Publisher: Milton Bradley
Genre: Flight Simulator
Year of Release: 1990
Date Reviewed: 2-21-98 ("Old Era")
There are not many fighter-pilot games for the NES that turned out all that well. It seemed as though something was always not quite right -- the perspective, the speed of the interface, the difficulty... something. In this sea of flawed games rested only a few successes. There was Top Gun, for one, and the silently successful Captain Skyhawk.
It slipped into the market on cat's feet, lacking an eye-catching logo, lacking media coverage, lacking particularly distinctive graphics, and lacking a publisher with a reputation for producing very good games. The strange thing about this game was that, though it lacked all these things, a lot of people bought it -- bought it and liked it, that is. I was not one of those people. I didn't buy it until years later (1996), from a friend of mine who was selling his NES, for five dollars. Talk about a great deal. I was instantly won over by this game and its humbly entertaining interface. It, like most of the games of its time, did not try to be perfect. The producers emphasized one thing above all else, control, and rendered it perfectly. The music wasn't particularly good. The graphics were relatively simplistic. However, the interface and control made this game, and made it in a quite impressive fashion.
Each level of this game is divided into three parts, the latter two of which have little relevance. First is the "mission", in which you either have to destroy a base of your alien enemies, deliver supplies to people by dropping them in small hatches, or pick up a scientist who has been working on the "special weapon" which is necessary to destroy the final base. After that, you fly over a landscape, destroying enemy fighter planes, receiving credits with which to buy weapons with each plane you destroy. Finally, the player has to dock with his own space station, wherein he buys various weapons for the plane in preparation for the next level. After the destruction of four enemy bases, two supply deliveries, and two scientist pickings-up, the player does battle with the aliens' main base: a huge mass of gun turrets with a giant eye at its center.
With each "credit" earned, the player can buy things from the supply shop in its space station. There are two types of missiles, "hawk bombs" (which I have yet to figure out how to use), and better cannons (that is, cannons that fire more rapidly.) Perhaps Captain Skyhawk's greatest shortcoming is the presence of all of these special weapons, and the significance of none of them. Neither of the missiles do more damage than the standard cannon, and the game seems to choose which is used when. I still do not know how to use the bombs, or what purpose they serve. The only purchase that is of any use is the cannon. That, however, is very useful, and expedites gameplay greatly.
Now, at this point, you are probably asking, "If the levels are insignificant, and the weapons are insignificant, and the graphics aren't that great, why does this game work?"
Well, I'll explain it to you. The only things about this game that don't work are those things that are non-essential to an NES flight simulation. The speed of the levels is fast enough to give the player a sense that he/she is actually flying, but not so fast as to be excessively difficult, the plane's motions are akin to those of real plane's, and, to be as inarticulate as possible, the game is just plain fun. Everything about this game that should work does, and everything that is not essential is not made so.
My Score: 8
Most of your enemies throw things at you from the ground.
Looks a little like a modified toaster to me...
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