Tag: Amiga 1200
Controlling a spacecraft is the premise of a huge number of video games. It’s natural that something beyond almost all of our capabilities would be a popular genre. Just like walking to the shops and buying milk isn’t a popular genre, unless you’re a girl. Vast sexism aside, spaceshipping across the video game universe is generally regarded to have begun with Asteroids. Space War WAS around in the ’60s, but that wasn’t available to many people. Atari’s Asteroids had you control a spaceship in a wrap-around map. Blowing up the asteroids that fly through each level is the only way to survive and progress. Moving your ship is done by adding thrust and facing a direction (somewhat like tank controls). I almost never moved when I played it as a youngster as I’d panic and lose control of the ship.
From roughly ’89 to ’94 I hardly touched the Atari and Asteroids remained unplayed. Fair enough really, I had an Amiga to play! I had a good go at Blasteroids, which was something of a sequel to Asteroids. I enjoyed that quite a lot, but I never found myself completely drawn into it. Maybe it was too hard, who knows?
My interest in the Asteroids genre was rekindled with my first sighting of Stardust. The Amiga Power cover disk that gave me my first taste of the game was fantastic, if a little misleading. It’d be nearly TWO years before I’d play the full game, given the release schedule. The bulk of the game involves flying a spaceship around dozens of wrap-around screens, shooting asteroids. Occasionally you’d have to shoot down a flying saucer and collect power ups. Your craft can be powered by different weapons and have its engine power increased. The ‘world’ map was divided into galaxies, each one having six levels. You were able to choose the order that you visited these levels, but it was always best to follow the correct order since you start the game quite weak. Each galaxy had an ‘end boss‘ fight at its conclusion, which featured a variety of huge and intimidating spaceships.
The game’s standout feature was its warp tunnel sequences. The view changed to behind your ship and you had to avoid incoming asteroids, mines and giant blades. The Amiga Power cover disk featured the first of these tunnels, hence giving a slightly misleading view of the game. When I bought the full game, I was initially disappointed that it didn’t have more of these sequences (they probably make up 5-10% of the game at the most) but I’ve since realised they’d be boring if used any more than that. Mixed in with these tunnel sections were underwater ‘multi dimensional shooter’ levels, much like the game Thrust and Sub-Terrainia. These levels posed more of a challenge to navigate, with only the walls and your own carelessness to fight against.
Stardust features a blistering dance/trance soundtrack, which every second Amiga game seemed to have. No complaints here, since it is fantastic (I’m listening to it as I write this).
Stardust was a great version of Asteroids, with its detailed and colourful visuals, combined with some excellent variations in the bonus levels. Bloodhouse (now Housemarque), were the Finnish developer behind Stardust, which have successively remade the game four times. These remakes include the Amiga 1200 enhanced version in ’94 right through to Super Stardust Delta for the PlayStation Vita in 2012. Happily, these versions have been well received. It is comforting to know that a small developer from a small country can continue to do what it did 20 years ago, and still have a market.
I have put off doing this ‘greatest hits’ for a while. Since it has been a slow period for updates and has been two years since I started this site, I thought it’d be time for a deeper retrospective. I’ll refrain from putting this in any numbered order because I feel those ‘best of’ lists date quickly. I might change the order of the top ten, but the games themselves are unlikely to shift.
They all have different things that appeal to me, but in my heart are inherently equal.
I’ll be putting these up over the next two weeks.
Almost certain they are all in this video.
Along with Knights of the Sky I had another game delivered. Unlike Knights of the Sky, Wing Commander was a game I played extensively in my Amiga days.
It was a game that I should have loved, being set in a surprisingly rich Science Fiction universe combined with some intense and very intense space battles. As a sim, it wasn’t very complicated, with only a handful of controls compared to Knights of the Sky (which was very laid back, unlike Gunship 2000).
Wing Commander puts in the midst of a war set in the far future. Humans, known as the Terran Confederation, are at war with the Kilrathi Empire, a race of anthropomorphic cats, broadly similar to Star Trek’s Klingons. Rather than the sleek, clean ships of that series, Wing Commander ops for more of a Second World War feel to its space combat. You’ll engaged enemy fighters, destroyers, carriers and transports. Unlike Star Wars, there are no supersized capital ships, everything is measured in metres, rather than kilometers. I always felt that Wing Commander portrayed a believable future, give or take the cat people.
Unlike Knights of the Sky, Wing Commander had a very detailed plot and a branching storyline. The
player (who was able to choose his name and call-sign) would be able to speak to a number of characters in between missions. Your pilot, by virtue is fairly bland, but does respond to the other characters and is portrayed as a blue haired male. The cast of characters are almost all other pilots, and fill the various Top Gun/Battle of Britain stereotypes, but with something of an internationalist flavour. Since the Amiga version of this game had no speech, I had to go by their appearance and names to judge their nationality. My 11-year-old self was impressed that one of the aces was Australian, though for some reason he was a cigar smoker.
The other two pilots that stand out are Maniac and Iceman. Maniac is a new pilot like yourself, but doesn’t play by the rules and will often disregard your orders to engage the enemy faster. His advice in the cutscenes is often poor and it is clear he survives by his reflexes rather than wits. Iceman, I remember was the only pilot who could often outscore me in a given mission. He has ‘freon’ for blood according to the story and does not spare a thought for the enemy pilots he has killed. Like many of these air/space combat sims, it is very easy to amass a high number of kills in relatively few missions, so I was glad that at least Iceman would give some competition. Even more interesting, as I flip through the excellent manual, none of the pilots are from the USA. There’s a Canadian (Iceman), Scotsman, Taiwanian, Australian, Belgian, Japanese and a South African. Maniac is the only pilot to be born off Earth.
Sadly, like many of my Amiga experiences, Wing Commander was a game I was never able to do much with. About half way into the game, a particular mission would cause the disks to ‘Read/Write Error’. Since the campaign was branching, I did fiddle around with it, but was not able to progress further despite my cleverness. Also unfortunately the game was not made for a low MHz Amiga 500 and as a result the frame rate was between the 10-15 frames per second. A REAL CHUGFEST. That aside, Wing Commander is special for its moving funeral sequences. If you, or any of the other pilots were killed in a mission, you were treated to a custom funeral scene, complete with speech by the Colonel and a 21 gun salute as your coffin is shot off into space.
One of my fondest memories of this game, was taking it to my friend’s house. Chooie (he was not known as that then!) had an Amiga 1200, sleek, sexy and fast. When I finally got Wing Commander over to his place and ON that best, it ran so, so smoothly and was very playable. It didn’t fix the problems with progressing further in the game, but for a few minutes I could see how the game was meant to be played.
Or I could have just bought an IBM PC 🙁
If you have a spare five hours, maybe watch the game?