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Review by: Emil Pagliarulo
Published: July 2, 1998
I am, as I sit here writing this review, fulfilling a dream. You see, long before I worked for the Adrenaline Vault, before I even owned a Pentium, I was a happy little gamer with a happy little 486. And although many games passed through the digital domain of my hard drive, there was one that had a permanent home there, a masterpiece I would return to over, and over, and over again — X-Wing. As a self-professed Star Wars geek, I tore into X-Wing like a man possessed, determined to bring the Emperor’s pathetic fleet to its knees. Actually, my goals were two-fold: to completely annihilate the evil Galactic Empire, and fill in my uniform with every patch, ribbon, and medal a Rebel pilot could earn. To those ends, I spent more time playing X-Wing than any other game in my long, distinguished history of gaming, completing the whole thing, from beginning to end, upwards of four of five times. The phrases “Woton Weave” and “shield distribution” became permanent additions to my vocabulary, and I can’t even begin to recall the number of social functions (okay, there was my wife’s work Christmas party….) I was late for, or the hours of sleep I lost. Throughout it all, though, the dogfights and bombing runs, even the suicidal Death Star gauntlet, one thing was missing. I wanted to share my experiences with someone, to let the world know just how great X-Wing was, and why, in my opinion, it was one of the best computer games ever made. Now I have that chance, and believe me, I aim to make the most of it.
X-Wing Collector Series brings back the glory of those early days (the Old Republic of space sims, if you will) by offering gamers completely updated versions of both X-Wing and TIE Fighter, and an OEM version of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter called X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter: Flight School. While some may scoff at the idea of yet another collection of old games, it’s easy enough to make an exception in this case. X-Wing and TIE Fighter remain favorites with die-hard space simmers and Star Wars fans, but both games are beginning to show their age: As DOS titles, their stability within a Windows 95 environment is questionable; their outdated graphics can’t compete with the likes of Wing Commander: Prophecy or Descent: Freespace; and that simplistic MIDI music just doesn’t cut it anymore. But with 3D accelerated graphics, Redbook audio music, all new sound effects, and Windows 95 engines, these old classics are more than a match for newer, more “high tech” space sims.
There’s really not much to say about X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter: Flight School. It’s yet another OEM version of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, featuring a few single player missions (as either the Rebels or Imperials) and the chance to play multiplayer with others who may own a copy of the same version. Really, X-Wing Collector Series is aimed at the single-player space simmers and Star Wars fans, either those gamers who loved the original Star Wars games or want to check them out for the first time. Flight School should be considered the collection’s “bonus title,” for those who want to try out a little multiplayer action in addition to all the great solo play.
No, I imagine most gamers will skip by Flight School and head right for the grandaddy himself — X-Wing. A monstrous space sim, X-Wing puts the player in the flight boots of a Rebel pilot, called upon to perform every manner of mission against the evil Galactic Empire. Chronologically, X-Wing begins before the events of the first movie, A New Hope, but remains faithful to the timeline. As you progress through the missions, you’ll have a direct impact on the entire Star Wars story, right up to the decisive Death Star battle. All of the classic Star Wars ships are yours to fly, too — the X-Wing, A-Wing, Y-Wing, and B-Wing. One of the greatest challenges in X-Wing, and really the element that makes it so fun, is “filling in” your uniform; you see, every time you jump into the cockpit, whether it be to test your skills in a historical mission, fly the “pilot proving grounds,” or go up against “real” Imperials, you’ll have the chance to win some kind of patch, ribbon, or medal for your uniform. The only way to earn every honor is to fly every single mission in the game — not an easy task, but one worthy of a true Rebel fighter pilot.
TIE Fighter picks up where X-Wing leaves off, just as the original did so long ago. As an Imperial pilot, you’ve been told another story, one of sedition, treason, and rebellion punishable by death. The only way to secure the order of the Empire is to wipe the Rebel scum from the farthest reaches of the galaxy. To that end you’ll have access to all of the Empire’s starfighters — the TIE Fighter, TIE Interceptor, TIE Advanced, TIE Bomber, Assault Gunboat, and even the ridiculously powerful TIE Defender. But you’ll need all this firepower to crush not only the Rebel Alliance, but other Imperials who have turned traitor against Emperor Palpatine. Just as X-Wing offers a secondary goal in the earning of all the flight combat badges, TIE Fighter features its own unique twist on gameplay. Throughout the course of your missions, you’ll learn that the Emperor himself has been keeping track of your progress, and wishes to recruit you for some “sensitive” work. Through an intermediary known only as the “shadowy figure,” you’ll be given special objectives for certain missions. Ultimately, your goal is to be inducted into the “Inner Circle” of those who server the Emperor, and earn the full Imperial insignia, which appears on your arm (and can be looked at by pulling up your sleeve — a very cool effect).
The bottom line is this: If you’ve played X-Wing and TIE Fighter, you know full well the power and seduction of these awesome games, and how they helped to define the entire space sim genre. With today’s technology, they are once again completely playable, and just as addictive and immersive as they ever were. If you haven’t played these Star Wars masterpieces, then I have to simultaneously envy and pity you. I remember the first time I jumped into the cockpit of an X-Wing, charged up my guns, and took on my first Star Destroyer…and you will too. Unfortunately, you’ll also remember the first time you go to bed at 10:00 a.m., blow off a date with your significant other, and fall off your chair trying to avoid a concussion missile. Welcome to the ranks of the elite, pilot!
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