You watched every episode of the "real" Star Trek religiously. Kirk, Spock, Chekov, Sulu and the others were more than just characters on a TV show. It didn't matter how bad the acting was -- they were legends and you wanted to be part of their crew.
Interplay's latest Star Trek game allows you to walk in their footsteps as a cadet at the most celebrated training facility in the universe -- Starfleet Academy. Test your ingenuity, leadership, and courage and discover if you've got what it takes to command a starship or if you're destined to wear a red shirt.
You play the part of David Forester, a young officer who has just arrived at Starfleet Academy's Command College in San Francisco. You are put in command of a group of cadets with a lot of potential and more than a few problems. You will have to work with each member of your crew to overcome their shortcomings and build them into a solid team that can take on all challenges.
The gameplay in Starfleet Academy is split between adventure-like story sequences and combat simulations. The story is told through video clips where you interact with the cadets under your command and also meet with Trek heroes such as Sulu, Chekov, and Kirk. You don't have much control over the story section of the game, which is a bit of a letdown—the previews and hype implied that you would have a chance to move about the Academy. All you interaction is limited to selecting dialogue responses and then sitting back to see the results. It would have been much nicer to have more of a true adventure-game style interface for the story elements. Overall the acting in the video clips is well done, with a few glaring exceptions, most notable the enemies you get to meet while in the simulator. Even with the limitations of the format the storyline that unfolds as you progress through the game is well done and worth the time spent to watch it.
The other major part of the game is the combat simulator. It's supposed to be based on the simulator we saw in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but it just didn't come up to my expectations. The graphics are fantastic, the ships look even better than they usually did in the original TV show, but the flight mechanics aren't up to snuff. You don't get the feeling that you are in command of a huge starship -- it's more like you are flying a small fighter.
Also lacking are different views -- there's no way to look to the left, right, or rear, you're always looking straight out the front of the ship, and you can only fire at targets you can see. You're also limited to two weapons regardless of which class ship you choose.
While in combat mode your crew seems to do very little of the work of running the ship. There's no way to issue commands like " shields up" or "arm torpedoes," instead you have to jump around to the various stations and set all the ships controls manually. I could see requiring more work on your part early in the game as you and your crew are learning to work together, but as the game progresses you should be able to focus more on command rather than the details of ship operations.
Graphics and Audio
The graphics in Starfleet Academy are great eye candy. The classic Enterprise looks better than it ever did on television and the ship movements while in combat were smooth on my P133 system. The game also supports 3D accelerator cards -- I definitely recommend playing with a good 3Dfx card.
One area where the game really shines is the music and sound effects. The soundtrack is perfect and the sounds of ship operations put me right back into those afternoons spent watching endless reruns.
The manual for Starfleet Academy is pretty standard -- it covers all the game controls and options, as well as providing some story background (as if anyone wasn't familiar with Star Trek). I found I really didn't need to read it though—the first few training missions teach you everything you need to know to play the game.
Minimum: Windows 95, Pentium 90, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX compatible sound card
Starfleet Academy's biggest problem is probably too much hype. After almost three years of pre-release advertising, Starfleet Academy would have to have been overwhelmingly good to meet the expectations of most players. The game is lots of fun to play and Trek fans should add this one to their collection, just don't expect too much. Starfleet Academy is the best of the Star Trek games I've played -- it just doesn't meet the bar as either a great adventure game or space combat simulator.