- Manufacturer: Accolade
- Version: Sega Genesis
Twisting and turning in space, I was beckoned deeper into the star cluster and closer to the ever-strengthening enemy empire. As I followed the animated convolutions of the orbiting pathways, I saw that I had stumbled onto a celestial dead end. The Ur-Quan Dreadnought behind me would be on me in just another turn, and all I had was a maneuverable, but terribly vulnerable, Arilou ship. My hands sweated on the joystick, and I gave thanks that no matter how real and how exciting Star Control may feel, it is only a game. But what a game!
Star Control takes place in a science-fiction universe where the seven races within humanity's Alliance of Free Stars must do battle with the aggressive and all-around mean seven races of the Ur-Quan Hierarchy. Each race has distinctive spaceships that have their own maneuvering and firing capabilities plus special characteristics. Whether you play against the computer (taking either side) or choose to go against a human - well, alien-for-the-moment - buddy you will find the arcade sequences challenging, to say the least. Vet the challenge lies not so much in reflex control as in getting to know and use the strengths and weaknesses of all 14 ships and how they match up against each other.
In the game's practice mode, you'll spend quite a bit of time familiarizing yourself with how the ships handle. You'll learn that the Earth vessel (which shoots old, stockpiled ICBM missiles) should never close with a more powerful ship but should get as far away as possible to turn, fire and run. You'll see that when the Mycon pod ship shoots its clouds of destruction that one defense is to dodge them as they gradually disperse into space dust. Soon you will know just when to have your Syreen ship (crewed by beautiful, albeit blue, humanoid females) sound its psychologically devastating call that can cause an enemy crew to mutiny.
After playing a bit in the practice mode, it's time to move on to the "melee" game. In the melee game all the ships on one side are sequentially matched against all the ships on the other side. The winner is the last side to still have a ship to call its own.
When you are ready to take on the universe, go for the "full" game. In the 15 scenarios of this mode you will experience what this reviewer considers to be one of the world's best-ever implementations of a strategic/tactical space-warfare game.
Each scenario takes you to a new star cluster, wherein you must explore stars to find certain ones to mine and others to colonize. You must also build forts and establish your starbase defenses long enough to build the ships you will need. You will have to visually track the way the stars rotate in various patterns. Each cluster will be composed of a number of star "spikes" or trails of moving stars. You will be able to move easily from star to star within a spike. But getting from one spike to another will mean finding the stars that are shared by more then one spike, which is not easy to do but adds a new dimension (literally!) to the game.
As you build your empire, you will have to fulfill various victory conditions in each scenario. Many times there will be battles between the various ships involved. If the player desires, he or she can play both the strategic game on the animated star-chart as well as fight the arcade battles. If the player prefers, the game allows for the Genesis to control the strategy and the player just to run the battles. Or, the game will allow you to be the strategist and will captain your empire's ships for you in battle. The real fun and challenge is, of course, to take both parts yourself.
It's true, this is not a perfect game for everyone. The sound effects are minimal, identical to what they are in the computer versions rather than taking advantage of the Genesis' wonderful sound potential. Fans of slash-and-hack jump-and-leap side-scrolling arcade games may find Star Control's look and feel to be too different from what they are used to in gaming.
But if you want to run a galactic empire with a depth of simulation that will have you believing that the stars are one big battlefield - Star Control will take you there.
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The Time: The distant future.
The Place: A multi-dimensional, rotating starfield.
Captain's Log: 2056.45 A.D.
It's been 23 days since word came from the Alliance of the impending attack on Savor-5, a mining colony. None of the typical Ur-Quan Hierarchy tip-toeing around this time -- this was going to be a full frontal assault! Five Ur-Quan Dreadnoughts -- the monsters of the Hierarchy fleet -- were moving towards our Star Base at light speed.
I just hope our attack force made up of Earthlings, Shofixtis, Syreens, and Arilous is enough to deter the Ur-Q's, so we have time to build a few Chenjesu Broodhomes. We'd really kick some Ur-Quan butt (or whatever that is they sit on) with a few of those, in our squadron!
Space -- The Final Frontier
If Star Control sounds like something out of "Star Trek -- The Next Generation" or "Star Wars," it's because this new Genesis game owes a bit to both these science fiction works. However, this interstellar epic features plenty of original concepts to make it a space ace in its own right.
Star Control from Ballistic (Accolade's new video game brand name) was the first 12 meg game for the Genesis. Yes, you read that right -- 12 megs! After playing it non-stop for an entire weekend, it's easy to understand why so much memory was required. This game is fantastic!
Star Control is a one or two-player battle of good versus evil. Yeah... almost every video game is a battle of good versus evil, but in Star Control it's different. Since you can play either side, who's good and who's evil all depends on your point of view.
Fifteen unique scenarios pit the Ur-Quan Hierarchy against the Alliance of Free Stars. Each scenario features a different battle in the Alliance/Hierarchy War. Every battle has a different objective and in most the odds of victory are weighted in favor of one side or the other. Three difficulty settings enable you to make the game as hard or as easy as you want. There are two phases to Star Control - the star field movement segment and the head-to-head battle phase. Onscreen movement takes place on a multi-scrolling, multi-dimensional star field that constantly rotates around a vertical axis.
The star field movement phase challenges your strategic planning abilities. You can maneuver any ship, one ship at a time, from one star to another. You can also build new ships (if you have the cash), set up a mining installation (to get the cash), establish a colony, or fortify a location. You get three moves per turn, although some actions (such as moving a Star Base) require more than one move.
The Stars Your Destination
Red stars can be mined for precious minerals. Life-supporting green stars are where you can set up colonies and recruit new crew members.
Some stars hold Precursor Relics. The Precursors were a race that lived approximately 300,000 years ago. They've I left behind various technological relics that will soup up any ship that finds them. The right relic can make a dangerous ship unstoppable.
Here’s a trick that loads all the stars with Precursor Relics before you start a game. When you reach the screen describing the scenario you’re about to play hold down Lower Left and press Button B. This stocks the stars and enables you to soup up one of your ships each time you land on an unexplored star.
A key to crippling the enemy is to make a beeline for his Star Base and to by to destroy it early on. Once you destroy the base, you won't have to worry about your enemy building new ships.
The trickiest part of moving is figuring out which stars you can reach from your current position. Stars appear in rows or chains, and it takes a keen eye to plot the correct path to your destination. Every time you play, the computer generates a new starfield -- there's no chance of memorizing a travel pattern.
To help navigate the star field, pay close attention to stars which seem to orbit at the same speed. Stars orbiting together are usually connected at some point.
My Ship Captain is an Alien
When you occupy a star where there's an enemy ship, you enter a head-to-head battle sequence. Because there are 14 different alien races in Star Control and each race has its own unique ship, every battle is a learning experience. As in real space flight you have to take into account gravitational pull and inertia, so your ships slide around the screen. Naturally, some ships match up real well against others, while some others don't stand a chance in certain battles. As commander of your fleet, it's your job to attack ships you think you can beat, or at least damage the powerful ships you can't beat so someone else in your fleet can take them out.
If you'd rather just fight space battles than play a full scenario, Star Control has an option called "Melee" -- an all out war between the two fleets. This is a great way to learn your enemy's weaknesses before taking him on in a full-scale scenario.
Defeat slow-moving ships which fire homing weapons (such as the Mycon Podship or the Earthling Cruiser) by using their own weapons against them. When one of these ships fires at you, circle around him and hang out on his tail. But this is key -- this move only works if your ship is faster and more maneuverable than the enemy's.
Use the gravitational "pull" of planets to increase your speed to escape enemies.
Shooting for the Stars
Star Control is a great mix of outer space battle and strategy. It has an extremely, high replay factor -- you won't get bored with it anytime soon -- and unlike your typical shoot-em-up, the game never ends. Accolade, I mean, Ballistic really has reached the stars with this game!