine, one smoking a pipe while another uses a fan featuring the rising sun. Then Psycho Fox himself takes center stage, wearing only a fundoshi, clapping and stomping his feet sumo style, causing the word “DOSUCOI!” to fall from the sky with each impact. This repeats several times before fading to the in-joke-filled ending credits.
Or maybe it’s just a lack of that special early ’90s “attitude.” Perhaps if Psycho Fox were prone to impatiently tapping his foot, it would him causing fans to cry over a legacy of awkward fishing cats and baffling werewolf transformations.
Article by Jake Alley
GameSpite Journal 12: Psycho Fox