08:39:31 on March 21 2001
By: Steve Krutzler
Dept: Reviews - Games
Retro Trek: “Star Trek: The 25th Anniversary” for the Nintendo Entertainment System
Review done for TrekWeb by Ken R. Miller (CaptainKRM)
In this installment we'll take a look back to a rare Star Trek game of the
early 90s; the NES version of Star Trek: The 25th Anniversary. The game,
while technically outdated, stands as a product that current Trek
programmers should learn from
Konami, along with several other software houses, snagged the video game rights to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in early 1989 and announced it would be developing games loosely based on the film. The project hit numerous and repeated snags before disappearing from release lists altogether. With the lackluster reviews and support that the film had garnered, few bothered to wonder what had happened to Konami’s delayed translation.
Surprisingly, Konami’s version of Star Trek resurfaced in early 1991, scheduled to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the franchise. The title had been reworked, ditching the movie tie in and instead going with an adventure theme based on the Original Series. The programming and handling of the game had been handed to Konami’s Ultra Games division, the American branch responsible for the extremely popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. In preparation for the hyped up release, the game was featured on the cover of the 29th issue of Nintendo Power.
The 25th Anniversary hit store shelves a few months following the actual anniversary fanfare, just before the theatrical release of The Undiscovered Country. What makes the NES version truly stunning is the attention to continuity (Braga take note) and detail the developers took while designing the game. Following the events of “A Piece of the Action”, the Iotians have since discovered Dr. McCoy’s communicator and begun to tinker with it. An Iotian experiment goes awry, opening a dangerous spatial rift, tossing the Enterprise into unknown space. To further complicate matters, the dilithium crystals have been drained and are in desperate need of replacement. This is where the player takes over…
The game was played mainly from a top down perspective on a planet surface. The player would select a landing party consisting of Kirk and two others, either a main character or the obligatory red shirt. The gameplay primarily relied on puzzles, though most of them were of the simple variety, i.e. get item X to trade for item Y, pull lever A to open door B, etc. The different crewmembers would offer advice when prompted, also putting their different skills to use. While the game is fairly linear, the planetary exploration elements and puzzles give the player a little more freedom than just simply moving from point A to point B.
The storyline is remarkable in that it had all the right elements of a Star Trek plot. Harry Mudd even made a cameo, being arrested by the Romulans for yet another of his schemes. As usual, the crew of the Enterprise had to bail the con man out of trouble. This of course involved a battle between the Enterprise and a cloaking Romulan vessel, along with the crew themselves being trapped in a Romulan cell – complete with the Imperial bird of prey banner decorating the walls. The game culminated with a time warp to Iotia’s past, finally retrieving the communicator through a game of “Fizzbin” and setting the time line straight.
The game undoubtedly took much inspiration from Interplay’s PC title of the same name, which followed a similar formula. Regardless, the development team should be commended for the detail they put into the game; canon graphics and terms, episode tie ins, and familiar cameo appearances – all while having a decently written dialogue and compelling quest to go along with it. This is something that both current Trek developers and TPTB at Paramount should take notes from. It is also impressive with the direction and design the game took considering the demographics of the NES market – primarily young children. Who knows what might have been – a Mario styled William Shatner running and jumping through level after level, blasting away at nameless Klingons with a phaser.
This, along with a very poor Game Boy translation, was the first and last Trek game to come out of Konami’s studios. The company has of course not lost its touch in adventure games, as anyone who has played the fantastic Metal Gear Solid can tell you. While it never racked up the sales that were hoped for, its quality stands as a lesson to all those who would curse us with Armada, New Worlds, Starship Creator and the like.
Ken R. Miller is TrekWeb's new gaming editor, and will hopefully be featuring other "Retro Trek" reviews soon as well as a review of the newly-released "Star Trek: Away Team".