Star Fox 64 was one of Nintendo’s highest selling games. The reason is that it is really fun to fly around in outer space. Also because they just built a nice game. I didn’t take any classes on the law of outer space, and I don’t want to do too much research this week, but I do think it would be fun to apply some legal theories to an intergalactic war.

First of all, the Star Fox mercenary team has been hired by General Pepper to fight off the armies of Andross. Andross was exiled to the planet of Venom because a few years prior he tried to destroy his home planet of Corneria with biological weapons. While in exile he built up an army to destroy everyone that wronged him. It is unknown whether amassing the army was illegal, but using it to attack people apparently was.

A lot of what is done lines up with military law as it stands now here on Earth. We have a treaty that states that biological weapons are unlawful. Apparently there is a similar law or treaty in the Lylat system because Andross gets exiled for using biological weapons. The United Nations has adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights back in 1948 that states that no person may be exiled, though not all countries follow this. Apparently in the Lylat system exile is still considered a legal system of punishment. It doesn’t seem very effective though, because like Napoleon, Andross just seems to be angling to come back home.

A fierce member of the Star Fox mercenary outfit
A fierce member of the Star Fox mercenary outfit

Another United Nations declaration that is not followed in fictional outer space is the United Nations Mercenary Convention which was enacted in 2001. It states that countries cannot recruit, finance, or use (among other verbs) mercenaries. The Star Fox team advertises itself as a mercenary organization, and when they are handed their medals at the end of the game they hand General Pepper a bill for damages. General Pepper offers the group a position in the Cornerian army, but they decline stating that they would “prefer doing things [their] own way.” So it seems simple to believe that there are all sorts of sell swords in outer space that offering their services to armies across the galaxy.

As I have stated in previous posts, if there is a hostile force that you have identified in a war then you are allowed to attack it. If two sides have declared to each other that they are combatants then they are allowed to attack. One problem is that you have to have a uniform that informs the other side which army you are fighting for. Star Fox is a mercenary group that has not changed the look of their ships in any way. It does not seem to matter too much here, because the boss ships recognize Star Fox immediately and know which side they fight for. Also the enemy ships throughout the level shoot at the members of Star Fox immediately. I am unsure if this is just part of their “attack everything” plan, or if it is because they know to attack Star Fox, but it seems to work out. So now mercenaries are legal and they can outfit themselves in any way they seem fit.

Targeting is another important military law concept. It is how one would choose and prioritize targets to attack. The presumption is that military soldiers and objects are targetable and civilians and their objects are not. When Star Fox is dispatched on a mission they attack a former allied base that has been taken over by Andross’ forces, a sun that houses a secret enemy weapon, an enemy base on a factory planet, and Andross’ final base, to name a few missions. Each of these seems pretty cut and dry. Somehow there are no civilians anywhere. The sun makes sense, it’s hard to live on a sun, but the other planets have been entirely conscripted in service of Andross. When you’re fighting a war against this big of a threat it is pretty hard to run afoul of the law of war, and it seems that Star Fox and the people that hired them are not running into any problems with targeting.

An entire briefing before a mission
An entire briefing before a mission

A final thing I’d like to examine is that asteroid belt level. The members of Star Fox have plenty of enemies to fight in this level because they are ambushed, but they are also allowed to blow up a lot of asteroids. This is really interesting to me. They’re destroying all of these asteroids, but no one owns them. There is apparently nothing wrong with this. It also seems legal in real life because NASA apparently has plans to use nukes to destroy asteroids. So asteroid destruction is just run of the mill space work and the ramifications of that don’t matter. It seems that if an asteroid were to be destroyed and then the debris did damage to someone or their property they would have a claim against the asteroid destroyer, but that has not happened in real life, and in Star Fox 64 you are surrounded by enemies and destroying their stuff is a-ok.

In Star Fox 64 you command a mercenary group hired by either a rogue general or possibly the Outer Space Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman. There is no law against mercenaries in war. You don’t have to worry about any fallout from your actions because every situation you are placed in is free of civilians. You constantly destroy bad guys, and even environmental damage that you cause is consequence free. It is actually kind of nice to have a cut and dry good guys vs. bad guys situation. You never have to make value decisions or moral decisions. You just keep shooting lasers out of your fancy arwing until either you or your enemies have been destroyed. Star Fox 64 can be beaten in under an hour if you try hard. Go do that and ignore the important questions in your life.


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