“We’ll have to destroy them ship-to-ship. Get the crews to their fighters.”

I like library used-book shops, because you never know what you’ll find in them. Usually they’re little more than a closet full of James Patterson novels selling for $.25 each. But the library shop in my parents’ hometown is a good one where my family has made many an unusual discovery over the years.

That trend continued over the holidays; while visiting my parents, we stopped by the library shop and I picked up these two treasures (still shrinkwrapped) for a buck apiece:

Those are two of the most fondly-remembered space simulators in videogame history: X-Wing and TIE Fighter. They came out during the heyday of LucasFilm’s (now LucasArts) game development, before they decided to stop making interesting games and make only mediocre Star Wars titles.

X-Wing and TIE Fighter were, obviously, Star Wars titles, but they weren’t mediocre. Their roots lie in Lawrence Holland’s World War 2 flight simulators, one of which (Their Finest Hour) absorbed many an evening on my Amiga. (Their Finest Hour even came with a 200-page history of the Battle of Britain that I used as the primary source for a high school paper. Hey, it was better than anything in the school library….)

There are plenty of space simulators out there today, but they seem to have slid into a niche below the radar of most gamers. X-Wing and TIE Fighter hearken back to bygone days when, for a glorious stretch of years starting with Wing Commander and (probably) ending with Freespace 2, space combat simulators were the kings of gaming.

So I hope to relive those halcyon days with these two gems. That is, assuming I can find a computer with a floppy disk drive:

What about you? Were you gaming during the Great Space/Flight Simulator glory days? What ships did you pilot to victory?

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5 thoughts on ““We’ll have to destroy them ship-to-ship. Get the crews to their fighters.”

  1. Harald

    You know, I’ve been searching for those two gems for a while, so I have to admit I am more than a little green at the moment.

    Congratulations with a good find, and I hope you’ll get many hours of fun from it. As for finding a floppy-drive, I’m sure you can find an external one quite easily, at least on the intertubes.

  2. Andy Post author

    Thanks Harald! Good luck tracking down copies of your own. I’m not sure how easy or difficult the games are to come by; this was a purely random find.

    You know, it is a mystery to me why they don’t make the X-Wing/TIE Fighter games (and their follow-ups) available these days in some sort of collector’s edition. Several other older Star Wars titles are available for download via Steam; it’s weird that these games aren’t. I imagine the reason involves lawyers, George Lucas, or both….

  3. Joel

    Andy, the hypothetical collector’s edition you speak of does indeed exist: http://goo.gl/sFZdm . I have a copy myself, though I haven’t broken it out in years. X-Wing, Tie Fighter, and a demo (I believe) of X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter on 2 convenient CD-ROMs. I should find some machine that can run this…

    My main flight sim experience, besides trying to find free space on a 40MB hard drive for a pirated (as it turns out) copy of MS Flight Sim that I ultimately used primarily for crashing planes while trying to land, was with Wing Commander 2, which came on 5 3.5″ disks, and another 2 optional disks that contained the voice pack (I, alas, did not have a 16-bit sound card that could make use of these voices). Nonetheless, I loved Wing Commander 2 (http://goo.gl/yKHuE – mission 1!) and played it a ton. It got even more fun when I realized that I didn’t actually have to land my ship, and instead could just get in landing range and hit the ‘land’ button (many a good ship was lost trying to steer into an ever-more-pixelated landing bay on a capital ship). Then I discovered that I could pass a command-line parameter to the game when launching it that would allow me to insta-kill Kilrathi ships, which made the game somewhat less challenging, but a little more fun for someone without the patience to actually do things the right way.

    I also was quite jealous of my friends who had crazy awesome joysticks that they could use with things like Descent, which seemed at the time to the apex of computer graphics and gameplay, though my main knowledge of it was that it looked somewhat dizzy-inducing.

    I have Homeworld discs sitting on my shelf, but they never got the attention they deserved. Alas…

  4. Andy Post author

    Topher: as an Amiga owner, I also mostly watched as my PC-owning friends played X-Wing and TIE Fighter. However, when the follow-up “X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter” came out, I had access to a Windows computer and could join in on the fun.

    Joel: thanks for the link! I’m jealous that you played WC2–I never owned that one but always wanted to play it. The first WC was awesome. I always wanted to pick up the expansions/sequels but never did, for some dumb reason; and now I suspect they are hard to come by.

    I played the first Homeworld. It was good, although more of an unorthodox RTS game than a space simulator. Definitely worth checking out if you still have it around, though.

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