Written by  :  RussS (819)
Written on  :  Aug 27, 2011
Platform  :  SNES
Rating  :  3.33 Stars3.33 Stars3.33 Stars3.33 Stars3.33 Stars

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Star Trek's take on Wing Commander.

The Good

I played this a while back having already played and enjoyed it's PC successor (also called Starfleet Academy). This game feels a bit like the prototype for the latter. It is a space combat 'simulator'; the Star Trek version of Wing Commander or X-Wing, which follows the same general flow as those games, except moving the mission away from pure combat adding a mixture of minor adventure and negotiation.

Playing over a nice simple animation of a shuttle flying through space you are introduced and get to choose the gender of your character as they enrol in Starfleet Academy, the training school made famous by it's inclusion in Star Trek 2 : The Wrath of Khan. You must complete various training missions, commanding various ships from the original movie era, working up in size and power. All the missions play from the bridge, there are no away missions or anything involving exploring the ship. The missions are a mixture of new ideas and recreations of famous Star Trek battles. In these you are given ships relevant to the mission, including graphics, something the PC update didn't have. This is a nice change as you find yourself commanding the 1960's Enterprise in a recreation of the episode 'Balance of Terror'. You can even find yourself on the bridge of a Klingon or Romulan ship.

Your progression through the academy is very similar to how the storyline in Wing Commander works, as you get to command ever more powerful ships. In-between missions you have a few screens where you can view your room to access a database or talk to your fellow cadets, even playing a mini game of pool. Despite this being a copy Wing Commander's bar room it still feels cozy and is a friendly nod towards character development. Before each mission you are given a briefing then let loose to complete your objectives in the most non-violent manner.

The game is fairly fun to play though the mission types are limited to the bridge, therefore lacking the full spectrum of Star Trek stories (25th Anniversary had already made up for this). The interface works well with the SNES joypad, and manages to avoid many of the problems of space fighting on consoles. The missions aren't all combat based as you get the chance to communicate with others via the view screen and select options which affect the mission. The ending of the game is well executed when you see your final grade and find out what happens to you and your fellow cadets. Based on your scores you are assigned various different ranks and ships.

A great free addition recycled on many successive games is the open combat part. Here you can select any ship and pit it against any other in a quick fight to hone your skills. A nice piece of fun since you even get the suitable bridge graphics for all ships (possible including an alien crew!).

The Bad

Whilst it is a piece of fun, it is really a Wing Commander clone, which leads to a conundrum. In Wing Commander you fly a one man fighter which behaves like a one man fighter. In Starfleet Academy you fly a 500 man starships which handles like a one man fighter. You often find yourself in dogfights circling around your targets. The game can't reproduce the graceful turns seen in the films, where the ship fires from the sides or rear.

In an attempt to reproduce elements of the film the game forces you to travel around the bridge stations in order to communicate and manage damage. In combat this can be quite disruptive as you try and manage shields whilst taking fire.

Lastly, the graphics of the SNES version are inferior to the Sega CD. The viewing screen is smaller and the ships less detailed. Starfleet Academy also looks completely different!

The Bottom Line

Starfleet Academy is a nice attempt to inject some diplomacy into the well worn space shooter genre. Whilst lacking the ability to beam down to planets it does conjure up some of the feel of being in Star Trek.

Players in interested may prefer to play the SEGA CD version for improved graphics. Or of course play the much better known PC version released a few years later featuring FMV sequences and a greater emphasis on character advancement between missions. It's interesting though that the missions are largely the same, so this game obviously had an influence.