You don’t have to be a Star Citizen to check out this week’s Retro Game of the Week!
In 1990, game developer Chris Roberts answered the burning question of what exists in the great beyond, a race of super-intelligent cat beings called the Kilrathi hell-bent on destroying mankind. Space combat simulation series “Wing Commander” offered PC gamers some excellent flight combat simulation and a solid storyline to satisfy space jockey appetites. The series was so popular, several ports on most every imaginable gaming system populated through the early 1990’s. In 1992, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System owners got a chance to blast space-cats and despite the limited hardware and memory capacity compared to most personal computers at the time, the game translated down to the SNES remarkably well.
Set in the year 2654, Wing Commander put players in the role of a fighter pilot on a carrier in deep space. Along with your trusty wing-man, You must fight your way through Kilrathi fighters, mines, and asteroids while also monitoring your fighter craft’s fuel range and missiles. The action takes place from the first-person view of the cockpit, giving the player a sense of what its really like to sit at the controls of a star fighter. While space shooters are a dime a dozen in the 90’s, first-person views are rare especially on consoles of the time. While slightly under-par from the PC version, the graphics are impressive for Nintendo’s 16-bit engine.
Multiple mission objectives, some mandatory and some optional, help to give each level a measure of variety. Scoring high numbers of kills and completing optional objectives will net the player medals and even a better ending. Multiple endings, something else rare from the 16-bit days, help to put a sense of urgency and importance to each combat mission. Console gamers were absolutely starving for this kind of genre in 1992, while PC gamers were somewhat more used to this. Each mission was also introduced by a short cut-scene, with the carrier’s commander detailing the objectives and mission intel for the all the pilots. Following this, a cut-scene of the pilots running to their fighters really gets the sci-fi blood pumping in the veins. The dog-fights are quick and the enemy AI can be surprisingly tricky.
Of all the genre’s that have fallen to the wayside from ye olde days of gaming, space flight simulators are the one I miss the most. X-Wing VS TIE Fighter, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, and of course Wing commander are just a few that bring the waves of nostalgia. Why aren’t more of these type games being released today? Luckily, Chris Roberts (the father of Wing Commander, is still in the business of putting gamers in the seats of star fighters with his crowd-funded title Star Citizen. Dig around in the Just Us Geeks archive for an exclusive interview with the master of space flight himself on his new title and project.
If your in the mood for classic alien blasting on the SNES years before Starfox ever hit shelves, Wing Commander just might fit your bill. The controls may take a little time to become familiar, a d-pad doesn’t mimic a joystick very well, but the overall package is impressive and a technical feat in itself to be squeezed onto a SNES cart. Wing Commander also had a follow up title, Wing Commander: The Secret Missions, and I highly recommend both. They may lack some of the graphical shine as their PC counter-parts, but both games are incredibly entertaining on the SNES and are easily found for retro collectors today.