Masaya (Mega Drive)
Namco (Genesis)
|Genre(s)||Role-playing, first-person shooter|
Star Cruiser (スター クルーザー Sutā Kurūzā) is a role-playing first-person shooter video game developed by Arsys Software and released in Japan for the PC-88 and Sharp X1 home computers in 1988. The game was ported by Arsys Software to the NEC PC-98 and Sharp X68000 computer platforms in 1989, and then ported by Masaya (NCS) to the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) home console in 1990.
The game is considered innovative and ahead of its time, for being an early example of an action role-playing game with fully 3D polygon graphics, combined with early first-person shooter gameplay, which would occasionally switch to space flight simulator gameplay when exploring the open-ended outer space with six degrees of freedom. All the backgrounds, objects and opponents in the game were rendered in 3D polygons, many years before they were widely adopted by the video game industry. The game also emphasized storytelling, with plot twists and extensive character dialogues, taking place in a futuristic science fiction setting.
Namco licensed the Mega Drive version of Star Cruiser for a North American release entitled Star Quest, which Namco planned to publish for the Sega Genesis in July 1994. However, the North American release of Star Quest was eventually canceled. In September 2016, an English translation beta patch was released through ROM hacking, followed by a complete translation patch in November 2016.
The game is set in the 27th century, when 200 years have passed since Central Earth ended a war that began when humans made first contact with aliens. The balance of power, however, is being jeopardized by the militaristic nation VOID, which is attempting to deport all aliens from civilized society, and by the remains of the Earth Federation, the Federation Patrol. VOID is planning to wage war and take control of the galaxy, but a small battalion on the Ganymede satellite of Jupiter is being trained to resist VOID.[unreliable source?]
The story begins with protagonist Brian training in a simulation set up by his friend and comrade, Gibson, and instructed by his trusted droid, Freddy. After he finishes training, Brian goes to a restaurant, where he is given the news on VOID, which has a nearby base that acts as a stronghold and is sending out threatening enemies. The team cannot confront them directly because of an energy field protecting the base from ordinary weaponry. However, Brian is asked to lead a kamikaze attack, with a starship that can temporarily charge through the energy field with Shield Buster technology. Brian is tasked with crashing into the fortress and destroying it from the inside, and stealing a prototype spacecraft, the Star Cruiser, to even the odds in the war. Shortly after the briefing, however, their own Ganymede base is attacked by VOID. The protagonist eventually embarks on a quest involving the exploration of the galaxy.
The game involves the exploration of four solar systems with over 30 planets and dozens of characters. It is viewed entirely from a first-person perspective, with 3D polygon graphics used to represent outdoor environments,[unreliable source?] trees, benches, buildings, and other objects, as well as enemies. The gameplay can vary depending on the environment.
In a city, the player character can move around town and enter various buildings to interact with non-player characters, who are represented with an anime-like appearance, or leave the city and go into outer space. When the player goes into outer space, they can fly to other planets, moving around in free flight, but occasionally encountering enemies and engaging in space combat. There is an autopilot feature available, setting the spacecraft to automatically go to a set destination, but the player may still encounter enemies along the way. There is also a warp feature available, allowing the player to warp to different locations, but this requires energy. On various planet surfaces, the player will explore enemy bases and combat enemies on the ground. At enemy bases, the game plays like a first-person shooter, exploring a dungeon while moving, strafing and shooting enemies in a first-person perspective. Enemy bases usually need to be cleared by finding hidden keys, unlocking doors and finding key items and objects.
It does not use a traditional levelling system, but uses various role-playing game elements. The player can acquire different weapons and can customize craft to an extent, while needing to upgrade equipment, the shields that behave like hit points, the space craft's speed of movement in outer space, and the energy needed to move around, shoot, travel and warp between destinations. The player can also go to a mechanic to repair equipment and shields as well as restore energy.
The home computer versions were critically acclaimed. The original NEC PC-88 and Sharp X1 versions won two 1988 awards from Japanese computer magazines, including Best Adventure Game from POPCOM and Best Special Effects from Oh!X. The X68000 version also won several 1989 awards from Japanese computer magazines, including Best Action Game and overall Best Software from LOGiN, and Best Special Effects from Oh!X. The X68000 version was also a runner-up for two other 1989 awards from Oh!X, coming third place for Best Theme Music (below Bosconian and Genocide) and fourth place for overall Game of the Year (below After Burner, Genocide and Tetris).
The Mega Drive/Genesis console version was generally well received. In Japan, Famicom Tsūshin (now Famitsu) gave the Mega Drive version a score of 24 out of 40. In North America, the June 1994 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, in its "Fact Files" section, reviewed Namco's unreleased Sega Genesis version, noting that the English localization was 100% complete. They gave it a positive review, stating that it "packs a good blend of action and role-playing" along with a "strategy" theme, exploration and character interaction. They criticized the space flight segments for "imperfect and hazy" controls, but praised the game overall for providing "hours of solid gameplay." In the United Kingdom, however, the September 1993 issue of Sega Power criticized the Japanese import version of Star Cruiser, stating it is "unplayable" because of the Japanese-language "question and response" scenes, giving it a one-star score. Japanese site 4gamer retrospectively reviewed the game in 2008 and described it as a "masterpiece". Sega-16 reviewed the English fan translation in 2016 and gave it a positive review, calling it "a top notch game" with "Impressive 3D graphics, well drawn manga character design, quite good music and a very well written plot".
Sequel and legacy
The game's sequel, Star Cruiser 2, was released in 1992, for the PC-9821 and FM Towns computers. Seven chiptune video game music soundtrack albums of both Star Cruiser games, composed by Toshiya Yamanaka, have been released from 1992 to 2008. In 2008, video game designer Hideki Kamiya listed Star Cruiser among his favorite games of all time.
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