I picked up where I left off and managed to play through the rest of this quite quickly. After all the teething troubles with the controls, they came fairly naturally at the second attempt and I stopped having to think so much about what I was doing. Basically they are fine after having had a little time to learn them.
I started noticing a few differences to the PC game once I got going. I don’t expect mass drivers to fire green blobs for instance. Also the enemies never use taunts unless provoked (except aces) and only respond with “This time it will be different” every time, which is a little lame. It could be a case of Nintendo censorship but at least the between mission dialogue was left intact if that is the case. I’m sure the missions are slightly easier than on the PC with fewer waves of enemies, but it’s harder to aim so it balanced out and felt about right.
The game uses a password system every few missions rather than save games potentially leading to lengthy game sessions if you don’t want to lose progress. Provided you don’t switch off the SNES, you can replay any given mission from the start as many times as you like if you die. None of this comes into play on an emulator of course.
One major omission is the cutscenes that appeared throughout the PC original. The text is all there, but in terms of gfx the SNES only gets a slow zoom on a rather dull looking blue-green planet and it’s less than impressive. These scenes aren’t the reward for progress that they were on the PC.
I did notice that the game started to chug in the later missions where more was happening, especially if the Tiger’s Claw was involved in the battle. Apart from slowdown, the engine doesn’t update the 3D aspects of some objects all the time and instead slides them around in a 2D plane. In asteroid fields this means that when I steer the ship some objects will appear to stay where they are on the screen and then catch the rest up a second later. This applied to missiles in all situations which are just little circles that float around on the screen never getting nearer or further away.
Another issue is that when a lot was going on the game wouldn’t let me fire my guns, presumably due to an object count limit. I’ve encountered this on the PC so it’s not surprising to see it here as well but it was more pronounced.
All of these are minor things and didn’t take away from the core of the game. The only real showstopper was that some ships 3D positioning stopped updating for long periods of time. They would get a certain distance away from me and then it would seem like our ships had been attached by a giant invisible pole. I could afterburn toward them and even turn around and fly the other way and they would always remain the exact same distance away. The game would then suddenly decide to update distances again and they would fly past me in moments before locking out at exactly the same distance again. This was especially bad in the penultimate mission where two ships were simply impossible to kill at the final nav point. They hovered slightly out of range and I couldn’t close in on them long enough to get more than a shot off. I ended up having to eject just to get past this.
The final mission behaved itself though and I’d soon destroyed the starbase taking out a lot fewer fighters on the way than I remember from playing the game before. The ending scene has a bit of a flyby and then the good old flag planting animation which I didn’t expect would have made it to the SNES.
Aside from the one bug, I enjoyed playing through this again. As far as I’m concerned the main Wing Commmander series kept on improving with every game (with the possible exception of Prophecy), making this my least favourite in the series but it’s still a fun shooter even if it’s lacking the cinematic elements that would come later. I don’t know if this SNES port would have won me over to Wing Commander in the way the PC game did, but it’s very faithful to the original and not a bad alternative if it’s all you’ve got. It’s hard not to feel that the SNES wasn’t quite up to the job, but it comes very close. I would like to think the few issues were fixed with SNES Secret Missions as I’ve got that lined up to try fairly soon.
Before I get to that, I’m going to have a look at the PC-98 version of Ultima 4 assuming I can get it running. I’ll be uploading a couple more scans also tonight including the Tie Fighter Collectors CD guide which should complete the set for the X-Wing series.