Name: Starflight
Developed by: Binary Systems
Published by: Electronic Arts
Year: 1987

Description: Starflight is an anomaly. It was written for the IBM PC back when the "real" gaming computers were the Apple II and the Commodore 64. It was written in a bizzare 160x200x16 color mode that only worked correctly on composite monitors. It was a real-time RPG that was written back when all RPGs were turn-based. It only allowed keyboard input, although gamepad/mouse support was available and would have made the game easier to play. It didn't have a frame limiter. It's also one of the best games ever made.

Starflight is a space opera-style RPG. The designer's express purpose was to attempt to recreate the "exploring the galaxy" feel of pulp science fiction. In this, they succeeded. Starflight puts you in charge of the six-man crew of a starship, fly it wherever your fuel supply will allow, and explore the galaxy with the final intent of finding a way to prevent the sun of your homeworld, Arth, from going nova.

Notables: As mentioned above, Starflight is an RPG that runs in real-time. Run to the bathroom while your ship is in deep space and when you return you may find yourself surrounded by aliens who are wondering why you haven't returned their hails. Though combat is real-time, it doesn't require mad arcade skilz to win.

Communicating with aliens was also very well handled - the computer would "translate" some of the alien speech depending on how well your communications officer was trained. Nothing like being confronted with insectoids in deep space and being asked "Thiissss thrrlll energy rilk slurrrg, agreeing?" while your comm officer shrugs her shoulders.

But the most notable thing about Starflight was the sheer immensity of the galaxy you're given to play in. The game came on two 360k floppies, and included 280+ star systems with over 800 planets to explore. Players who wanted a five year mission finally got one in this game.

My Opinion: Starflight is the best space exploration RPG ever. The only game that comes close to it is Star Control 2 (which, goshwow, was developed by some of the same people).

Notes: Starflight was originally written for the PC, but versions for the Sega Genesis and the Commodore 64 were created. Both of these versions were hampered by machine limitations, and have differences from the original.

One sequel was made, called Starflight 2. Several attempts at another entry in the series have been made; Tsunami Games created a game they hoped they could label Starflight III. Unfortunately, they were not able to successfully buy the name rights from Electronic Arts and were forced to change the names of the races and planets in the game and release it under the name Protostar.

This game is no longer available commercially. It can usually be found at abandonware sites.

Computer And Video Games : Reviews Hub

The Creators of Starflight:
Greg Johnson
Alex Kercso
Bob Gonsalves
T.C. Lee
Rod McConnell

The Alien Races of Starflight:
The Insectoid Velox/Veloxi
The Squidlike Gazurtoid
The Amoebic Spemin
The Unknown Uhlek
The Willowy Elowan
The Lizardlike Thrynn
The Wandering Minstrels
The Faithful Mechans
The Mysterious Mysterions

I just thought I'd note that the Genesis version is in many ways graphically and mechanically superior to the original. The space flight/combat engine is improved to take advantage of the Genesis' processing power, the result being highly similar to Star Control 2. With the use of a gamepad, this gives the whole thing more of a "video game" feel. It can be argued that this is a bad thing, as the overall "starship captain" simulation is weakened when you're worrying about the nuances of piloting.

The biggest flaws in the cartridge version are the fact that only two save slots are provided (as I recall, the battery on my cartridge was also prone to random erasure,) the awkwardness of establishing orbit around a planet (your first few attempts will be somewhat frustrating,) and the presence of the absolute WORST music and sound effects I've ever heard from any medium. Listen to the digitized voices for a good laugh ("rrrbrt rrrstrrrblrrrshd") and then mute the television.

Overall, we could've done with a worse adaptation, and this port takes wonderful advantage of the technology provided. Except for the sound. They weren't even trying with that. Ugh. Nonetheless, if you haven't played Starflight in any form this is probably your best bet at finding a used copy (or at emulating it, you evil, evil person.)

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