STAR TREK: 25th ANNIVERSARY / Ultra / NES
Here's an interesting one - a Star Trek title released by Konami under their Ultra label. Unfortunately, this is not an arcade beat-em-up. As interesting as that would be, the form that this one takes is still pretty ambitious and intriguing, and has an atypical feel for a Konami NES game as it was made by an American team who were clearly big fans of the show. It really looks and plays more like a PC game than a console title from the NES era.
You start out with kind of a neat intro to set up the game's somewhat unimaginative plot - while doing their usual thang in space, the Enterprise runs into a black hole, and winds up somewhere out of known space and out of communication with Starfleet. Not only that, their Dilithium Crystals got fused or something, so they can't engage the warp engines. This all plays out on a sim of the Enterprise bridge from Kirk's perspective, which is also used in the gameplay as a central navigational and menu location. You also get a kind of nifty 8-bit rendition of the show's intro complete with chiptunes theme song.
The game opens with an away mission, and these constitute the vast majority of the gameplay throughout. This mode is a lot more like a typical NES game, and kind of reminded me of Startropics. You get Bones and Spock as partners for the first mission to investigate a primitive planet for possible Dilithium stores, but later in the game you can switch out for other generic characters like a science officer or security officer.
The away mission structure is an interesting idea but the game is kind of a shambling mess to play. Despite difficulty induced by the Atari-like controls and layout, and the fact that your two partners tend to ramble around aimlessly totally heedless of danger, the game ends up easy because when you die you're just beamed back to the Enterprise, repaired by the medical team, and sent back to the beginning of the area with your inventory and quest status intact. I think the only possible way to actually end the game irrevocably is to get the ship blown up in a ship-to-ship battle, which seems to happen once in a blue moon.
The graphics are generic, and characters walk in a weird shambling swagger that is distracting. Music and sound are just annoying outside of the chiptunes Trek theme and Enterprise ambient noises.
The Trek universe also isn't all that well realized other than the interior Enterprise visuals - it always seems like you're doing simplistic fetch quests from a badly written RPG. Most of the major characters show up, like the Romulans, and there's a bunch of references to things that happen in the show to pleasure the nerds out there, but the meat of the game consists of walking around fetching random objects and blasting the shit out of enemies (there's no restricitions on setting phasers to Kill, and it's a hell of a lot more effective to do so in most areas). Obviously that doesn't exactly reflect the tone of the show.
The attempt to include away missions along with manning the bridge, piloting the ship, and talking with/fighting enemies in space was ambitious and fundamentally a pretty good structure, but unfortunately most of the game comes down to the tedious, kinda clunky away missions. The story is usually pretty inane, the characters don't really get a chance to shine with their unique personalities, and the spacefaring portions are disappointingly limited.
* Much better review at JustGamesRetro
* Gameplay Video
* Ahead Warp 9!