Wing Commander Prophecy (GBA) – Part 2

I had a giant length podcast to listen to so I pressed on with the game while doing that and managed to finish it a lot quicker than I expected (quicker than the podcast at any rate) . There is no way I played through 48 missions so the total must have been including branches. I’m sure that some of the original missions have been skipped but the majority were present and it follows the PC original closely throughout. I can’t say that I ever got entirely used to the controls but I did start to learn how to play this specific port a little more and was considerably less frustrated in the later missions.

Once the game has got going, there definitely are tactics involved in regards to which ships you take out first and possibly in ordering wingmen around (although I’m unconvinced they ever followed my orders). The improved ships I got to fly in later missions is what made the biggest difference though. I’d already had the hardest fighters thrown at me, and the game got easier and more fun to play with a little extra firepower.

On the subject of firepower, I soon got to fly bombers and take out some capital ships. All of these look great in the engine and there is very little slowdown. Unlike the PC game, I can’t go around blasting turrets of course and there aren’t any sections of the ship to aim at. Like all the ships in the game, capships just have one shield (no front and back) and I simply blast it until it dies with everything I’ve got. I found all these missions extremely easy as it was just a case of afterburning behind the ship and holding fire. There is no need in this game to clean up the fighters after this and I immediately autopilot back to the Midway. As a consequence, the final sections of the game were quickly passed and I got through to the wormhole gate in no time.

I should mention that I could have aimed for bonus tasks such as taking out a percentage of the fighters in many of these missions if I’d wanted more challenge. Also I did have the choice of bomber or fighter for several missions depending on which part I wanted to fly. I’ve always had a preference for bombers since the Broadsword missions with Doomsday in WC2.

The final wormhole gate mission appeared to be a case of surviving for a few minutes and was also relatively easy, with the main challenge being knocking out all the fighters at the first nav point. There are no inflight comms in this game beyond a few instructions I can give to my wingmen, so it does help to have knowledge of what went on before playing the game in missions like this if you expect to follow the plot. The basic outline is in the briefing but there is no tension developed here as Dekker slowly works his way around the structure or anything like that.

At the end of the mission, there is a brief cutscene showing the gate blowing up to finish off and some dialog and stills from the original closing FMV. The dialog does come across as more cheesy as text than it was in a movie and Prophecy’s movies were not its strongest feature in the first place. It does end the game appropriately although it isn’t much reward and does leave me wanting the sequels we never got. I noticed a few familiar names in the credits after this and I think the WC community was heavily involved in editing dialog and the like.

I suppose I have to look at this game within the context of mobile games back in 2003 which were still quite primitive. It would be so easy to do a fantastic job of putting Prophecy on the PSP complete with the movies though and I can’t help but wish that this game had come a few years later. Prophecy on the GBA is technically a triumph for what it achieved on the system but not as much fun as I might have hoped. I’d have liked it at the time just on the basis of the 3D graphics on a portable device. Coming to it now I don’t find it easy to see past its limitations and it’s a pale shadow of PC Wing Commander Prophecy. It’s worth a look for fans and the multiplayer could be good fun but it seems to me that due to the nature of the game and it’s choice of platform it’s badly dated even if it is less than a decade old. If I want to play Wing Commander on the move, I expect I’d do better sticking the Playstation versions of WC3 & 4 on my PSP, or WC1 & 2 on my Pandora for that matter.

Speaking of which, I wouldn’t have minded having a look at those Playstation ports at this point having never actually played them. I’ll take any excuse to play either of those games again really and with the 3D hardware they have the potential to be better than the PC. I don’t own either of them yet though and I’m still flat broke thanks to a certain Mr. Shelley so they will have to wait until I’ve paid the bills. It’s not exactly an easy time of year to be saving money so that could take me a while. On that basis, I’ll switch over to Ultima ports next and get back to the previously promised Ultima 4 on the PC-98.

3 thoughts on “Wing Commander Prophecy (GBA) – Part 2

  1. Hello! I did do some work on Prophecy GBA. I think Barrie Almond (“Cpl Hades”) and I did all the actual work and the rest of the names were just because Barrie wanted to have our friends names in print. 🙂

    They originally planned to do 3D versions of the cutscenes (like Standoff, I guess) and needed to cut the script down drastically. That’s the biggest thing I remember doing–going through and marking in different colors what was absolutely needed, what could be cut and so on.

    In the end they gave up the 3D cutscenes and went with the stills instead and used the entire script. My edit of the gameflow that I sent them is still online:

    EA /hated/ this project and provided Raylight with NOTHING, so we ended up putting together a massive amount for this game… in addition to linking out how the gameflow works we sent them the 3D models, the sound effects, the stills for the video and even the original source code.

    Basically, Raylight did Wing Commander I for the GBA and pitched it to EA, who weren’t interested at all. After getting some press (we helped there too!) they were approached by a distribution company called Destination Games (not the Garriott one) that had the EA Gameboy license (an older practice that EA was waiting to expire.) EA was furious about that whole maneuver and basically said okay, we have to let you do this but you have to do this to the letter of your contract… which means you need to port the LATEST game in the franchise rather than the one you want.

    I guess they figured it couldn’t be done, but for whatever reason Raylight threw out their version of Wing Commander I (which was COOL, and honestly the game I’d have rather played) and built this instead. As you’ve figured out, it’s cool as hell technically but must have been pretty confusing to new players (oddly, though, I still meet fans who got into Wing Commander because of /this/ game.)

    Can’t stress enough the ‘wow’ factor at the time, though… Prophecy was this weird game from a studio no one had ever heard of that looked SO MUCH COOLER than anything else on the GBA at the time. (Typically a GBA game was either one of a select number of great, familiar first party titles… or part of an enormous mountain of cheap crap.)

    Oh and the multiplayer is pretty neat! I did a lot of four-player battles at conventions a few years back and it was always fun. You can fly the alien ships. I also worked out a system to play Prophecy GBA on my TV, using a GameCube “Gameboy Player” and a GameCube flight stick imported from the UK.

    If you’re interested in weird ports of Wing Commander games, the gold standard is Wing Commander 3 for the 3DO. Not sure how it emulates, but unlike other versions they didn’t even try to make it identical to the PC release… so all the missions are more action oriented and have different sets of enemies.

    I’d also be interested to know about the technical side of your PC98 emulating, because I have Wing Commander Armada for the PC9821 that I’d love to play.

    • Thanks for the info as ever Loaf. It’s amazing the game ever got made really.

      I wouldn’t mind playing 3DO WC3 as well but I can’t afford that either right now. It’s on the list, I expect Freedo will run it OK provided I can live with digital controls. I do have the SEGA CD Wing Commander to try out at least, but having just played through that campaign once I thought I’d leave it till later.

      I’m only learning my way around PC-98 emulators. I have managed to get Ultima 4 running and create a character but it keeps asking for disk 1 when I start the game itself. I’m 90% sure there is copy protection on the last sector of the disk which it is looking for. I spent ages yesterday just getting that far and could go on at length but I’ll save it for the next post.

  2. First off, great blog!

    Second, thanks Bandit Loaf for the backstory on Prophecy for GBA. I suspected that it was not something that EA was ecstatic about.

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