3DO CH Flightstick Pro – First Impressions

Retro goodness

My “new” joystick for the 3DO arrived a couple of days back completing my 3DO setup (with Vectrex accessory) and I’m fresh from trying it out on the only 2 3DO games that matter, Super Wing Commander and Wing Commander 3. It has to be said that I’ve only played the one mission on SWC and fooled around in the simulator a little on WC3 so this is only my initial thoughts.

A few words on the hardware first. It’s a fully analog stick based on a PC version of the same joystick that had been around for some years as I recall. The first PC joystick I ever bought was it’s smaller non-pro brother which only had the 2 fire buttons and no 4-way hat switch. This 3DO version also has four buttons on the base.

It uses a 2 drum system to allow the stick to move on the x and y-axis and while it’s comfortable enough to use, I can’t say that I’m exactly unaware of the independent nature of these drums and it’s easier to move along one axis than two. Moving across the center position, the stick almost clicks into place and it’s far from smooth as a result. The stick also has a rectangular field of movement rather than circular which is a little odd when you get to a corner. I’ve got a similar vintage Thrustmaster joystick I use with my DOS PC which is in another league to this one in terms of feel, at least for combat flight sims like this.

Having said all that it’s still quite a nice stick for the time and the build quality must be great because it still tracks perfectly despite being 15 years old. I had some doubts about buying one of these second-hand but I needn’t have worried.

Onto the games, starting with Super Wing Commander. This boasts support for extended joysticks on the cover and while it doesn’t always work smoothly with the flightstick, it’s a giant improvement. There are some quirks such as moving around the ship between missions requires use of the POV hat rather than the stick. Steering around in flight thankfully works using the stick as you would expect.

Using the original 3DO controller it was possible to apply a slow or fast modifier to steering with the d-pad by holding down the right buttons. Using the flightstick, the game does this for me depending on how much I move the stick, but ultimately I can still only turn at 3 speeds. This isn’t perfect but it’s a whole lot better than the alternative.

Button combinations, as ever with these console ports, take a little getting used to but they work ok with the main commands like missiles and afterburners being in easy reach. The buttons are less to hand than on the original 3DO controller making some combinations tricky. Trying to afterburn and fire a missile at the same time requires either two thumbs or a very strange grip on the joystick. The buttons at the right side of the stick aren’t exactly in easy reach for a right-handed player either when they are needed.

WC3 offers better support with much smoother steering and slightly improved use made of the extra buttons. It’s still not quite what I would expect with the view hat not used for changing view, but I suppose there are more useful things that can be done with it when you have this few buttons to work with. Neither game makes use of the throttle wheel which is a big disappointment.

These sticks aren’t exactly common but won’t break the bank when you do find one. The flightstick pro might not be the best joystick I’ve ever used but despite the shortcomings it’s the only way I’d want to play either of these games on the 3DO.

Super Wing Commander Review – Edge Magazine

It’s 21 years today since the first Wing Commander game. I couldn’t find a Wing Commander review at short notice so instead here is the review of the 3DO remake, Super Wing Commander, from Edge magazine in July 1994. I prefer the original Wing Commander myself but this gets a great review here nonetheless.

EdgeSWC2 EdgeSWC1

Day 219

Since the last post, I’ve gone back and had a look at the storyline for SM2 which I’d apparently managed to forget most of. It appears that contrary to every description of Super Wing Commander I’ve seen, this “new” campaign is in fact a reworked version of the original Secret Missions 2. It’s taken all the main themes such as Bossmans death, Ralgha’s defection + Jazz & Doomsday joining the crew and reworked them into another story. The missions themselves are different and the conversations have been rewritten/reworked but all the major events are still there. That makes the new campaign an alternative Secret Missions 2 rather than a new set of missions taking place between SM1 & SM2.

This begs the question – Why was the rest of the game, almost word for word the same and this part changed? I’d speculate that it’s because SM2 introduced another alien race of giant birds which joined the confederation at the end of the game. Any mention of other alien races then vanished from subsequent Wing Commander games, so it’s possibly an attempt to remove an inconsistency in the storyline. Without the alien race to save on the planet, there would be no reason to hang around when the Kilrathi invaded the system in an attempt to hold their ceremony. The Tigers Claw could just pull out and leave them to it which meant the whole story needed changing. I’m guessing here so if anyone knows better, please let me know.

This being an alternative SM2 explains away nearly all the problems with the storylines inconsistencies. I still don’t think Shotglass should be talking about stealth technology rumours though. This sort of reference is clearly trying to link the story to Wing Commander 2 in the same way as Jazz’s over-curious questioning.

Mission 9 is the last secret mission. It’s roughly the same as ever where I have to fly to a nav point in a Dralthi and receive a signal. There appears to be a  bug however as when I try this the capship I’m inspecting appears out of nowhere just as I arrive at the point, then blows up. When I get back I’m told off for destroying it but as I don’t seem to have any other options here I press on with the next mission.

For mission 10 we are closer to our strike target so we need to take out the defenders. It’s a 3 point patrol with Jazz. This is a really tough mission. There are 2 Snakeirs to take out and loads of Gratha and Jalthi to cope with. They must have turned the skill level up to maximum on these ships as they don’t give me a moments peace. The Snakeirs are too tough to take out with the fighters around so I have to do it the hard way which takes a good number of attempts.

For mission 11 we have to destroy an incoming convoy. We fly a direct strike on the convoy. There is an unguarded Fralthi in an asteroid field on the way in which makes an easy target. Then we have 3 Lumbari + supporting fighters at the nav point. After the last mission, this one is straightforward.

Mission 12 is the final assault on the research base. In the briefing I learn that we have proof that this base is currently developing stealth technology and it was responsible for the Sivar. It’s another tough mission but fitting for the end of the game. I take out all the fighters first and then go after the star post. This thing seems to be moving away from me at serious speed. I’m not convinced it’s not a bug but I have to afterburn half the time to keep up.

The moment it blows up, the final cutscene starts…..


For all the improved graphics I can’t recommend this version over the original Wing Commander. It’s a decent game but the cosmetic improvements in some areas are let down by poor ship design, awful acting and the glaring omission of the cinematics showing the progress of the war. The new missions are the best part of the game, although there were similar improvements with SM2 and I prefer the original storyline. If you really want to play these new missions, I’d skip through the rest of the game using a cheat. Usually, I’m all for faithful remakes of games but I think the problem here is that CD games were just too new at this stage and it wasn’t long enough since the original game. It’s ended up being not much more than a good port and ultimately pales next to the original game at least with the benefit of my nostalgia for the PC game.

I’m going to move straight onto Longbow 2 next, which will be followed by F-15. There was some disagreement about whether F-15 was developed by Origin or EA Baltimore depending on where I looked but the copyright information on the back of the European F-15 box has it down as Origin which is good enough for me. Those are the last 2 games published or developed by Origin, at least that I’m aware of. The only ones I’ll have missed are Ultima Online and its various sequels, which I’m ignoring since they are uncompletable (and also I have no interest in MMORPG’s). The manual for Longbow 2 is a bit of a whopper so it may be a few days before I wade my way through it and actually start playing the game.

Day 218 – Back to Super Wing Commander

After my brief sidetrip, it’s back to the final (and unique) campaign in Super Wing Commander. The new missions start off with some of the pilots in the bar sounding a little weary after the Thor’s Hammer campaign. I learn that Bossman has a one year old daughter and that Spirit’s fiance is off on secret operations somewhere, but even she isn’t allowed to know where.

Mission 1 is to go and kill a Fralthi, to make the area safe for either our shore leave or the as yet undisclosed mission we are here for. Secret Missions 1 was absolutely rock hard, even the early missions but this is easier and I get to fly a Rapier rather than having to work my way up from the worst ship again.

When I get back Angel says everyone encounted warships but there is support from TCS Austin if we need it. Shotglass tells me how the Kilrathi have run from Vega Prime without putting up a fight which looks highly suspicious as if they had somewhere to go.

Mission 2 starts differently from any other mission in the game so far in that I’m called into the Commanders office for a solo briefing. A Kilrathi Colonel wants to defect so I have to fly out and guide back his Dralthi.

When I bring him back the defector is introduced as Colonel Ralgha so it’s presumably supposed to be Hobbes although this doesn’t fit in so well with what I know from Wing Commander 2. I only get to see him from this rear angle and he never speaks.  In the bar after the mission, people are asking what is going on but I’m not allowed to tell anyone about these missions so I have to keep quiet.

In mission 3 we are pulling out of the system to regroup and strike a large fleet that is heading our way. I’m flying with Maniac for the first time on this mission and have to escort a capship. Maniac proves to be the best wingman I’ve had so far and the mission is nice and easy again. The difficulty level of the game has plummeted since I started these missions. If it carries on it will mean I finish them fairly quickly, but it will be a lot more fun in the meanwhile. After the mission, Jazz is in the bar from the Austin and I also learn that Spirits fiance has been captured by the Kilrathi.

I’m back in the Commanders office again for mission 4. I have to fly our captured Dralthi to get information on what the Kilrathi are up to. The Commander talks about communicating with the capships but it amounts to flying round some nav points.

It’s nice to get a new ship to fly anyway and I watch the launch sequence for the first time in about 20 missions.

The mission is a simple affair and I just fly past everything and never fire my guns. The Snakeir at the nav point spots me and starts shooting when I get close but I just afterburn away.

Jazz is wanting to know what is going on when I get back to the bar, in an overly suspicious manner. No doubt setting things up for WC2.

Mission 5 is a basic 3 point patrol. The only thing of note about this mission is that I’m attacked by more than one fighter type at each nav point at the same time, and I’m not convinced that’s happened in any other mission. When I get back Bossman is dead after he and Angel ran into trouble. The good news is that Jazz and Doomsday (who hasn’t even been mentioned up to this point) will be staying on to help out. Angel is blaming herself for Bossman’s death and doesn’t want to talk to anyone.

Mission 6 is another covert op in the Dralthi. It’s exactly like last time except with 2 nav points instead of 1. Again, I just fly through without ever firing my guns.

In the mission 7 briefing I’m told that we are gearing up for a major offensive. This means that we have to escort a troop ship. I’m flying with Doomsday for the first time and despite all his pessimism (he uses all the same lines as in WC2), he is easily the best copilot I’ve had so far and the mission is an easy one. After the mission, I learn the Drayman we escorted was carrying a Vice Admiral.

In the mission 8 briefing we are told that the Kilrathi have figured out why we are here which means a defensive patrol mission to protect the Claw. There are loads of ships to take out on this one, and it’s quite a lot harder than whats come before but I just about make it back first time, minus a gun or two.

Jazz and Doomsday are in the bar and it’s looking like their transfer might be permanent. Shotglass thinks we are going after a research base which might be where the dreadnought that destroyed Goddard was made. They are now supposedly working on stealth technology.

I stop here for now. I have no idea how many missions are in this final campaign but I’m assuming that I’m around half way by now, if not a little further. I’m breezing through these missions so far but I expect they will get much harder before long. The storyline for this is not what I expected as it’s contradicting both Secret Missions 2 and Wing Commander 2. For instance no one believes me about stealth technology in WC2’s intro, yet Shotglass is telling me it’s being researched here. I should be meeting Jazz and Doomsday in SM2 but I’m meeting them here instead. I also should have no idea about Hobbes at this stage, and I seem to recall that he was supposed to have defected when he rescued Doomsday or some other pilot as a child. Maybe it would all have been sorted out in Super Wing Commander 2 if there was ever going to be such a game. If the extra campaign was to appeal to WC veterans. it’s a problem when it’s contradicting the other games stories rather than complimenting them.

That gripe aside, I’m enjoying Super Wing Commander more now that I’m onto these missions than I have at any time previously.  With the exception of Doomsday, whose voice is ridiculous,  the acting has settled down a bit and the dialog feels at least a little more natural. When I go back and play it again, I do realise how limited the options for storytelling are in Wing Commander 1. The entire plot takes place in about 4 rooms with characters who never move. It still adds enormously to the game but Wing Commander 2 was so much better, and I can’t help but feel that it should have been improved upon in Super Wing Commander rather than actually being worse than the 1990 original. The missions themselves suffer in the same way, with endless variations of the same thing. I did at least get a new ship today although if I’m not going to have to dogfight in it, then I could have been flying anything.

Day 216

I’ve now got as far as finishing off Secret Missions 1. I’d forgotten just how difficult these missions were but I got there in the end. The Sivar itself is very nondescript for all the effort of chasing it down through a dozen missions.

There is a medal ceremony when I get back, but the ceremony is just like any other. Again there have been no cutscenes throughout the game. They appear to be entirely missing from SWC. At least from here on out, it’s new missions all the way and I’ll write about them in the usual detail from here on.

Out of curiosity, I’ve been looking at some of the other versions of Wing Commander out there on Youtube. A video showing Super Wing Commander had the cockpit sliding around on screen when you turned which isn’t in the version I’m playing. I’m guessing this is a missing feature on the emulator but it could be that the Macintosh version was a little different either. There was also a Sega CD version of Wing Commander which I’d not seen before. This looks completely faithful to the original Wing Commander in terms of graphics but also has full speech. The speech is entirely re-recorded with different actors and sounded quite a lot better than this from the little I heard. It was developed by GameArts rather than Origin but it looked like the version to go for if you really want speech in your Wing Commander. One thing I didn’t like especially was the music in that version which was completely different and a little inappropriate in my opinion. I also had a quick look at the SNES versions which are surprisingly similar to the original also, but with some different cutscenes. They all look fairly good but I’ll be sticking with the original PC version any time I feel like digging Wing Commander out again.

That could be a while as I’m finding myself tiring a little of it after getting this far. I think it made more sense split into the 3 mission packs, as it’s all too similar when you have so many missions in one game like this. I’m going to have a quick break and see if I can get Origin FX running before I go back and finish this game off.