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Character Chronicle: Wolf O’Donnell

I have a soft spot for animals, especially those who speak fluent English and star in video games I like. We had a quick chat about one of our favorite mammalian felons last month, and today felt like an appropriate time to dredge up another criminal, one with an intergalactic bounty on his head.

And I alone couldn’t bring this beast to justice, so let me thank my colleagues:

  • My bestie for loaning me his copy of Star Fox: Assault.
  • Wolfman J, another good friend, for helping with edits.  
  • AlphaSSB, Source Gaming guest poster and Star Fox fan, for offering valuable commentary.
Wolf O'Donnell in Star Fox Assault

Wolf as depicted in Assault (Image: Nintendo)

As you may know, my “New Content Approaching” column began its life celebrating the Super Smash Bros. series, and while it’s expanded beyond those boundaries, I still periodically hit the dojo. Since Star Fox’s Wolf O’Donnell was formally unveiled on Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s website one decade ago, and since his series’ twenty-fifth anniversary occurred earlier this week, it seemed like the perfect time to cover Fox McCloud’s eternal rival.

Wolf O’Donnell’s History

Wolf is the leader of the Star Wolf mercenary team, and his pack was planned to start antagonizing the heroic Star Fox in the Super NES’s unreleased Star Fox 2. However, Shigeru Miyamoto estimated Star Fox 64, a reimagining of the original Star Fox, salvaged 30 percent of its concepts from Star Fox 2, and Star Wolf was among them. The ragtag group of rogues were on Andross’s payroll in 64, and its namesake leader served as Fox’s analogue. While Star Fox 64 had a branching campaign, players were guaranteed to encounter Star Wolf and, if you managed to fend them off at Fortuna, the squadron would be visibly wounded during your climatic rematch at Venom.

Wolf O'Donnell in Star Fox 64

Wolf’s first sentence endeared him to the hearts of millions, adding another memorable facet to Star Fox’s landmark entry. (Image: Nintendo)

Star Fox 64 served as the aesthetic basis for the brand’s representation in Super Smash Bros. and Melee. Wolf briefly cameoed in the latter’s opening cinematic, partaking in a dogfight against Fox. According to folklore, however, when Masahiro Sakurai decided to include clone characters, Wolf was initially selected to be Fox’s. Sakurai decided against it when he figured Wolf would be too indistinguishable from Fox, opting instead for the more visually distinct Falco. Although that anecdote isn’t true, Wolf did receive some attention from fans back in 1999 when Sakurai asked which characters his audience would like to see in a second Smash.

After missing out on Rare’s Star Fox Adventures, Star Fox: Assault served as Wolf’s next appearance. Set approximately nine years after 64, Wolf’s team endured a few roster changes, but his hostility to Fox remained unfazed. Nevertheless, Wolf began maturing into more of an anti-hero, directly helping his rival and seemingly sacrificing himself for the greater good. Wolf was also a secret character in Assault‘s multiplayer mode, boasting impressive stats and an affinity for Wolfens.

Wolf in Star Fox: Assault Advice

Wolf saved Fox’s life, helped Fox fight the assimilated General Pepper, and gave Fox this piece of advice. He still isn’t Fox’s friend, though. (Image: Nintendo)

Star Wolf, per Fox’s intuition, survived the Aparoid invasion in Assault, but they still held bounties over their heads for their previous crimes. This leads us into Star Fox Command, wherein Wolf, Leon, and Panther appeared throughout (and could be key players in) its branching story. Wolf’s signature vessel was his iconic Wolfen, which was one of the many ships you might commandeer on your path towards one of Command’s nine questionably-written endings, three of which prominently featured Star Wolf.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl included Wolf as a secret fighter, likely the final one you unlocked. Sakurai noted Sonic was a late addition to Brawl, but a few factors implied the mercenary’s inclusion was a lucky break too, from his non-presence in “The Subspace Emissary” to lacking his own victory fanfare, something the majority of fighters, including the unfinished Roy and Mewtwo, had. Moreover, Wolf is curiously the concluding opponent in the final co-op Event Match, even behind Brawl’s two guests. Sakurai himself confirmed Wolf “just barely made it in,” evidently because the experience garnered from modeling Fox and Falco expedited the creation of Wolf. At one point it seemed Wolf copied Fox’s kicks, but they ultimately specialized in different limbs.

Wolf, Fox and Falco in Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Wolf occasionally cameoed in the codecs Fox and Falco could trigger on Lylat Cruise, and he bore his own set too. In short, Brawl was the apex of Star Fox’s representation in Smash, thanks in part to Wolf’s inclusion. (Image: Nintendo)

Sadly, Brawl was also the last place where we would see the Star Fox crew for a lengthy period of time, occasional re-releases of Star Fox 64 notwithstanding. But while Star Fox laid dormant, Smash Bros. reawakened for its fourth and fifth installments. Brawl’s roster didn’t have any fat in need of trimming, but cuts are nevertheless inevitable and, given Star Fox’s inactivity, Wolf could be perceived as one of its more expendable members. And any concern proved to be justified, as not only was Wolf cut, Star Wolf was physically absent from Wii U’s Orbital Gate Assault stage despite appearing in the source material. Wolf’s fans held out hope he’d resurface as DLC, but fellow Brawl alumni Lucas was selected to be the Brawl returnee instead. While there was visible demand for Wolf to return, it sadly didn’t pan out.

However, Miyamoto’s affection for Star Fox never waned, and the man was helming a passion project for the Wii U that would revisit the fan-favorite IP, reimagining its simpler, less cluttered Nintendo 64 installment. Star Fox Zero was first seen as a tech demo at E3 2014, and its formal unveiling was Nintendo’s centerpiece the following year. As Zero was deeply rooted in people’s nostalgia for Star Fox 64 (arguably to a fault), its cast reverted to their 64-era characterizations, with Wolf yet again playing the flagitious counterpart to Fox.

Wolf in Star Fox Zero

Star Wolf impeded Star Fox’s missions throughout Zero, with Wolf personally engaging his foes at Sector β, Fichina, and Venom. (Image: Nintendo)

Zero failed to recapture the success of its 64-bit predecessor, though Miyamoto is nonetheless unshaken in his resolve to build Star Fox up. Until its next game graces us, however, last year’s Super NES Classic Edition plug-and-play hosted a pleasant lineup of 21 titles, including the original Star Fox. But one of the other titles is a completed version of the formerly lost Star Fox 2, an announcement that incurred surprise and excitement amongst the public. Finally, fans could enjoy Wolf’s intended debut in a fascinating curio of gaming history!

So, what’re my thoughts on Wolf?

Truth be told, I’m not a Star Fox connoisseur. Make no mistake, I do like the franchise and I wish it well, but I haven’t beaten every Star Fox game nor am I in a rush to. I was introduced to Miyamoto’s sci-fi series through the first Super Smash Bros., and I primarily associate its cast with Smash. Brawl, therefore, was the first outlet I had where I could bond with the aggressive anthropomorphic animal.

Fox vs. Wolf in Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Wolf’s donned different designs and voices over the years. Though I have no great preference regarding his getup, I grew fond of Jay Ward’s southern accent in Brawl. (Image: Nintendo)

I must also confess that I was among those who were let down with Wolf when he was leaked prior to Brawl’s western release. In my defense, however, the earliest glances of him were very unflattering, with his bootleg Landmaster and laser instilling a forboarding sense of disappointment that Brawl’s last newcomer would be a Fox clone. Not that I dislike clones – I welcome them, in fact – but it would nevertheless be a tad deflating for Brawl’s final unlockable fighter to be one, especially following up on Melee’s eclectic, two-dimensional Mr. Game & Watch.

That, thankfully, dissipated rather quickly when I gave Wolf a whirl. His specials are thematically based on Fox’s, there’s no ambiguity there, but they have different properties, making them feel distinct enough (aside from his Final Smash). And that’s not to mention his standard moves, which play up the animalistic nature of the character; Wolf’s not the sole fighter who fought using his claws, but he was the only one whose moveset and posture fostered such a feral demeanor. Although Wolf utilized a handful similar moves and shared a few animations with his base, I’d strongly hesitate to decry Wolf for being derivative of his forbear.

Wolf in Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Sakurai estimated Wolf took approximately 70 percent of the effort needed to create a wholly new fighter, placing him over Star Fox’s other fan-favorite contender, Krystal. (Image: Nintendo)

However, even if Wolf’s one-off stint fighting on foot is my most vivid memory of him, I’ve appreciated his presence throughout the Star Fox saga. If you’ve been following my work, you’re aware that I’m a stickler for continuity (and rivalries), and Star Fox is one of Nintendo’s more prolific franchises that overtly advanced its cast. I generally liked Wolf’s progression across the series’ chronology; he started as a fairly one-dimensional villain in 64 yet, while he never forgot his feud with Fox, Wolf later helped him out when the situation demanded it in Assault and Command. It was a relatively gradual, believable shift demonstrating how Fox’s morals affected Wolf’s. Even in Command, wherein Wolf potentially backstabs Fox to clear the bounties on his men, a point is made to show Wolf’s somewhat remorseful for doing so in the “Star Wolf Returns!” ending.

Within the context of Smash and Star Fox, Wolf is his own man. He’ll continue to fly in his home series, and I hope he rejoins the fray in the new Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo Switch.  

Congratulations, Wolf! I hope you – and your franchise – stay out of hibernation.

Star Wolf in Star Fox Command

Yes, this was the same ending that spawned Kursed. But at least Wolf’s happy, right? (Image: Nintendo)

So, how about that new Smash Bros., eh? A few different characters were under consideration for next month’s episode in this column, but since we’re all getting hyped over Smash again, I’m going to put the spotlight on another Smash veteran. It’ll even be someone who was present for Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U!

Dark Pit in Kid Icarus: Uprising


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Cart Boy

Cart Boy wants to be the very best. Like no one ever was. He also occasionally contributes an article here when the stars align properly, and he helps out with editing and Source Gaming’s Facebook page.
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  1. You know, I and many others were rather pissed off that Wolf was playable in Brawl; for me it was because I thought Krystal made so much more sense as a unique fighter. Flash forward to now, and it’s remarkable just how many people want him back, even me to an extent.

    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    ‘Till it’s gone

    Matt Bankey on March 31 |
    • I’m glad to hear you’ve come around on Wolf somewhat! And yeah, people often seem to warm up to Smash characters over time. A friend of mine was let down with Wolf initially like I was, but we both warmed up to him as we began playing as him.

      Wolf became one of my Brawl mains (along with Pokémon Trainer, who was tragically cut too), and I missed him greatly in 3DS/Wii U. #FreeWolf

      Cart Boy on April 1 |
  2. Even if you don’t like a certain character, you don’t want to see them getting cut. Every character has its own fanbase, and people were already in a fit, with how little StarFox content had in 3DS/Wii U. Characters are apart of content, and Wolf getting cut made a lot of people realize that. I do want to see him return along with the Ice Climbers.

    AshNic321 on April 1 |
    • Yeah, agreed. Every fighter in Smash has a fanbase and it sucks losing your favorite character from one installment to the next. And, for what it’s worth, I expect Wolf will rejoin Smash eventually. I certainly hope he does!

      Cart Boy on April 24 |
  3. Wassup!! I finally moved to Japan!! Been settling things up for about a month, but everything’s okay! Now I need to look for a job…

    Anyways, it’s been I guess two months since the last post? Good to see this article again!
    Too be honest, I really suck at jet-fighting shooting games, and I couldn’t beat the first Star Fox game, while I haven’t played the 64 before either. The only Star Fox game that I’ve played and beaten so far was Assault and Command, while I had no chance playing Zero due to saving money. But even then, I know much about the characters, and Wolf is an interesting character in the series. While he is a villain (or an antagonist to make it sound smooth), his relationship with Fox is rather good than bad. Although he does commit cunning and backstabbing actions towards his rival as he’s a badass, he’s rather something like Sonic’s Shadow and Dragon Ball’s Vegeta; he may be cold and prideful, but may have a side that can be trustworthy, IF he willing to cooperate or not. But since Zero, I think that description has fully changed as pure bad, while we don’t know how far Zero’s settings will be used in the future games.

    But here’s a slight trivia. Assault isn’t actually Wolf’s first time saving Fox’s life. According to 64’s comic book “Lylat Wars Comic”, Wolf saved Fox’s life from his own teammates because Pigma and Andrew disobeyed his orders, which lead to both members terminated in the end. Also another trivia, Wolf’s last name O’Donnell has been used in the F-Zero anime, which revealed to be James McCloud’s ally in the army but died during a mission.

    For Smash’s entry…I wasn’t really expected to see him appear, while I wasn’t impressed with his movesets. While he does use different attacks, he’s still no different with Fox as he’s just a powerful type of the Star Fox roster, thus using a Land Master as his Final Smash was a huge disappointment as he NEVER used it in the actual games before (except for Assault’s VS mode but that doesn’t count). Like how I suggest Falco using a Arwing as his Final Smash, he should’ve used Wolfen instead, rather than using the meaninglessly recolored and time-shortened Land Master. Even his entry disappointed Krystal fans, including myself too, which everybody thought she could be included due to being a heroine of the series. Don’t know the reason why Krystal wasn’t brought up instead, but maybe her appearance was too extreme against the CERO/ESRB ratings, or simply Japan’s not interested with furry female characters. Although I really don’t mind about him being in Smash, thus I hardly use him in game, many people argued whether Wolf’s a Fox clone or not. While many offended he’s simply a Fox clone which just adjusted his power level, many defended that he’s not, which lead him being called as semi-clone. While I don’t know which is right or not, he’s still no different with Fox due to using similar but differently adjusted movesets.

    For Smash for 3DS/Wii U, although I dislike cuts as well, I pretty much predicted Wolf’s gonna be removed. Don’t know the reason behind his cut, but also predicted that Krystal would replace him, which never happened in the end though. I do think Nintendo completely killed Krystal out from the series after Zero’s release, even I disagree as I do hope I’m wrong. But even they brought Sauria’s name in the Zero anime as special reference, I do think Krystal’s return would be impossible in the future titles. However, I really don’t understand why people are so addicted with Wolf’s existence in Smash so badly. While many were disappointed with Lucas and Roy’s return as DLC, I’ve never heard anybody complain if Wolf returned, but rather extremely happy. That’s the part I really don’t understand about; what’s the difference? This is why I couldn’t follow the community as I dislike it; they’re being too selfish.

    But eventually, I do think Wolf might return to Smash somewhat. Don’t know whether that’ll be for the Switch version, but we need more Star Fox characters for Smash, and Wolf’s return would make sense. Also, while I do think Krystal’s chances is ultimately impossible, Slippy might have his chance in the future. But the problem is the movesets; they shouldn’t become a Fox clone as they should be created differently. I know it’s difficult to give a moveset to a character from a game where they mostly ride on vehicles, like how they couldn’t bring more F-Zero characters to Smash. But even then, they should make the characters work differently rather than using similar moves, and Wolf should be reformed more differently if he returned.

    Anyways, sorry for another lengthy comment, but did enjoyed reading it! And for the next character…another disappointing one from Smash 3DS/Wii U. But looking forward for it!

    zoniken on April 1 |
    • Hey, buddy! Congrats on the move to Japan! How’s your new home treating you? Is the job hunt going well?

      I’m rather poor at Star Fox games myself, though I do still have fun with them. And I do like the series’ cast, even if Zero more or less rebooted everyone. Yeah, Wolf can be considered a straight-up villain in Zero, he doesn’t do anything ostensibly heroic, he’s just after Star Fox. (Also, I don’t think you missed much regarding Zero. I… did not care for it.) Cool bit of trivia about the manga though, I’ve yet to read it myself. And I’ve always found the connections between Star Fox and F-Zero to be kind of fascinating. Command’s F-Zero references were among the few things I liked about that game, ha ha.

      Regarding Wolf’s Brawl moveset, it’s cool if it didn’t click with you, but I don’t really believe it’s fair to say Wolf’s “no different” from Fox. I totally agree that Wolf could use a new Final Smash – personally, I’d like Fox to keep the Landmaster, Falco to gain an Arwing, and Wolf to get his Hunter from Zero – but Wolf’s closer to being a unique fighter than a direct Fox clone. (Granted, Wolf kind of cheated since his moveset is a Frankenstein’s Monster borrowing moves from other fighters, but only a handful of moves are shared with Fox.) I personally think of Wolf as a semi-clone.

      I totally sympathize with Krystal supporters though, she’d have been fun. But, who knows, maybe she did well in the Ballot? If she did, that’d probably help her out. Either way, I do hope she’s re-introduced into her series eventually, and I don’t think it’s impossible she’ll return.

      And yeah, Wolf wasn’t in a good place going into 3DS/Wii U. I thought Wolf and Lucas were likely to be cut, and sadly they were. Though, anecdotally speaking, I recall people being happy over Lucas’s return. There was certainly more skepticism over Roy’s comeback, since Fire Emblem was contested as being “undeserving” of gaining another character, but more people seemed happy to have him back than not in my experience. Personally, I always want cut veterans to return, and I think Wolf has a solid chance to return eventually. If Wolf does return, I do hope he packs a new Final Smash and maybe another new move or two. I miss my Brawl main!

      Also, there’s no need to apologize for any lengthy comments! I know I don’t always respond right away, but I always enjoy reading your comments and I appreciate them. Thanks for being a friend!

      …And the next clone was pretty uniformly disappointing to a lot of people I know. It’s actually been a hard article for me to write.

      Cart Boy on April 24 |