“Any suggestions, Admiral?”
“Prayer, Mr. Saavik. The Klingons don’t take prisoners.”
Space…the final frontier. These aren’t the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. They’re not the voyages of any starship–at least not yet. If you want to make Captain, if you want to sit in the big chair, if you’d rather be out hopping galaxies instead of flying a computer console, the first step on that path leads to Starfleet Academy. Everyone from the lowliest ensign to the highest fleet admiral starts in the same place. You’ve done the same: your shuttle’s docking in San Francisco. Time to see if you’ve got what it takes to call the shots. Hit the power button begin your four year mission to explore strange, new worlds, seek out new life forms and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before in Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator for the Super NES. It’s a double-dose Revenge of the License and Today in Retro Gaming all-in-one as we celebrate its twenty-first birthday. Note to all incoming cadets: Romulan Ale is not permitted on campus.
Starship Bridge Simulator is an ambitious title for the Super Nintendo. Eschewing the straight-up space-based combat of Star Wars or Wing Commander, Starship Bridge Simulator brought more strategy and simulation elements to the table. The player takes the role of a trainee on the command path during the Original Series era. Fortunately for you, ST: SBS does just what it says on the box. It doesn’t mimic every day in the life of a Starfleet cadet, just the biggest ones; the times where you enter the simulator room to command everything from Oberth-class science vessels to Constellation-class starships. Faithfully execute the duties and requirements of a Starfleet captain, maintain your grade point average, and you’ll advance to the next year. Screw up too often and your only chance for space travel will be as a junior-grade Sanitation Officer on a garbage scow. We’ve seen what happens to those types in the Space Quest and Planetfall series, so why not embrace your inner ambition and go for the big chair?
Upon hitting start, you’ll have to fill out your application (it’s simple first-name-last-name-gender stuff even a Tribble could figure out), but then you’ll be whisked off to California for your first day of classes. Thankfully Starship Bridge Simulator leaves out all the jiggery-pokery of finding your dorm room and learning to share living quarters with a Horta, and jumps right into the important bits.
Each day you’ll be free to wander to a few areas on the Academy grounds and interact with your fellow classmates, but eventually you need to get your butt into a classroom, and that’s where the fun starts. Class always begins with your professor explaining an important concept, usually the one which is the focus of that day’s simulation. They start off easy with a basic sim on day one that lets you familiarize yourself with the controls and the various functions you can perform. The designers were kind enough to make this optional, so if you’re already up to snuff on sounding Red Alert, raising shields, and simple sub-light navigation feel free to take the cocky route and let them know you don’t need any training nacelles, thank you very much.
While the early missions of Starship Bridge Simulator are easy, subsequent missions in subsequent semesters at the academy will take those simpler missions and add more layers to them, giving you more to do with the same resources you already have. Missions are not always cut-and-dried either–just because your instructor tells you something, or you are placed in a specific scenario that tells you to do X, you’re under no obligation to blindly follow those rules, especially if they seem to conflict with how a Starfleet officer should handle such a situation. Also note that your instructor will tell you what you need to accomplish, but will not hold your hand or give you step-by-step instructions on how to reach that goal. The computer walks you through the basic training sim, but beyond that you’re on your own. Remember, Kirk got a commendation for original thinking after the third time he took the Kobayashi Maru test–you can do the same during some missions if you expand your thinking outside the box. Admiral Rotherot will explain what you did right and what you screwed up after the conclusion of each mission and assign your GPA based on how efficiently you carried out your duties, so if you think you did well enough to earn 100% but only got a 95%, listen carefully to his advice. He’ll expect you to remember it for use in future scenarios.
As your missions get more complex, you’ll gain access to more powerful and advanced starships in the simulator room. Everybody starts with the Mark IV Oberth, a science vessel with limited combat abilities, but as you advance in grade you’ll get command of better vessels. Everything from the Miranda-class light cruiser to the Excelsior-class prototype and yes, even the USS Enterprise-style Constitution-class. Just in case you think you can graduate without a hitch, the dreaded Kobayashi Maru awaits as your final exam, pitting your lone ship against three aggressive and fully-powered Klingon battle cruisers. How will you face the no-win scenario?
Starship Bridge Simulator takes some getting used to, but for anyone familiar with the Star Trek universe and who loves the original series, this is a must-play. Strategy enthusiasts will love the variety of options and tactical upgrades that come with each new vessel. Trek purists will enjoy the licensed music and sound effects which make the experience that much better. Beyond the Kobayashi Maru, there are three other missions pulled straight from the television show and films you can play as added holodeck sims: the Romulan encounter from ‘Balance of Terror’, the showdown with the Reliant at the conclusion of ‘Wrath of Khan’, and a two-on-one match where you (commanding the Enterprise) and Sulu (commanding the Excelsior) team up to blow General Chang’s Bird of Prey out of the stars at the climax of ‘The Undiscovered Country’. There’s even a two-player option where you and a friend pick a ship and deathmatch–an illogical use of Federation technology, but just the sort of mischief some adventure-seeking cadets might get up to on the weekend.
Live long and prosper–and also check out the sweet two-page ad we found in the pages of EGM: