The 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.
But 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?