I still play this game from time to time, and as computer games get more sophisticated every year, it surprises me more and more how much game play they fit into this game designed for the 286.

F19 Stealth Fighter was a combat flight simulator put out by MicroProse, meant to represent the top secret Stealth Fighter then in development at the Skunkworks. Of course, the details weren't all correct, but the game wasn't strictly about realism.

The game play focused on flying missions in four different theaters of war: Libya, the Persian Gulf, Central Europe and the Kola Peninsula. There was around 5 dozen missions, involving such things as shooting down a plane carrying a terrorist leader to photographing an enemy SAM Missile. An interesting feature was that you could fly missions in Cold War, Limited War and Conventional War modes. The rules of engagement were different in each.

The different amounts of enemy targets, and the different behaviors they might take, were quite large, especially given the small amount of disk space that the game took up, which couldn't be over a meg or two.

Another interesting thing about the game that was impressive was that in most of the missions, doing such things as making sure you had enough fuel and that you were flying in quietly was just as fun as blowing stuff up. An entire game where all you did was photgraph two targets without firing a shot could be engrossing. On the other hand, blowing stuff up left and right and dogfighting (something the real Stealth Fighter could never do) were also fun.

If the game has a fault, it is that it doesn't always feel like it is a "flying" game. In other words, once you have taken off, you may as well be in a hovercraft since there is not that much worrying about the actual mechanics of flight until it is time to land.

Although probably for anyone under the age of 18 this game would only be interesting in a historical context, I still think it got down the basics of the combat flight simulator better then any other game I can think of.

Years and years and years ago, just before I went to my confirmation classes, I saw this game in a second-hand store. My parents gave me 300 FIM for refreshments; After a rather interesting week of spiritual lessons, I bought the game with the 100 FIM I still had left. My first very own flight sim, about a classified cool stealth plane. Wow.

The game came on three 5.25" floppies, formatted for DOS 3.2 or something. I found one PC from my school - an old 286 with an EGA display - that was able to run the damn thing. Luckily, some classmate of mine had a cracked copy of the game that he provided me on a single 3.5" floppy. (Fair use, I guess.)

Here are some things I remember from the game:

  • It is one of the few games at the time in which it was possible to fly in Finnish airspace. Of course, since the terrain and graphics weren't that great, it didn't make that much of difference - but it was about the principle =)
  • Finnish place names were garbled somewhat (okay, so the damn amerikans can't spell the weird foreign names. big news.) I saw a place called "Sodanklya"... and noted one bug. I don't think there's a town called "graphics.exe", or anything like that, in Lapland =)
  • Yep, the damn thing flew like a frying pan. Then again, neither were the stealh planes at the time known for their excellent aerodynamical qualities.
  • In-game graphics rocked. It had interesting animations in case of losses and triumphs...
  • I even found a patch that made the ingame graphics and cockpit controls 256-color MCGA, and apparently got the AdLib music and sound effects to work at some time. Those things rocked.
  • The game didn't really need a frame limiter... it worked just fine on modern machines.
  • When flying in the skies of Central Europe, windmills had moving vanes! Excellent graphical details...

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