Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Favorite Video Games: TIE Fighter (PC) 1993

This is exactly what my dreams look like.

Most normal people that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s owned a Nintendo Entertainment System when they were a kid, and I was no different (see previous post); however unlike all the other normal people I knew I didn’t upgrade to a Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo.  My mom felt such a purchase was a “wasteful” use of the money I received for making my first Holy Communion.  I have no recollection what I eventually ended up spending my communion money on, but I guarantee that if it had been a Sega Genesis I would remember it fondly to this day. 

How many gently used sex dolls can I buy for $5?
As a result of all of this I didn't own a current video game console after the NES until I bought a Playstation 2 in college.  So for the decade or so after most people sold their Nintendos at a garage sale I played a lot of computer games. The first one I'll be reviewing is:

TIE Fighter (PC) 1994

TIE fighter was originally released in 1994; the same year as Mortal Kombat II and Sonic the Hedgehog 3, the height of the 16-bit era.  As much as I wanted a Sega, I have to admit that a game like TIE Fighter was far more sophisticated than anything a home console could handle.  TIE Fighter utilized a full keyboard and joystick to create one of the best space-flight-combat-sims of all timeYou couldn’t exactly capture the experience of being a pilot in the Imperial Navy with six buttons and some arrow keys.

Die Rebel scum!
That’s part of what makes TIE Fighter so freaking sweet.  It’s one of the best representations of the Star Wars universe in any game before or since.  The graphics, AI, controls, writing, and game play were light years parsecs (a unit of time not distance) ahead of anything available on a console at the time, and all of those elements worked in conjunction to create a truly immersive experience.  You start the game as cannon fodder for the Emperor and end the game flying missions with Darth Vader, and I think that’s a big part of the game’s charm; for once you’re not a Jedi or a nigh-invulnerable bounty hunter, you’re a regular pilot.  It’s unclear what kind of benefits or retirement plan a fighter pilot could earn a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, but adjusted for inflation I bet it was worth a lot of space dollars.

TIE Fighter was also unique among Star Wars games, until Knights of the Old Republic came out about a decade later, in that you can play as a bad guy for a majority of the game.  More importantly the bad guys aren’t portrayed as totally evil.  Check out the opening text (the game begins around the same time as The Empire Strikes Back):

At the battle of Yavin
Rebel terrorists, aided by
spies and traitors within the
Empire, struck a cowardly
blow at the new symbol of
Imperial power... The Death Star!

Darth Vader brought swift justice
to the Rebels by destroying their
main base on Hoth. The pitiful
remnants of the Alliance have
now scattered to the Outer Rim.

In the days ahead, the Emperor
will call upon the Imperial Navy
to eradicate the last vestiges
of rebellion and restore law
and order to the galaxy!

Hello, sexy TIE Pilot
How cool is that?  Star Wars tends to be as preachy and black and white as anything this side of the Bible: the good guys are good, and the bad guys are evil and deserve to die.  Conversely, in TIE Fighter the Empire stands for law, order, and justice.  It stands to reason that a lot of people in the Star Wars universe must have felt that way for the Empire to stay in power as long as it did, assuming you’re a giant dork that contemplates the motivations and feelings of fictional people in a fictional universe.  Complex motivations and developed back stories are something of a rarity in video games today, let alone in a Star Wars game made in 1994.
Do I kill a bus full of war orphans or not?  What a complex moral dilemma.

That’s all well and good, but what really catapults TIE Fighter into my upper echelon of video games is my unconditional love of Star Wars.  I was born in 1983 and I don’t remember ever not knowing every single line from the original trilogy.  I grew up watching those movies, and when I was about 12 years old or so I became pretty obsessed.  I read a bunch of the novels in the expanded universe and played the shit out of TIE Fighter.  The only thing that saved me from becoming a total weirdo was my even bigger obsession with women’s breasts.
Click the pic for the animation of Alison Brie's boobies

In the entire Star Wars trilogy there’s only a few scenes of Princess Leia in that sexy metal bikini.  To see anything more than that I had to either start reading creepy fan fiction or go out and develop a personality.  I chose the latter option, but I still love Star Wars, and by extension TIE Fighter.  If you haven’t played it I think you can still get it pretty easily.  Check it out.  You won't be disappointed.  Until next time…

Oh baby I hear the blues a-callin’
Tossed salad and scrambled eggs.

Frasier has left the building!

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