Despite the fact that home-computer games have been around for over a decade, there have been relatively few "remakes" of older hits. Once sound came to films; for example, much of Hollywood's output for the next few years consisted of "talkie" versions of silent film favorites. Audiences found that technical innovation can dress up an old classic into a new favorite. Stories like Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Beau Geste have been told and retold so many times that some of the dialogue has grown hair, but the enduring success of these films proves that a great story is a great story is a great story, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein.
Stellar 7 was a wonderful game when Penguin produced it as an Applell/Com-modore 64 "flippy" (a double-sided disk containing two different versions of the same game) in the early '80s, and it remains outstanding in its current incarnation as a state-of-the-art IBM PC action-strategy pastime. The new Stellar 7, from Dy-namix, brought back the game's original designer, Damon Slye, to head a team that included lead programmer Piotr Lukaszuk, art director Mark Peasley, conceptual artist Robert Caracol, 3-D artist Cyrus Kanga and audio director Alan McKean. The revamped version uses all the bells and whistles obtainable on current PC technology in order to produce a first-person outer space shootout that is as impressive to a '90s audience as the original was to the gamers of the early '80s.
The game itself is virtually unchanged from its original incarnation. Once again the user is piloting Earth's slickest outer space fighter craft, the Raven, against the forces of Draxon, Supreme Overlord of the Arcturan (read: Evil) Empire. Draxon's minions must be faced and defeated by the Raven in seven different star systems. On each of the seven battlefields a Guardian will appear once the player has eliminated a predetermined number of enemy battlecraft. The Guardian, when defeated, is replaced by a Warp Link, which whisks the player to the next system.
The player's only hope is to master the controls of the Raven, which include (in addition to the standard Bi-Phasal Thunder Cannon and shields): an Inviso Cloak Generator, which renders the Raven invisible to electromagnetic sensory systems; the Eel Shield, which rechannels an enemy craft's shield energy back into itself for ramming; a Super Cannon, which doesn't require the reload time of the standard cannon; an MP Thruster for short bursts of speed; the Cat's Eye, which defeats most cloaking devices; the RC Bomb, which can be deposited behind the Raven and set to explode when another craft breaks its perimeter field; and even a Jump Thruster, which enables the Raven to generate short-term vertical lift. All the old, familiar Arcturan fighting forces are back as well, spiffed up in 256 color VGA glory (with 256 color MCGA, 16 color EGA, Tandy 16 color and even four-color CGA support). The speedy but thinly armored Sandsled, the sinister-looking Prowler, the heavily shielded Assault Tank and the stationary Laser Battery are among the Arcturan forces.
The audio for Stellar 7 provides superb sound effects and musical support for the Roland MT-32 and LAPC-1, Ad Lib and Sound Blaster boards, with digital voice support for the Tandy 1000 TL and SL.
Whether you're a grizzled veteran gamer who remembers the original or a tenderfoot to the world of computer gaming, anyone with a fondness for great action games with a soupgon of strategy should find lots to enjoy with Stellar 7. Let's hope its success, as well as the promised remake of Sierra's brilliant Oil's Well, inspires more publishers to rediscover some of the great game ideas of the past.
Download Stellar 7
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP