Nostalgia Lane: TIE Fighter and X-Wing

xwingThe 90s weren’t a horrible time to be a Star Wars fan, not at all.  It was mostly prior to Lucas tinkering with the original trilogy and then shoving the prequel era down our throats, and that meant a pop culture reverence for the first three films and everything that came with them.  Star Wars had a ton, I mean a ton, of horrible game adaptions, but it seemed like there were a lot of great ones around then too: Shadows of the Empire, Rogue Squadron, Dark Forces, Jedi Knight II.  But above them all was one of my all-time favorite games, X-Wing.

X-Wing introduced a Star Wars-themed space combat simulator in 1993 and began a monster franchise in and of itself.  It was a genius move that combined a hot IP with a popular genre (flight simulators) — and it didn’t have to worry about modeling backdrops or anything, because it was in space.  Ever since the vector graphics Star Wars arcade game, I’ve always wanted to pilot my own X-Wing, and here it was given to me on a platter.

The game was a series of missions with multi-part objectives and a whole lot of dogfighting.  It took place prior to and then during the big Death Star fight in Episode IV, giving us a chance to not only pop into the cockpit of an X-Wing but a Y-Wing and A-Wing (fast little buggers, those) as well.  You had to juggle power between shields and engines as you fought, and taking down TIE fighters never got old.

tieBut it really was 1994′s TIE Fighter that put the series on the map.  This sequel put you into the enemy’s role instead — and made it both engaging and sympathetic.  It was the life of a soldier who didn’t get much say in the big picture, but just carried out orders.  I never had previously thought about TIE Fighters being anything other than target practice, but the game made them pretty fun to fly.  Sure, they were a lot weaker than the Rebel craft, but faster too.  Eventually you got to start flying the tougher, better Imperial ships, and that’s when the getting got good.  I always got chills going up against capital ships (which looked huge to me in all of that new polygon 3D that was starting to get big around then), and the sense of speed permeated the entire series.

I didn’t play the later titles — X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter and X-Wing Alliance — so for me the series will always be boiled down to the first two games.  That was just fine, because it not only fulfilled a boyhood fantasy but it gave me a terrific gaming experience in its own right.  I suppose it’s a shame that multiplayer and online play wasn’t part of them, because my friends and I all played and would compare experiences, and I know that it would’ve been a lot of fun to blow the crap out of each other.  But I’m not complaining, because it gave me all of the trench runs and nail-biting excitement that I wanted.

Did any of you play these, and if so, what do you remember about them?

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12 thoughts on “Nostalgia Lane: TIE Fighter and X-Wing

  1. XvT and XWA had the multiplayer you were looking for, hosted on Gamespy servers iirc. Loads of fun (and a few of them were actually still available well into the 2000s). The original X-Wing was probably my favorite, both because of the game itself and the in-character manual and story setup that cast the player in the role of a pilot named Keyan Farlander.

    Also loved all of the community mods and mission editors that added a lot of replay value after you’d beaten the campaign 20 times. Alliance was great too, you can’t argue with getting to fly a YT-1300 along with a bunch of snubfighters.

  2. I played both, though I think I had more fun with TIE Fighter. It was neat how they showed the Empire’s perspective, how so many people in the Evil Empire are just doing their jobs, jobs that the New Republic would have to do someday: stopping pirates, terrorists, and smugglers. Though the perspective was clearly biased, since based on the mission briefs, I don’t recall ever fighting actual rebels or freedom fighters, just bad guys using the nicer-sounding title. Seems relevant these days.

    The gameplay was a lot of fun too. Sometimes a bit too hard for me, but I always got through eventually. I liked that I couldn’t just be a hotshot, but had to actually plan out my actions. Since it took time to get to places, running off-course could lead to failure as easily as getting blown up.

  3. I played them all. Back before Mr. Lucas made me regret giving him sooooo much of my spending money.

    XvT was an amazing game on a LAN. 3-4 player games in our office for hours and hours on the weekend. By far my favorite memories of the franchise are those marathons.

  4. I played TIE Fighter in the late 90s on the PC (was it only PC?). I had a blast, though I tended to “cheat” by playing in invincible mode until I got the skills down. The different perspective from the Imperial Pilot’s point of view was interesting. I wish I’d gotten XvT, but never did play another in the series.

  5. Tie Fighter hooked me and never let me go. If they released that game, with all the updates, with refreshed graphics I would be playing it right now.
    XvT was a lot of fun, especially roping someone in by killing your engines, using the roll capability to spin in place, get off a couple of shots and then roll to a new vector and and take off. When is Star Citizen coming out? Me joystick hands are itchy. I miss you space sims. Come back!

  6. I played XWA, and I loved the story about the Azzameen family and their troubles with the Viraxo and the Empire. The multiplayer was fun and challenging. In general, I still look back on that game with much fondness. If only SWTOR would incorporate that kind of fun into its game, it would be such a success.

  7. I fondly recall the assault on the disabled frigate, spread over several missions. It was like flying into downtown Baghdad. As geldarion says, if SWTOR (or previously SWG) had that level of combat in it the game would be untouchable.

  8. Played every one of them. I actually thought that XvT was a step backwards – the addition of multiplayer was cool, but the core gameplay wasn’t up to par with the others. Alliance was, IMHO, the absolute best of the series, primarily for the quality of the new, larger ship concepts (including the turrets) and the story, which was outstanding.

    I’d love to see a new X-Wing game.

  9. XvT and XWA were decidedly inferior to the originals. They changed the combat mechanics to make the game faster, ditched the dynamic music system (which was a HUGE part of combat awareness in the first two games) and were generally uninspired.

    TIE Fighter to me still is the pinnacle of the genre with only Freespace coming remotely close.

  10. There was nothing more satisfying in gaming than the grand battles of TIE Fighter, when you slowly wear down a Calamari Cruiser’s defenses and drop the last two proton torpedoes you were saving to finish off the ship. The huge ship would slowly rotate while explosions rocked it, and then vaporize into space debris. Some of the harder battles would require a nonstop hour of playing, but with enough strategy and skill, you could put that Rebel scum in their place.

  11. TIE Fighter was the first one I played although I did eventually play all of them. I really enjoyed the franchise and along with other games like the Wing Commander series, Freelancer, Star Lancer, Freespace and their ilk defined a lot of my gaming back in the nineties and early noughties before MMOs really took off (at least for me). I do miss them and I backed Star Citizen so hoping that will give me another glimpse back to my childhood.

  12. I loved X-Wing, it was such an awesomely good game. I played it from 93 to 2002/3, and it never really got old. Sure I had done the missions so many times, but still every 6-12 months I’d get an urge to blast the empire. I wish GOG had it, I’d probably still play it. I stopped playing it b/c I couldn’t get the media to work, and I was sick of having a DOS partition for that and the WC series.

    I played and liked Tie Fighter and the games that followed, up to Jedi Starfighter, but none of em was as good as X-Wing…. to me anyways.

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