Other countries had similar tales & folklore about foxes, even North America oftentimes treats foxes as cunning, or heroic characters. (Though, sometimes villainous too.)
In fact, ironically, the Nintendo "Star Fox" series is more popular in America then Japan. (Which is unfortunately part of the reason it rarely gets new games.) Though, it still has some nods to Japanese fox/kitsune folklore, and even Fox McCloud's recent designs look similar to a kitsune mask, or statue, especially in SSB.
According to DYKG, Slippy Toad (the "joke" character) was actually considered for the SSB series, but Falco Lombardi was chosen instead.
…I honestly wouldn't mind him. lol (Though, most fans would prefer Krystal.)