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Review by: Jim Brumbaugh
Published: October 20, 1997
Good luck, fair weather, and never forget that risk is your business.
– Captain James T. Kirk, speaking to incoming Freshman class
Excitement abounds on the first day of school. Students are wondering who their new classmates will be, they are curious as to whether or not the teachers instructing them will be difficult graders, and in the case of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy cadets, they want to know how soon they will be able to launch some photon torpedoes!
In Starfleet Academy from Interplay, players get the opportunity to do exactly what Star Trek fans have wanted to do since the “Genesis” of the television series more than 30 years ago: pilot the Enterprise, and other ships of Federation and other origins. This is accomplished by providing the would-be cadet with a series of tests to determine his mettle in combat and diplomatic situations. These tests are administered in the form of simulations, in which the player is in command of a ship and a crew and given a number of objectives to achieve.
Cadets in Starfleet Academy are warmly greeted (via full-motion video) to the Presidio in San Francisco by the Chief of Command School, Captain Hikaru Sulu (played by George Takei). After some inspiring words from Captain Kirk (played by William Shatner) on the responsibilities of command , the player assumes the role of Cadet David Forrester, an officer-in-training at the Academy. The potential captain is then introduced to his crew, made up of fellow cadets at the Academy. As one would expect in any Star Trek adaptation, a diverse representation of Federation races has been assembled: an Andorian, an Alpha Centaurian, a Rigellian, and — surprise! — a Vulcan science officer.
With the formalities out of the way, it is time to begin the simulations. In most instances, the objectives for any one mission are presented in FMV format by Commandant Rotherot, your everyday, no-nonsense Federation officer. Occasionally, Captain Kirk or Captain Sulu will inform the cadet of his goals in the upcoming sortie. Following this sequence, the simulation loads and the training sequence begins, occasionally with the quotation of a “personal log” entry by Cadet Forrester. The action begins at a starbase, and with a simple combination of keys, the ship that is being commanded in the simulation engages Warp power and flashes out of sight, headed to the location of the first mission.
In addition to having goals presented by these distinguished Federation personnel, the player of Starfleet Academy will also be praised by his superiors in the event he is successful, or he will be similarly chastised by them if his performance is poor. In any event, a poor performance that results in a failing grade on any simulation will require that the cadet experience the same simulation again, until his performance improves sufficiently to warrant graduating to the next exercise.
Lest the player be unprepared, not all objectives are of a combative nature. No captain is complete without his crew, and on occasion, he must use his judgment to mediate their disputes. Combine this with the occasional diplomatic snafu that can occur during combat missions, and the player will soon realize that success in Starfleet Academy is not limited to a command of phaser fire alone. To this end, there are times when the would-be captain will be presented with screens of choices as reactions to the activities that are taking place at that time. Generally, being stern yet diplomatic will be the most successful course for the player to take.
In solo play, Starfleet Academy offers twenty-two different missions for the player to conquer. There have been a few “simulations” that are infamous in Star Trek lore, and the player will find that these same simulations are required study at the Academy. The “Kobayashi Maru” and “Balance of Terror” scenarios are ones with which Trekkers will be familiar, and Starfleet Academy players will have to contend with these situations, employing strategies like those used by Captain Kirk to surmount them.
However, solo mission play is only part of the gameplay experience available in this title. The player can also create combat situations of his own design using the Create Mission screen. In addition, multiplayer combat can be initiated via IPX network, modem or direct connection.
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