1. Star Trek Strategic Operations Simulator (SEGA 1983)
Despite Star Trek coming onto the public consciousness some 11 years prior to the release of Star Wars, Trek has never reached the levels of popularity in terms of toys and video games...especially in the arcades. In 1983, Trek and Wars both had vector graphics arcade cabinets battling it out for quarters in the golden age of arcades, which I was front-and-center for as a small boy. The 1983 ATARI Star Wars arcade game is well known and celebrated and there was always a line for it...but the 1983 Star Trek Strategic Operations Simulator (STSOS) by Sega is a forgotten title in the long history of Trek video games and this is one of the few Trek arcade games ever developed. I can clearly remember this arcade game in the 1980's, and I would always pump quarters into it. When my family made the trek to Tulsa from Bartlesville in the 1980's, my brother and I descended on the Starbase 21 comic book store and then begged to go to the Mexican food joint next door: Casa Bonita. Good food with a massive arcade, it was a real winner...and they had the sitdown STSOS arcade game which I always played first due to being a massive Trek fan since birth.
Rather, STSOS was a basic space shooter having D-7 capital ships dying quick deaths like the TIE fighters in the Star Wars arcade game. STSOS was not confined to the darken arcades only, being ported to the ATARI ST, 2600 and 5200 systems, the Commodore 64, Apple II, and the Colecovision. Decidedly, the ports on the computer systems were much better and fleshed out with you even engaging NOMAD from the original series! One of the only articles I’ve read on comparing every port concluded that the Commodore 64 was the superior of the home ports, only trumped by the original arcade. The only system that was able to replicate the Vector graphics was the Vectrex home console systems own Trek game from 1982. This was not developed by Sega, but GCE under the title of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”. This was even more the space shooter with you taking command of the refit Enterprise and battling the Klingon and Romulan forces. Given the uniqueness of the arcade and the many ports of the game, why is STSOS considered a forgotten game? Part of this stems from the delicate nature of the arcade game hardware, especially the vector graphic monitors. According to a vintage arcade cabinet reseller, vector monitors are troublesome and often see service calls. It was not just limited to the monitors, but also the power supply, along with issues with the computer boards themselves equaling an arcade game that has the reliability of an old Fiat!
2. Solaris (ATARI 1986)
3. Military Madness (Hudson Soft 1989)
Back in the late 1980's, the era of 8 bit home video game console systems was ending with all of the major companies in the market involved moving on to developing 16 bit systems when one new usurper came to the video game market with a 16 bit system early in 1987: the NEC PC Engine (AKA Turbografx-16 in the West). The system would arrive in the western market in 1989 as the new Sega Genesis was also arriving. By the early 1990's, the Turbografx-16 was battling for market shares with the SNES and the Genesis, with ATARI ending their plans for an 16 bit system called "the Panther". NEC's home console system had limited exposure to the US market and despite being a great system, it was discontinued due to poor sales in 1994 despite several attempts to spice up sales with a portable system and an CD hardware attachment, the first offered for a home system.
This military sci-fi strategy game takes place on the Moon, specifically, the Mare Nectaris region, where the Japanese title originates from. In 2089, a war between the two major Earth political blocs breaks out for control of the Moon, which the Axis side is planning on using as a launching pad for a doomsday weapon so that they can gain control of the Earth. The turn-based hexagon map game is played over 16 missions. RTS games have never been as popular on console as computers, and to make matters worse, Military Madness was released on a unpopular system in the west. This was a double-tap to the head for Military Madness, causing it to fade away along with the Turbografx-16 system. In Japan, the PC Engine was much more success along with Nectaris with several other games being developed and released in the series.
4. Oni (Bungie West 2001)
For those of us gaming back at the turn of the new century, we can recall this awesome manga-inspired cover-art. On the heels of success with Myth, Bungie was able to expand, opening a new studio in California called Bungie West in 1997. Their only release before being shut down was the oddity called Oni. Released on the PS2, Mac, and PC; this 3rd person futuristic shooter borrowed heavily from Ghost in the Shell with the Japanese anime opening being a love letter to the world created by the 1995 OVA. That was the hook of the game: western anime beat'em up/shooter with an rocking badass female warfighter with big guns that could be Major Kusanagi's punker little sister. That cover-art wrote a big check that the actual Oni game just could not cash when gamers got their hands on it January of 2001. The game takes place in 2032 where the Earth has been ruined by pollution, forced the formation of an one world government and you take the role of specialized police officer Konoko assigned to special taskforce of TCTF. When she learns the truth, Konoko begins working for the other side and is hunted. She makes use of melee combat and gunplay that all channels your inner John Woo. Once again, it all sounds great, but the final result is a game that did not deliver on the concept or the vision presented in the trailer along with a LAN multiplayer.
5. G-Nome (7th Level 1997)
6. Marathon Trilogy (Bungie 1994,1995, and 1996 )
Today, Bungie is one of the largest and well known video game studios in the world with their current release, Destiny 2 riding high, but this empire all started with two important games: Minotaur and Marathon. While Minotaur is a fantasy game and not covered under FWS mission statement, Marathon is a solid military sci-fi shooter that has been forgotten in recent years. To some of us fans of HALO, the existence of Marathon came as a shocker and seems to be more forgotten as time goes on. Hell, it took an article on HALO 2 in Game Informer Magazine to enlighten me on the mere existence of the Marathon trilogy and I thought I was aware of the major DOOM clones of that time period!
There whose that will read that Marathon was forgotten and laugh because they were all about Marathon back in the day and still boot it up. So, why are the Marathon games classified as "forgotten?" There are four reason I can see. First is that the first game was released in 1994 and only on Apple Macintosh computers. At this time, Apple was in deep financial trouble with a smaller computer market share than the vast array of PCs. While beloved by Mac users upon its release, that many of us PC gamers that had no concept that a solid Military SF DOOM clone had been unleashed. Even when Marathon 2 was released for Windows 95, it was a sequel to a game may on PCs had not played.
here. There have been stories from time to time about the resurgence of Marathon due Bungie still owned the IP rights, but those were around as Bungie was getting out the HALO business and before we knew of Destiny. Marathon is widely available today for download and there was even a physical boxset released on 1997. There was rumors of Marathon being released on the Sega Dreamcast, and some fans have homebrewed a port of the game to the last Sega console.
7. Battle Unit Zeoth (Jaleco 1990/1991)
Back in the 1980's and early 1990's, it seemed that Nintendo could do no wrong and it cornered the market of handhelds with the 1989 release of the Game Boy. Nearly everyone I knew either wanted one or had one. The Game Boy was my companion on long car trips until I was in high school and this was the only true video game system I had in the 1990's during my PC gamer days. It is surprising that I missed a mech-based shooter game during the height of the Game Boy release because it would have been right up my alley. Battle Unit Zeoth tells the story of a united Earth that beat back an alien invasion by the Grein some forty years ago. When they retreated, these aliens hid a self-replicating base that would allow a sleeper cell strike on the Earth at the important city of New Age. To combat this new threat, the military digs up their specialized CLASS-II mecha: the Zeoth.
8. Time Soldiers (Alpha Denshi 1987)
Soldiers battling over time rather than across the stars is fairly common in science fiction and even seen in the classic arcade games like Time Pilot. Another arcade game that used time travel as a plot device was 1987's Time Soldiers. Developed by Alpha Denshi as "Battle Field" and published by SNK, the game was an arcade run-and-gun in the same style as the awesomely hard Ikari Warriors. It was released by Romstar outside of Japan in the arcades, ported to the Sega Master System, the ATARI ST, Commodore 64, and Amiga computer systems. The goal of the time traveling warfighters is to rescue fellow members of the Earth Command that have been scattered throughout Terran history by the evil Gylend. The game cycles through four historical settings and even the future modern day. These time periods are: Ancient Rome, prehistoric (complete with cave men and dinosaurs), War World II, and “the age of wars”. Often cited as a tough game, Time Soldiers was designed to suck down your quarters rather than focusing on a Military SF story. Like many arcade games that do not achieve the status of iconic status like Pac-Man, Double Dragon, and After Burner; Time Soldiers simply melted away among the masses of other arcades released in 1987.
9. Vajra and Vajra 2 (Data East 1990's)
10. Iron Soldier (Eclipse Software Design 1994, 1996, 2000)
The history of ATARI is one of the most tragic in video game history complete with a great rise and an epic crash that sent riddles throughout the entire video game industry even to this very day. Up until the announcement of the new Ataribox console, the last gasp of ATARI as a home console company was the “64 Bit” Jaguar that ATARI had put all of their eggs into. When the console failed soon after launch in both the US and Europe, ATARI was cooked. While the Jaguar story is well known with some excellent “history of” videos on YouTube, there was a few military science fiction titles to discuss here that were considered the best of the much-maligned system: ALIENS vs. Predator and Iron Soldier. While the first-person-shooter ALIENS vs. Predator is widely known, the Iron Soldier series is not. Three games would be released in the first-person giant robot/mecha shooter series that was developed exclusively for the ATARI Jaguar by Eclipse Software Design, who was a German software company that had worked with ATARI for their ST computer line. The plot is rather simple, the Iron Fist Corporation is plotting worldwide domination in the dark future were urbanization has taken over much of the Earth’s surface. To aid their conquest is their 42 foot high mecha known as “Iron Soldiers”.
Next Time on FWS...