Computers were nothing more than an advanced video game system when I was a young boy. My brother had his sports games (“NBA Jam” mostly) and I had “Star Wars: Tie Fighter.”
Released in 1994, “Tie Fighter” was the sequel to “Star Wars: X-Wing” and was the first Star Wars game that put you in the role of the Galactic Empire. They may have been bad, but the game was nothing short of awesome, and I submit it as the best flight simulator ever.
The game put you in the day-to-day life of a faceless TIE pilot, who goes through training and simulations before earning medals and promotions in actual space combat. Along the way, you are given secret objectives for your missions by a mysterious cloaked figure, and you work to thwart a plot against the Emperor.
The really well-done aspect of “TIE Fighter” was the 3D designs of space battles that consoles could not do at the time. Instead of side-scrolling, rail-shooting, or any other overt video game design, this old CD-ROM gem put you right in the middle of space, and you could move thousands of miles away from a fight, or crash right into a star destroyer. Dogfights were now tense, with both combatants working to get behind the other to vaporize him.
As far as variety in plot and gameplay, I was always a fan of the enemies. Instead of just shooting at Luke Skywalker and the other Rebels, the protagonist of “TIE Fighter” was preventing civil wars, acting as a customs agent for smuggling, and chasing down space pirates. It shined a new light on the villains: peace-keepers.
Controlling this game was largely tedious without a decent joystick. The best combination was using the joystick for movement and firing, while using the keyboard for other systems. You could dial up the shield power, engine power, etc. and hit the eject or lightspeed buttons at any time on the keyboard. It felt like a real set of flight instruments.
The reason this game is a Forget-Me-Not for me is the fond memories I had of blasting Z-95 Headhunters until bedtime. There’s also a much darker story.
In the summer of 1996, my parents hosted a weekend barbecue to celebrate the local air show. My uncle, in a fit of euphoria over “TIE Fighter,” inadvertently messed up the computer is some strange way. He merged my game with my brother’s, and suddenly there were dozens of players with blue turbo-powered sneakers wandering through space. My spaceship was firing orange balls instead of green darts of energy. And John Williams music was replaced by a strange combination of his classical score and techno beats.
My dad corrected the error, and my game was mine again, but I never forgot about the terrifying images. I wish I could play that game, just one last time.
Because it was an MS-DOS based game, it is hard to find, and even more difficult to install on a modern computer. If anyone can find it in an easy way, I would be much obliged.
Looking for more forget-Me-Nots? Check these out:
How about Star Wars? We’ve got more of that, too: