Review by mikaa
"A great PC game turned stellar Genesis game"
If you were a gamer back in the early/mid 1990's (be it PC or console), you were familar with the space trading sims of the day. Typically, you were a trader/captain from a group (be it humans or an empire) that was down on its luck, with either a big catastrophy breathing down its neck or some hostile race after you (or both!). Your mission? Gather as much raw materials that you can, build up your ship (and/or crew), make alliances, destroy evil races, and save the galaxy.
The most common of these games, at least amongst the gamers I have talked with, was the Star Control series. As a kid, I was facinated with this type of game, and continually studied every issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly for information pertaining to any game. Ironically, it was the 3D0's Star Control II article in an old EGM that caught my eye, and what latched me on to this genre.
Fast forward from my childhood to the modern era. Having just moved back to Georgia, I swung by a Rhino's game store, curious as to what they would have in stock. Pouring over the old Game Boy games, the Super Nintendo, and the Genesis games, I passed over anything that had a box. Why? Because those games somehow always ended up being the games that EVERYONE wanted. This includes Final Fantasy III (SNES), Phantasy Star II (Genesis), and Chrono Trigger (SNES). Long-time gamers know what prices these fetch.
It was clean accident that I even found Starflight amidst the collection of Genesis boxes in that case. And in truth, I was ready to pass it over. But then I looked at the artwork, noting how it mirrored many late 1980 space ship designs. Curiosity peaked, I asked to see the box.
Once I saw the back, I had to own it.
In short, Starflight fits the description I mentioned earlier: you are a captain flying under the banner of "Arth," your home base being a space station in orbit around a star. Said star is showing signs of fluxuations, and with other stars going nova at a constant rate, everyone is convinced that yours will too.
So! You must gather resources to sell for crew training, buy upgrades to protect your ship and to help find materials. You must bargain with religious octopuses, intimidate blobs, smooth talk insects, and flee a vicious enemy whose singlular-minded coldness rivals anything Star Trek's Borg could throw at you.
The general plot might seem shallow, and unless you take the time to talk to all of the races over and over, you would never know just how complex the plot is. Summed up, Earth had an Empire, withstood at least one attempt to destroy it, then fell under a combined assault of said evil aliens and political infighting (the latter's role actually resulting in one in-game source of VERY helpful data).
There is more, including a Crystal Planet and the Ancients (a race that preceeds all existance, and that everyone has a theory on), and is quite rich in both substance and detail. Heck, the game's manual (which I was fortunate enough to get with my game) was written by one Robert Silverberg. While I have never heard of him prior, his writing in this book easily explain why the box claims him to be a Hugo and Nebula winner when it comes to writing (right up there with Timothy Zahn).
Graphics-wise, the game is quite primitive, but even when played on the blur-heavy screen of a Sega Nomad, the game looks great. Details such as mountains, lakes, rocks, bushes, and phaser blasts all look great for an enhanced PC port, and serve well. Audio is VERY primitive (due largely to the Genesis itself), but the audio clips (!) are suprisingly clear. And the mechanical sounding of the audio actually helps the mood.
Controls do work, but it takes a bit to get used to bringing up the menu system (which varies from the typical menu style that most developers used on the Genesis). Otherwise, flawless.
In closing, if you can find a copy of this on cart (or if Nintendo, EA Games (who's name is on the cover), Bluesky Software (or whoever owns them now), and whoever else has a claim can sort it out, on the Wii's Virtual Console), try it out. If you can find a cart WITH the manual, grab it - the manual alone is a thrill, and the richness of the game has withstood the test of time.
Final Score: 9 of 10
* Best Features - Plot, manual, graphics, computer voice, alien races
* Worst Features - Minor control issues, the need of a pen and paper/FAQ
* Guilty Pleasure - Reading the hex dump FAQ by War Doc to get all of the text in one place.
* If You Liked - Star Control series, Starflight II (PC)
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 02/26/07
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