23 June 2019

FWS Top 10: Forgotten Military SF Games (Vol. 5)

FWS is continuing down the rabbit hole of the "lost" and forgotten military science fiction video games, with part five of the ten part series. In this installment, FWS will be looking at some titles that were born from well-known military sci-fi franchises, like BattleTech and ROBOTECH.

1. Incubation: Time is Running Out (Blue Byte, 1997)
Strategy games have been a time-honored genre in the realm of PC gaming, and there a ton of them. Lost in the sands and the technology of time is the 1997 military SF “bug-hunt” RTS game: Incubation: Time is Running out. Made by a German developer, Blue Byte, the game sold poorly in the United States, but was one of the first RTS games to use 3D graphics. This can be seen in the blocky graphics that appear horribly dated today, which could be one reason for Incubation being a lost title. That and the complicated control input system that cause gameplay to be a labored affair, sucking the enjoyment.


2. BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception (Infocom 1988)
Way back in the pivotal year of 1984, Chicago-based FASA developed a mecha combat game using designs from Japanese sources without permission. Coming at the perfect time, FASA had a true hit on their hands, and the BattleTech empire was founded. While originally, BattleTech was a tabletop wargame, today, BattleTech is also a successful series of video games that all started in 1988. Infocom, that gave us Zork!. The first BattleTech game, The Crescent Hawk's Inception, was released for a variety of PC machines like the Commodore 64 and the ATARI ST. Featuring an amazing cover, it was sadly not as dynamic as the cover art would lead you to believe. This turn-based RPG game looks more like The Legend of Zelda than MechWarrior, and had you play as a Mechwarrior cadet named Jason Youngblood in the service of the Lyran Commonwealth during the 31st century. During the game, Jason will be thrust into a war, finding LosTech, and the fate of this lost father. From videos and articles, the game is complex and lengthy, that proved successful enough to warrant a sequel in 1990 called BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Revenge. The reason for these early BattleTech games becoming LosTech was that the kinetic nature of mech combat was not expressed in the gameplay like later titles, and the fact they were released back in 1988 media.

3. Citadel (Arrakis Software 1995)
This Polish shooter was made and released in the era of DOOM and some consider Citadel a DOOM clone game. Being released for the UK PC gaming market for the Amiga, this FPS title was also known as "Cytadela", and it was the one of three title developed by the Polish Arrakis Software company that was based in Gdansk. After releasing three games from 1993 and 1995, the company folded after Citadel failed to be a commercial success. Being set in a off-world prison, the character was there to put down a riot via two different paths, one being harder than the other. While a solid title by most modern reviewers, it was credited for being the first DOOM-like game to be playable on British home computers. Given that the game was not released in other markets, only on the Amiga, and at a time where gamers were awash in DOOM clones, it is easy to see why Citadel is widely unknown today.  


4. ROBOTECH: Invasion (Vicious Cycle Software 2004)
Over the course of the nine year history of FWS, we have covered ROBOTECH repeatedly, and it is high time we examine this 2004 title because of its uniqueness with in the realm of ROBOTECH itself and anime-based video games. As many of us know, ROBOTECH was cobbled together from three separate anime series with similar art styles and production staff. For the 3rd Robotech War series, Harmony Gold used the 1983-1984 series Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. Much like Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, MOSPEADA was not has successful as Macross, and has not enjoyed the continued popularity of Macross in Japan. However, both MOSPEADA was incorporated into the titan that is ROBOTECH and for many, including myself, it was a favorite of the three stories of the Robotech Wars. After the success of ROBOTECH: Battlecry, another title was begun, and it was decided to set the next game into the second most popular ROBOTECH stories: The New Generation. This was exciting news for fans of the 3rd Robotech War until the game came out in 2004. This game is a total and complete mess both in a visual presentation and in a gameplay sense that was lightyears away from the much more solid Battlecry
The reviews were not kind and Invasion  was a commercial failure which caused it to be mostly forgotten by the general gaming public and even by some ROBOTECH fans. What Invasion represents is something more impressive the lazy game presented here. Much of ROBOTECH merchandise and spin-off material is focused on the 1st Robotech War, but here we have a game set into something else besides Macross. Despite being a fan of The Next Generation,  I bought this game quickly, then was horrified by the results and returned it for my money back within 48 hours. On interesting note, some fansites  theorized that if ROBOTECH: Invasion had been a success like Battlecry, that we would have gotten an Masters set video game. Pity. 

5. DUNE (Cryo Interactive, 1992)
At the opening of the the 1990s, DUNE was not on anyone’s radar. While it was a legendary novel series and an oddball 1984 film with even stranger merchandise, the 1990’s would have been a quiet point in the total history of DUNE if it was not for Cryo Interactive and Virgin's excellent RTS set that was a sort of merging between the book and Lynch film. When released in 1992, it was a game that spanned the era of media between the 3.5 disk and the CD-ROM, along with generating interest in the DUNE universe.
At the time, I was deeply into DUNE and the game was a happy converges of my interest and a great product. While the game was celebrated and beloved at the time the gaming press and by some of us original fans of game at the time of release, there was never a formal sequel to the Cryo/Virgin DUNE game. There was other RTS games set in the DUNE universe, but they were done by other companies. Cryo Interactive would revisit the DUNE universe in 2001 for a game tie-in to the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries. While there are still others that discuss the phenomenon of the DUNE RTS fad and its impact, there is less chatter on the French 1992 game. For me, this was the definitive DUNE game.

6Star Trek: Voyager – The Arcade Game (Game Refuge 2002)

It always surprises me that this arcade machine exists at all. There are only Star Trek arcade game titles in existence, and one of them is based on one of the most divisive Trek shows in franchise history: Voyager. This is odd anyway, but then to make this Trek arcade game an on-rails-shooter, with light guns that in no way look like a phaser is just criminal. Another odd thing is that it was relativity popularly at the time, but it since has disappeared from arcades and movie theaters, along with the collective gamer memory. The gameplay was centered around liberating Voyager from attacks by the standard enemies of the series, and the it was rated as an okay game with Trek elements nailed on.

7. Zillion and Zillion II:The Tri Formation (SEGA 1987 and 1988)
During the Golden Age of Anime, Tatsunoko Production would develop and air yet another action/sci-fi anime about characters during a time of war. This show, called Zillion, was not that remarkable for the time and it was not a success, causing the TV show to be wrapped up early. What does make Zillion interesting is its connection to the SEGA Master System and its light gun. Some of the Zillion Weapon System blasters seen in the series were based on the SEGA Light Gun, the "Light Phaser", and in turn, the Light Phaser design was used for a home market IR laser tag came called "Zillion".The laser tag system actually worn by the main characters of the series, much like the Lazer Tag Academy cartoon series. In addition to these works, two SEGA Master System games were released in 1987 and 1988 involving the anime Zillion setting and characters. The games are more or less standard side-scrollers with military science fiction elements and even mecha that is compared to the maddening Impossible Mission.

8. Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II (Apogee Software 1991 and 1993)
I played Duke Nukem 3D on a friend's brand new Gateway Computer at around 1996 and loved it deeply (this game caused me to say "groovy") and I would buy the PlayStation One port in 1998. For me, Duke Nukem 3D was beloved title that continues to be a good time to the point that I currently replaying it on my Xbox One. It was not until I bough a strategy guide for very cheap from a book store that was closing that I learned that Duke Nukem 3D was actually the 3rd game in the series.
Later on, it was only when I googled the first two Duke Nukem games did I learn the odd truth. I think for a vast majority of players of the 1996 game, they believed that Duke Nukem was a the first entry due to the radical change in format and exposure. The original two games came out at very different time in PC gaming, but would lay the ground work for the idea of "shareware" and the character of Duke Nukem. Developed by one of the early titans of PC gaming, Apogee Software, it would released Duke Nukem 1 and under the Apogee name, while the 3rd game was developed under 3D Realms. The extremely successful and beloved 3rd game completely obscured the original two games, due to the fact that Duke Nukem 1 and 2 were side-scrollers, along with lacking in Duke's big "personality" that made the character and the game so memorable.       

9. ALIENS: A Comic Book Adventure (Cryo Interactive Entertainment 1995)
Another Cryo Interactive title that came to us in 1995 would have a link to something that changed my life: the Dark Horse ALIENS comic books. With the massive success of the Dark Horse ALIENS comics and the lukewarm reception to ALIEN 3, and that seemed to be the best plan for any future ALIENS titles. Being the mid-1990's, advancement in optical media allowed for a new gaming frontier to be opened up. There is very little information available today on just how this title got developed or why...but it was connected to the Dark Horse ALIENS universe, specifically, Labyrinth. This point-and-click adventure was graphically impressive with a solid story, but it was buggy and crashed often. It sold poorly and made many "the worst games of 1995" lists. Even being a massive fan of the Dark Horse ALIENS universe, I did not know this existed until after I started this blog and kinda wished I didn't.

10. ALIENS Versus Predator: Extinction (Zono Incorporated 2003)
There few promises that sci-fi has made to fans that held such power and excitement as pairing up the ALIENS and Predator franchises into a shared universe of fangs, blood, and hunting. Fans started laying the groundwork for the ALIENS vs. Predator concept since first witnessing the hunters of men in the 1987 blockbuster, and 20th Century Fox gave their blessing with a series of products in 1990. FWS will be exploring and explaining the broken promise that is the AVP franchise in a upcoming article, but we will discuss on of the misfits of that maligned franchise: AVP: Extinction.Coming out in 2003 on the PS2 and original Xbox, this single player RTS focused on a battle royale between the Xenomorphs, the Yautja, and various human factions (normally Colonial Marines). Most of the AVP video games were more direct combat, like a side-scroller or a shooter, not an RTS. It seemed out of place in the AVP realm, and it could have been an attempt to steal some of the Starcraft thunder. From most retrospectives on the EA title say that is is just okay for an RTS with bugs throughout with being an odd concept. AVP: Extinction sold poorly and was not released on PC nor was there, mercifully, a sequel. I used to see this game on the GameStop Xbox wall for cheap and I passed on it due to it being an RTS.


1 comment:

  1. Cool! Next we want to see a post about the Mortors! And waiting for the post about the military grade Remington Adaptive Combat Rifle and its precursor the Magpul Masada ACR system.

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