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StarFighters

version: jp - year: 1984 - developer: ascii corporation - publisher: laserdisc corp. - format: msx1, ld-700, laserdisc - condition: near mint - rarity: uncommon

A very unusual space sim and shooter hybrid.

 

After a groundbreaking intro in glorious full 3D, you're thrown into this space simulator with crude 8 bit graphics. Despite the ugly cosmetics, this first section is fun if you can get past the slower-type gameplay.

 

After successfully boarding Orphe, you are given the opportunity to arm your ship. I usually add CAS-1, EWS-163A and ART.C-8 (1 unit for each) and the rest devided between the remaining weapons (like homing missiles etc). Here the total payload has been exceeded at 9894kg.

 

After that, an ATTENTION screen pops up..

 

...and a password appears. Make sure to write it down fast because you will need it later to access the main-frame room.

 

Aiming at incoming ships can be tricky because they look like dots when they are far...

 

...once you've successfully locked onto them, you'll release homing missiles.

 

getting close to Orphe. Here the planetoid will neatly zoom in.

 

This section is better played by avoiding to shoot enemies. It is much easier to pass this way.

 

Navigate various levels and find the right path leading to the opposite side of the screen, The map helps you locate your position. This section is sometimes frustrating because it is not always clear which exit you should take in order to get out.

 

One of the levels in the maze. These levels are gorgeous to look at and they have background interaction in the form of obstacles on which you can crash.

 

Beat the music mini-game and the room to Orphe's core will open. This part is very hard. Survive incoming hostile waves and then shoot a homing shot to damage the super computer. If you are successful, you get to the last level in which you'll have to hack into the main-frame pcb to destroy Orphe for good and finish the game. Too bad I didn't get how to hack it!! If somebody has an idea, please let me know...

Review - After inserting the laserdisc into the LD player and typing the “call ld” instructions on the MSX keyboard, an amazingly beautiful 3D intro loads up, detailing the story of the game.

What is surprising is that not only speeches are in English, but the graphics of the animated sequences are in full glorious 3D and could be easily mistaken to come straight out of Silpheed on Sega CD. If you think this game was released back in 1984, it's impossible not to be impressed. The intro is so good that when the actual gameplay starts, it just feels initially underwhelming.

You find yourself in control of a space fleet which is sent from humanity to destroy Orphe, the pinnacle of humanity’s technology and the result of an insane arms race between two super powers. Orphe is an artificial planet created by men and controlled by a super computer which suddenly malfunctioned. It has the power to destroy entire chunks of the universe and it is now directed towards our solar system.

In this first section, you are required to move your fleet across a grid-like board which simulates the battlefield. The game plays a lot like a game of chess in which you control a fleet composed of fighters, reconnaissance ships and a powerful mother-ship. Reconnaissance ships can travel far but are unarmed, fighters have good mobility and are armed, while the mother-ship has little mobility but great resistance and firepower. The goal is to locate the enemy fleet and ultimately approach Orphe and board it from your mother-ship while avoiding to be annihilated by the evil armada.

It can take a little while to go through this turn-based section and the graphics here are very simple and unexciting. The strategic element is kind of fun though and passing this part can be tricky!

When you eventually manage to approach Orphe, the game will switch to a weapon menu, in which you’ll be required to equip your ship with several weapons and systems while keeping an eye on the maximum payload your ship can carry.

Once you are ready, the game will switch to live shooting sections which look gorgeous. First, you’ll control a target and you’ll be required to lock onto distant enemies. Successfully locking onto enemies will then trigger a homing missile long range attack.

A second sequence will then switch to close quarter attacks. This part can be very easy if you avoid enemies but it becomes way harder if you attempt to actually shoot them down.

The next section consists on locating the core, while navigating through beautifully designed levels in a maze-like structure. Avoiding background obstacles while also avoiding small attack ships (which are sometimes hard to see against vivid backgrounds graphics) is not so easy. If you manage to get through the opposite side of the maze (and that is like at least 6 or 7 levels in the best case scenario) you’ll come across a sealed door separating you from the core.

To successfully open the door, you’ll have to unlock 4 locks by playing a music mini-game. Three notes will be played after which you’ll have to play them again in the right order by pressing the correct note keys. I had such a hard time in this section it’s not even funny! I didn’t suspect I had such bad ears, as I could never recognize which were the correct notes playing. I was about to give up in total frustration but then I had the idea to record the damn notes with my cell phone and by playing the tunes over and over I was finally able to press the right keys in the right sequence. I had to do this for four times to finally unlock the door.

Once the door is unlocked a password screen shows up in which you’re supposed to type in the name of your squadron followed by the password the game provides you with, right after the simulator section. And that’s tricky because that screen disappears very quickly. Type it in wrongly and the main-frame identifies you as threat and takes one of your lives.

After you input the correct password, you finally are granted access to the core room. Here, you get attacked by abstract shapes in one of the best looking and toughest levels in the entire game. The shapes attack you very quickly and it can be very hard to stay alive for enough time to get passed this onslaught. If you manage to make it, a new scene will play asking you to fire a homing missile which you’ll have to guide manually to hit the computer core and expose its interiors.

After that, the last level unfolds and it switches to a mini-game in which you are supposed to hack the main-frame printed circuit board. Again, there is a time limit and you only have 3 attempts. I could not figure out how to pass this last section though... Despite the availability of continues (which let you start back from right after the simulator section), there is also a stringent time limit which really is a pain. When time runs out, an awesome game over scene plays with Orphe annihilating our solar system...

Anyways, StarFighters mixes different playing styles and brings forth an unusual playing experience, which some will love and others will hate. It feels like a collection of mini games which are coherently kept together by a cool plot and awesome cut-scenes. The action sequences play more like an “avoid’em up” rather than a shoot’em up though but overall, this is certainly a worthy title in the MSX LD library and something different to try out.

Bottom line: An unusual cross between a strategy game and a shooter, sprinkled with a few mini-games. Different and strangely involving. 7/10


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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