Starfighter was originally released in 1994 for the Acorn Archimedes. The Archimedes was a popular home computer in the late 80’s and early 90’s that sits alongside the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC as childhood favourites of those who grew up in Europe in the early 90’s.
The original Starfighter was a fairly impressive game, featuring huge 3D maps and texture mapping while other fighter simulations at the time tended to stick to flat shaded polygons. While it’s an impressive game, Starfighter does seem somewhat dated when viewed through a modern lense. Luckily, we got a port to 3DO in 1995.
Starting as an ace pilot thrust into the experimental Star Fighter…fighter, you are tasked with engaging in combat with opponents based on the ground, the air and even in orbit while executing maneuvers with your fellow pilots. As soon as I found out you could fly with other pilots, I was very excited. While Starfighter isn’t necessarily a simulation game, it utilises elements of simulation such as issuing orders to your fellow pilots.
The Starfighter ship is very versatile, but does take time to get used to. Accelerating with the A button, you then control altitude with the up and down keys. Banking left or right requires you to roll your fighter and then push up or down, which takes a little time to get used to.
To contend with your enemies you have access to air to air and air to ground missiles, lasers and multi-missiles which are like a cluster bomb. Your laser is generally fairly impotent but is good in a pinch and you will find yourself relying on your missiles a lot. This will mean running out of missiles. Well, how do you end up replenishing your missile collection? You collect crystals. This was a strange design choice, as the original game on Archimedes allowed players to earn money and replenish supplies by purchasing them. I would have much preferred this as it would have forced players to think about how they approach missions more, strategise before hand and buy to accomodate your needs.
Mission variety is fairly engaging and has you taking on enemy installations, satellites in orbit and squadrons of opponent fighters while fighting on your own or tracking down friendly units with a very accessible 3D map to enlist. Friendly units can be ordered to fly defensively, fight aggressively or simply fly in formation to provide you with support in situations that would otherwise lead to imminent demise. The game becomes very challenging later on and getting used to fighting in formation is very important if you want to do well in Starfighter.
The graphics in this game are incredible. It’s not even an argument that Starfighter is probably one of the best looking games on the 3DO. A slick frame rate marries with rich, detailed textures and solid geometry to provide players with a very appealing game. Particle effects are perfectly executed and are used as exhaust or explosions or bombs exploding in the environment around you. The beautiful, unique horizon gives way to a subtle transition into the upper atmosphere of the planet while transparent explosions, lasers and particle trails from missiles stream by you. Starfighter is a beautiful looking game and sits with PO’ed as one of the best looking games on the console.
Starfighter seems to be getting harder to find in good condition recently so I would highly recommend picking it up for your 3DO. Don’t bother with the ports on Playstation or Sega Saturn as they were quick, rushed and Akklaim did not treat the source material with any sort of respect or care. The original on Archimedes was fantastic and the port to 3DO only improved the game further. While I don’t particularly agree with some of the changes that were made to the game, Starfighter is just a fantastic experience.