When I first started playing games on the PC, Windows 95 was the prevailing operating system. I’ve still got a lot of those old games on CD-ROMs in my closet (I got rid of all my floppies long ago). These days, you can’t just put one of those old discs into a new computer and expect it to work. You need a utility like DOSBox, which emulates old hardware and basically makes nostalgia possible.
Not too long ago, EA/Origin gave out copies of ‘Wing Commander III’ as part of their “On The House” program. It was a nice gesture. The game, once installed, is played through DOSBox, and at least on my machine, didn’t work all that well. Gamepads wouldn’t work, the sound was messed up, and it locked up a few times. Determined to make it work, I made a few tweaks to the config file (using other DOSBox games on my system as reference), and before long, I had a fully-playable game using mouse-and-keyboard controls.
I’d never played a ‘Wing Commander’ game before last night. I don’t know why. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew I’d be flying a spaceship, I knew I’d be watching cutscenes starring, among others, Mark Hamill, and I knew there’d be cat-like aliens. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting much.
But I was pleasantly surprised at just how well done it all was. The writing was pretty good, all the actors were enjoyable to watch. There’s drama and a bit of romance on the ship. The cat makeup looked great. And the focus of the game, the space battles, were a lot of fun once I got used to the controls.
If they were to make a game like this today, you’d get motion-captured CGI characters instead of the full-motion video actors. I don’t think that’d be as much fun to watch. Even if you got Mark Hamill to do a voice (he’s a phenomenal voice actor), it just wouldn’t be as special. I may have to go back and try the other ‘Wing Commander’ games.
But I won’t be watching the ‘Wing Commander’ movie. No sir.
I’ll be back on Sunday with a special On The Road edition of Backlog Sunday, featuring whatever I can get to run on my laptop. 7pm-ish on Twitter.