Did you take on the Starwing Challenge, have you the certificate to prove it? How did the UK promote the challenge and is the game really that rare?

On May 29, 1993 the United Kingdom gaming shops across the country (including Comet) participated in running a competition known as the Star Wing* Challenge. The competition was to promote the release of Star Wing, which used the newly developed Super FX chip.

The competition was also ran in the USA under the title “Super StarFox Weekend”, the tournament also ran in other European countries. There are two versions of the PAL cartridge, the German tournament, cartridge and title screen was entitled “Starwing Offizieller Wettbewerb” (literally translated “Starwing Official Competition”). The cartridge uses the serial SNSP-FU-EEC and the two PAL versions have the same cartridge label, however the UK version came with a manual (only two known to exist). All cartridges state “Not For Resale” which was a method used to deter retailers from retaining and reselling the cartridges.

The highest scorer of the day at each store won themselves a great ‘Starwing’ baseball cap, while every participant will earned a Starwing Certificate of Achievement. There was no exact prize structure but other prizes on offer were pin badges and, t-shirts. The baseball cap was posted to the high scorer from Nintendo along with a letter congratulating you on being one of the best Starwing players in the UK and to wear the cap with pride (letter shown below).

The competition cartridge was distributing in a number of ways in the USA the main being sold through the Nintendo Super Power Supplies Catalog, a supplement to subscribers of Nintendo Power for around $45. Most retailers would either destroy the cartridge as Nintendo instructed or gave the store winner the copy, this is where the majority of European cartridges have originated from.

The Teletext service (a form of displaying a news page of text on televisions) was used in the UK to display the latest scores from each store around the country, and then a list of the country winners (Page 377 on Teletext).

The Game

The Starwing competition cartirdge is a timed version of StarWing, where you have four minutes (game time) to get as high of a score as possible. The game lets you choose a control method, the pause function is disabled. Points are scored by landing damaging shots, destroying enemies, and bonuses for powerups and health at the end of the level.

There are three levels in the competition cartridge. The first two levels are shortened versions of the Corneria and Asteroids levels. These levels also contain more enemies than in the equivalent versions of the levels in Starwing. The Corneria level features the start of the regular stage (where you can go through loops to get a laser powerup) and the final part where there are a series of buildings you can fly through if you are skilled enough. The Asteroids stage seems completely redesigned, with elements from different parts of the standard level. The final level is a special level designed specifically for the competition cartridge, featuring a space level where you go through rings. As well, enemies killed in this level give bonus points of 100, 500, 1000, 3000 and 5000 points. The level endlessly loops until you run out of time. The final stage uses the same music as the Space Armada level in the standard game.

The theoretical maximum score according to the game designs was about 172,000 points. Most of the store winners got between 130,000 and 145,000 points. Early 90’s Nintendo World Champion, Jeff Hansen got a score of 144,620.

This article focuses only on the UK competition and the cartridge which was used in the UK. For full information about the other region competitions visit SNEScentral.

*The game was released under the title Starwing in Europe due to the similarity of the title Star Fox to the name of the German company StarVox.