As though to emphasize how serious Ballistic really is about producing "premium" 16-bit games, the first title the company sent us was the very impressive Star Control. At 12 megabits, it's by far the largest Genesis game ever produced . Even more impressive than the size of the game, though, is the game itself.
Star Control is a science-fiction war game that pits the Alliance of Free Stars against the Ur-Quan Hierarchy. The Hierarchy is an ancient conglomeration of the ruthless Ur-Quan slave traders and their associates. The Ur-Quan are an evil, conquering race, and their lives are committed to subjugating every other race they come across.
The Alliance, on the other hand, is a democratic federation of cultures which believe in peaceful coexistence and negotiation. For centuries the Alliance monitored Ur-Quan aggression, using military defenses and negotiations to safeguard Alliance planets.
During all this time, the planet Earth remained isolated from alien cultures and was unaware of any other intelligent life in the universe. Only after centuries of international warfare was Earth finally able to achieve a peaceful world government. One day a scout ship for Star Control, the military arm of Earth's government, reported the incredible —contact with an alien vessel. The vessel was piloted by members of the Chen jesu, the most powerful race in the Alliance of Free Stars. The Chenjesu told the humans aboard the scout ship that Earth was in danger. The Ur-Quan were advancing toward Earth's solar system.
Earth's top officials, a bit disturbed that they hadn't been contacted by the aliens sooner, invited an Alliance delegation to Earth. As Star Control begins, Earth has joined the Alliance and the Ur-Quan are closing fast on our solar system.
This background story might sound like the plots of other games you've played. But while so many games use an elaborate story as an excuse for a simple side-scrolling shooter, Star Control lives up to its space-opera proportions.
The backbone of Star Control is an assemblage of 14 types of space vessels, divided into two fleets of seven ships each. Each ship is built and manned by a different alien race, and each ship has its own special characteristics. The ships are so distinctive and their crews so alien that you'll have a hard time forgetting you're playing a game of intergalactic scale.
Consider the Chenjesu's Broodhome, a massive ship that's the premier weapon of the Alliance. Like the Chenjesu themselves, the Chenjesu ship is a crystalline structure fed and controlled by electrical energy. Their weapons are living crystals, generated on board the Broodhome. The main Chenjesu armament is an enormous crystalline form that explodes on command. Their secondary weapon is the DOG1, a very fast doglike creature that zips through space, homing in on an enemy ship. Once a DOGI makes contact, it begins yipping like an annoying dog and draining energy from the opposing ship. If the Chenjesu can throw enough DOGI's at the enemy, the helpless ship will be unable to fire its weapons in reply.
The Hierarchy's counterpart to the Broodhome is the Ur-Quan Dreadnought. This enormous ship fires fusion pulses — very powerful projectiles that can destroy smaller ships with a single hit. The Dreadnought also carries a squadron of small fighter ships. On command, these fast little fighters will zip from the Dreadnought and begin peppering the enemy vessel with laser blasts. If the enemy ship can't ward off the incoming swarm, the Ur-Quan fighters can destroy it without help from the mothership.
An especially troubling member of the Ur-Quan Hierarchy is the Androsynth. These humanoid clones were motivated to join the Ur-Quan out of intense hatred for their creators — Earthlings. Some time before the Chenjesu contacted Earth, Earth scientists had created the droids for physics experiments. But the Androsynth revolted and established their own culture. Their ship, the Androsynth Guardian, is hailed as a masterpiece of engineering. It fires an acid-based bubble into space, and the bubbles erratically home in on the enemy (usually Earth cruisers). An entire field of these bubbles can be released, creating a kind of dead zone. If an enemy maneuvers into the zone, he can expect extensive damage.
The Guardian has one other unique ability: It can transform itself into a blazing comet, speeding directly into the enemy. It keeps smashing into the enemy's hull until the Androsynth ship runs out of fuel. This attack can destroy even the large Broodhome.
All of this space combat is played out against a very convincing cosmic background. Unlike most videogames, Star Control insists that spacecraft obey the basic laws of physics. With the exception of a few inertialess designs, the ships can't simply stop and turn. Once your vessel is in motion, you have to use thrusters to turn and maneuver until you're facing in the direction you want.
The game simulates gravity, too. When you move near a planet, your ship is tugged toward it. The bigger the ship, the greater the attraction. You can even use a planet's gravity to "slingshot" your ship at great velocity. This is especially useful when a slower ship is fighting a faster one, or when you're low on fuel and need a cheap burst of speed.
Star Control lets you pit any two of the 14 ships against one another, or compete in a "melee" — one entire fleet against the other. But there's also a strategic game that examines interstellar warfare in much greater detail. In the 15 strategic scenarios, you again choose to play as either the Ur-Quan Hierarchy or the Alliance of Free Stars. But this time, each side occupies a certain section of a rotating star field. Each player takes turns moving his ships, exploring new planets, and either colonizing, mining, or fortifying those planets.
In most scenarios, each side controls a star base as well. With income from mining expeditions, you can build new ships to keep the heat on your opponent. You can refuel and re-crew ships on colonized planets. Of course, the enemy will try to destroy your colonies and mines. Whenever the two sides meet in orbit around a planet, the ships fight it out, just as they would in a Melee battle.
When you begin to realize how important it is to protect your mines so you can produce more ships — and to protect your colonies so you can supply your ships — Star Control takes on an even greater dimension. Suddenly there's more to this game than just blasting one another'sarmadas (although you'll do plenty of that, too). You can play Star Control on so many different levels, from dogfighting to intergalactic power struggles, that you'll probably be playing it long after you've beaten your other games.
Download Star Control
CONTROL THE STARS!
Accolade makes a huge splash in the Genesis waters with their new Ballistic label and the first 12 meg game ever on the Genesis. For more information about this fantastic breakthrough for Genesis gamers, turn to this issue's Behind The Screens story. But for now, take a look at some of Star Control's exciting features!
The time is the 27th Century. The galaxy is being threatened by seven alien races comprising the Ur-Quan Hierarchy. You, along with other freedom fighters, join the Alliance of Free Stars to defend the galaxy against the evil Ur-Quan armies. With seven starship commands at your control, each star-ship with its own abilities, advantages and disadvantages, the methods of battle are many. But the final outcomes are few.
LOTS OS SHIPS!
Each ship type is piloted by a different species. When attacking a ship, you'll be able to see the race of alien you are attempting to destroy. That works when they attack you too. Many different options exist in the game even before doing battle. For instance, you can choose whether you play against the computer or a friend, whether you would like to play a melee, full game or just practice, and the type of race you wish to battle. If you wish to play a full game, you can select any one of the 15 scenarios included in the game, making Star Control more versatile and long lasting than other shooter type Genesis games.
The bulk of the 12 megs seems to be dedicated mostly to sound and graphic information. Huge pictures of the 14 different ships you'll encounter in the game along with the many digitized sounds and numerous scenarios must take quite a bit of memory storage alone. Still, Accolade's goal was to make the game as similar to the computer version as possible, and considering that the computer version comes on 16 megs of disk storage, Genesis gamers are getting quite a huge game!
- 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.
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!