Day 214

I got as far as mission 10 in my first real day of playing Super Wing Commander. I would have liked to have played for longer only my gamepad batteries ran out and I couldn’t find the spares so I’ve had to wait for them to recharge overnight. 10 missions is long enough for a write-up actually, as I’ve got a good feel for the game now. Rather than a full review, I’ll concentrate on the differences between this and WC1.

I’m probably about as comfortable as I’m going to get with using the gamepad. It works although it does feel cumbersome and unintuitive. To do some tasks, I have to go into a menu screen and navigate around this while the game is paused. This brings the action to a grinding halt every time I have to do it, but it’s usually only at the start of the mission to alter my gun setup and at the very end to request permission to land. As far as I can tell this screen is also the only way to swap missile types, which is putting me off missiles altogether. If I was playing this on the PC, I’d sometimes swap quickly to a dumbfire or a heat seeker depending on the situation and I’m just not prepared to spend the time it takes to do this on here. I’ve not figured out how to lock onto a target either but this isn’t actually all that important. The controls in the manual didn’t make much sense to me first time around, given that it was referring to buttons in completely different positions to those on my joystick but I’ll go back to it and see if I can make sense of it now I’m using a gamepad with a more similar layout.

Aside from the communications menu, there are shortcuts to order my wingman around. Things like bottom-left trigger + up to order them to either break and attack or attack my target (depending on whether a target is selected). This works ok but it does mean I can’t steer and order them around at the same time. Speaking of the wingmen, it’s possible that they are a little more useful in this game than WC1. They are certainly getting more kills, although that could be because I’m not able to fly to the usual standards with a gamepad.

I’ve only seen them in my communications screen but the Kilrathi look very different to WC1. They are best described as talking lions and look like they should be in a Disney cartoon. Their speech sounds like slowed down womens voices and remind me of scenes of people getting possessed in old horror films like Legend Of Hell House (great film by the way). Its hardly the voice I would expect from a giant cat and I prefer the growled Kilrathi voices I know from WC2.

All the ships I’ve flown in this game have the small floating crosshair showing me where to aim, which definitely wasn’t the case in WC1. The snag is that having played the game for a while, I’ve decided that this crosshair is completely useless. I’d swear that it’s on completely the wrong side of the ship at times. I’m certainly finding the game easier now that I’m ignoring it. I doubt this is an emulation issue and it’s poor if it was like this on a real 3DO.

I seem to remember that you got a little cutscene on a planet every 5 missions or so in WC1. So far I’ve only had the one cutscene showing a failed attack on one of our capships after 8 missions. I was looking forward to seeing the new cutscenes, hoping they would tie in with the originals but this was actually quite disappointing. I suppose it’s a lot easier to render ships flying around in space in 3D than a load of people on a planet. Maybe some of the later ones will be more interesting. Simple as they were, these scenes provided the reward for successfully completing a section of WC1 and I’d like to see something a bit more impressive.

I’ve left the speech on, although I’m still not too happy with it. It’s of a similar standard to the CD version of games like Strike Commander and just like Strike Commander it’s worse than reading the text on the floppy disk version. All the “actors” seem determined to read the lines slightly more slowly that is really necessary and it does try my patience at times. It’s not helping that I know what’s coming all the time.

I am enjoying playing this, but I’d still prefer to be playing the PC version of WC1. By far the biggest obstacle is the controls but I assume that the game worked reasonably well with an analog joystick on it’s original hardware so I shouldn’t hold this against it. If you happen to have a 3DO and never played the PC version this could even be the version to go for. I’m not convinced that it’s actually an improvement overall, but it certainly isn’t worse. For anyone with any nostalgia whatsoever for the PC version, they would be better off playing that in Dosbox and I very much doubt I’ll ever come back to Super Wing Commander once I finish it.

The box claims that Super Wing Commander has 72 missions. That sounds like at least enough for it to include both Secret Missions expansions. Even then, it almost sounds like too many so I’m wondering if there might be an original mission or two later on. I certainly hope this is the case as it would mean this offers something above and beyond WC1 but I’m not really expecting it. I’m going to attempt to play to the end of the Wing Commander 1 missions when I get in tonight anyway which shouldn’t take too long, and then time allowing get started on Secret Missions 1 over the weekend.

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